Much to my surprise, I received a response from my letter to Mr. Schoen regarding his article “Cycling is just not a big deal” yesterday. I certain was not expecting one given the fact that we all live in a busy society and e-mail has become less useful than it used to be. Yet, Mr. Schoen took the time to respond in detail and I post his comments for your perusal:
Mr. Ashby –
Thanks for reading and I appreciate the letter.
Please excuse me if I’m a little short in my response as I’ve been doing corresponding with writers for the last couple of weeks about this subject.
First, you raise several valid points, although I did make a concerted effort to watch the Tour on OLN and read several articles before my own “bottom of the barrel” commentary.
While winning the Tour de France requires incredible mental and physical stamina, which I respect immensly, it doesn’t change my opinion on the sport itself. Maybe by not caring for cycling you (and many others) perceive that as a slight toward Lance Armstrong.
Lance Armstrong has done more than anybody, including Greg LeMond, to raise awareness of cycling in the U.S., you are correct. Yet, it’s still a sport that many Americans only pay token attention to, and it’s 3 weeks out of the year.
If you believe that football is nothing more than “just a bunch of grown men playing grabass,” that golf is “nothing more than over-privileged men hitting a silly ball with a stick” and hockey is “really nothing more than a bunch of ballerinas on ice skates pushing each other around” that is every sports fan’s right, just as it’s mine to see cycling as nothing more than “riding a bike.”
Is winning six Tour de Frances an incredible feat? Absolutely. Physically, it’s much tougher than winning the Masters or even Wimbledon. However, I happen to believe that while it is certainly newsworthy, cycling is a fringe sport in this country and to call it the greatest athletic accomplishment in sports, as many have, is hyperbole.
Again, I appreciate the comments and I hope you will write again in the future.
“Eat your cereal with a fork and do your homework in the dark.”
Clearly I wasn’t the only one who had written in on this subject, which I was glad to see. I was also surprised that the tone of his reply was very open, honest and somewhat balanced. I think his article would have been much better had he used the tone in his letter in his original article. Anyway, I penned a response and here it is:
I have to say that I was quite surprised and also quite pleased to receive such as fast response from you. Thank you for taking the time to respond to my letter.
What strikes me most from your reply is how open and honest it is. Had your article been written with such care, I don’t think you would have had quite as much follow-up correspondence – “I’ve been doing corresponding with writers for the last couple of weeks about this subject.” Yet, I’m very thankful that you’ve taken the time to do due diligence.
You’re reply is spot on for the most part. I too agree that in the American consciousness, cycling is a fringe (although I prefer the term “niche” ) sport. Lance has raised awareness for the Tour de France, but for the majority of Americans cycling is as you said, “3 weeks out of the year.” Where as my focus is hoping OLN will provide full coverage for the Vuelta a Espana (http://www.lavuelta.com/), I would bet most Americans won’t be thinking about cycling again until next July. I wish it were more popular, as I’m sure soccer fans wish their sport were better received in the US, but this is our lot in life for fans of niche US sports.
Concerning my comments regarding football, golf and hockey, they were meant as an illeration and I hope that you took them as such. I have a healthy respect for all three sports and actually enjoy watching two of them. As stated at the start of my letter, I respect your right, or any person for that matter, to dislike any sport. My issue was more to the overall tone of your piece, which did appear to be a slight against Lance. Your response clears up this point. I was happy to hear that you feel that Lance winning 6 Tour de France victories is “an incredible feat”. On the whole, your e-mail response shows balance and fairness. I’m just sorry that this wasn’t conveyed in your article.
I see your point regarding “cycling is a fringe sport in this country and to call it the greatest athletic accomplishment in sports, as many have, is hyperbole.”, in that since it is a niche sport in the US, why should it get so much ink and so much hype? However, I can’t help but think that you may be looking at this through the eyes of “only US sports matter”. Most of the US coverage regarding Lance has done so in a global context and within that context I find it fitting.
Although cycling isn’t as popular as American Football, that shouldn’t necessarily exclude it from these types of comparisons. I think if you stack up the Tour de France against the Super Bowl, or any other sporting world championship, you have to admit that the level of dedication, and physical feat required to win places it very high in the ranks of athletic accomplishments. Yet at the same time, I think trying to compare different sports is akin to comparing apples and oranges.
Is Lance’s accomplishment a greater accomplishment than say that of Mario Lemieux? Well, I suppose that’s best left for debate around the water cooler, or the local sports bar isn’t it? 🙂
Once again, thank you for your fast and fair response.
Michael T. Ashby
So at this point it would seem that we’ve both aired our differences and we are agreeing to disagree, which seems perfectly reasonable to me. I don’t know that he’ll respond again, but if he does, I’ll be sure to keep you updated. 🙂
Overall, I’m somewhat surprised and happy with this whole “letter to the editor” business. It worked better than I thought it would and I think I may try it again the next time a burr gets under my saddle. 😛