A broken pencilI normally don’t write letters to the editor. I guess it’s because I don’t see the point. I think that the author, or editor will never read it, or even if they do it won’t change anything. Besides everyone is entitled to their own opinion, even if it’s one that I don’t agree with. However, I came across an article written by David Schoen entitled “Cycling is just not a big deal” and I just couldn’t sit idly by. I felt I had to voice a complaint. Schoen goes to great lengths to tear not only Lance Armstrong, but the entire sport of cycling.

Just in case ANG Newspapers takes Schoen’s article off of their web site, here it is in it’s entirety:

Cycling is just not a big deal
by David Schoen
Monday, July 26, 2004 – 7:09:36 AM PST

POOR LANCE ARMSTRONG. He won his record sixth straight Tour De France and everybody is dogging on him. He doped. He is too military in his approach. He wears the same type of bicycle shorts as the schlock at the gym who does the stair climber while reading the latest John Grisham book.

Armstrong should be grateful sports fans are talking about him at all.

It’s not as though he is winning six Super Bowls in a row or even a record number of Masters titles. It’s flippin’ cycling! Who cares? Lance rides a bike.

We might as well talk about the woman who won her fifth consecutive log rolling gold medal in the Great Outdoor Games while we’re at it.

OK, so Armstrong has the distinction of being the greatest bike rider ever. Well, yippee.

Let’s all do cartwheels and spirit fingers. I know all those kids who wanted to grow up and be like Barry Bonds are ditching their bats and are now saving their money for a yellow jersey and a 10-speed.

I will applaud Armstrong for beating testicular cancer after being diagnosed with the disease in 1996.

It’s not as if he is the only athlete to do so, however. Mario Lemieux underwent radiation treatments for lymphoma in 1993, missed two months of the season and still won the NHL scoring title (160 points in 60 games) along with the league MVP. And didn’t Greg LeMond overcome a gunshot wound to win the Tour de France?

Not to be cruel, but take away the human interest aspect of Lance’s story and all you really have is Kevin Costner trying to win the Hell of the West in “American Flyers.”

We’re supposed to care about the Tour de France because Lance is winning, yet that’s precisely the reason nobody watches.

It’s boring. There’s no suspense, no drama. Armstrong is a victim of his own success.

We already know he is going to win and our collective opinion of his accomplishments will not change no matter how many yellow jerseys Lance captures.

Hey, old guys

Ricky Williams may have thrown every fantasy football keeper league into a tizzy when he announced his retirement from the Dolphins (good thing I don’t have him), but I’d rather see a guy leave too early than stick around too long.

I respect what Barry Sanders and Jim Brown did. Emmitt Smith on the Cardinals? He is the NFL’s all-time leading rusher and won three Super Bowls, yet he felt the need to hang on for a couple more years to try and stick it to his critics. Why?

Nobody wants to see a remix of O.J. Simpson with the 49ers or Reggie White with the Carolina Panthers.

Just walk away!

Bowling for Johannesburg

A colleague at ANG told me a story this weekend about a Little League baseball coach being ejected for getting his lineup card back from the scorekeeper. Apparently there’s a new rule that states something about players and coaches being prohibited from speaking with anybody outside the dugout.

Maybe they should institute that rule in South Africa, where a soccer referee whipped out a gun and shot dead a coach who questioned one of his calls in a local match on Sunday.

One of these days, we’ll realize sports shouldn’t be a matter of life and death.

Whatsamatta U

This week’s letter comes from Bill Cantillo of Castro Valley:

“Great piece about the woeful Clips. I loved the Skippy reference. … Do you remember what a babe Mallory was?”

Oh, absolutely. Mallory Keaton (Justine Bateman) was just behind Samantha Micelli (Alyssa Milano) and Kelly Bundy (Christina Applegate) for’80s TV hotties.

David Schoen can be reached at


Reprinted without permission from The Daily Review Online [link]

After reading the above article, I just couldn’t sit idly by. Although I’ve never written a letter to the editor before, I sat down and drafted the following reply. I sent it both to David Schoen as well as the Sports Editor and the News Editor via the ANG Newspaper feedback form Here is my reply for your reading pleasure:

Mr. Schoen,

It’s clear from your article entitled “Cycling is just not a big deal” that you do not enjoy the sport of cycling. Although I’m sorry that you do not share my enthusiasm, I respect your right to dislike and even loathe the sport. However, I do not respect the manner in which you chose to voice your disdain.

The acrid style in which you penned your comments may be your writing method. Maybe you’re the Bay Area version of Howard Stern and thus rely on shock in which to illicit readership. I’m not familiar with your work, so this is only a guess, but my point is that this shallow form of journalism is appalling.

You trash the sport of cycling as well Lance’s accomplishments, but it’s clear that you’re doing so from ignorance. You aren’t familiar with the sport, nor do you understand it, yet instead of seeking to learn what all the fuss is about, you simply choose to voice your callowness through spiteful bile ridden statements such as:

– “It’s not as though he is winning six Super Bowls in a row or even a record number of Masters titles.”

– “Not to be cruel, but take away the human interest aspect of Lance’s story and all you really have is Kevin Costner trying to win the Hell of the West in ‘American Flyers.'”

– “We’re supposed to care about the Tour de France because Lance is winning, yet that’s precisely the reason nobody watches.”

It’s one thing to simply comment on the fact that you don’t care for another sport, but it’s a whole other matter to go to the lengths that you’ve gone in order to “trash talk” it. I wonder how you would feel to read an article trashing one of your beloved sports, such as Football, by someone who just “didn’t get it.” Would you respect their opinion? Would you applaud their work?

To take this to it’s logical conclusion, let’s pretend that all Lance does is “ride a bike”. Using your rationale, then would it be fair to say that football is nothing more than just a bunch of grown men playing grabass? Is golf nothing more than over-privileged men hitting a silly ball with a stick? How about hockey? Is that really nothing more than a bunch of ballerinas on ice skates pushing each other around?

Personally, I find golf to be a little slow, but I chalk that up to the fact that I “just don’t get it”. I don’t see how people can watch it on television, but I understand that a lot of people do. To each his own. By the same token, I may not enjoy the sport of golf, yet I have to respect the efforts of Tiger Woods, or Phil Mickelson in their chosen profession.

To specifically address some of your issues, please consider the following:

– “…nobody watches”
Roughly one million spectators gather along the Tour route each day. In addition, 50 million fans watch television coverage each day. The Tour is considered the third most watched sporting event behind World Cup soccer and the Super Bowl.”
Trek Bikes

– “It’s boring. There’s no suspense, no drama. Armstrong is a victim of his own success.”
Armstrong has done more to raise the awareness of the sport in the US than any other cyclist in history. OLN began covering the Tour back in 2001. In 2003 their viewership doubled and this year it doubled yet AGAIN. Clearly millions of people find the sport massively exciting.
Sports Illustrated

– “We already know he is going to win…”
Lance won the 2003 Tour by 61 seconds. He overcame illness, equipment failure, falls and dehydration during that years race. After 21 stages and over 80 hours in the saddle he won by a meager 61 seconds. Every 5-time Tour de France winner, of which there are a total of 4 in the past 101 years of the sport, were expected to win their 6th and all failed for one reason or another. There are no givens in the sport of cycling.
Velo News

I could go on and rebut each half-assed remark in your “article”, but I think my point is made. Cycling is 3rd largest sporting event in the world and this summer one man did something that no other person on the planet has been able to do and your response is to trash him out of insensitivity and shallowness.

The bottom line is that your article is “bottom of the barrel” because you stoop to the lowest levels of journalism in order to attract readership. Although I was angered by what you wrote, I was angered more by your publisher. The fact that he allowed your article to be published is a far greater error. Clearly the standards at ANG Newspapers is lower than your own. That is shocking.

I welcome your response,

Michael T. Ashby

PS. I’m guessing that you’ve already made up your mind and there’s nothing anyone can do to change it. However, I would encourage you to read this brief FAQ to help better acquaint you with the sport and specifically the Tour de France.
CSC Tour de France FAQ

Will it make a difference? Probably not. Will Schoen respond? Highly unlikely. Do I feel better? Maybe a little, but at the end of the day you just have to let it go and move on. Life is too short to educate every ignorant sop you meet. 🙂

Want to voice your own complaints of this article? You can e-mail the following people:

Author of the article, David Schoen at dschoen@angnewspapers.com. ANG Sports Editor at jbecker@angnewspapers.com, or you can fill out this Feedback form. If noting else, feel free to pile on and post a comment to this entry. 🙂