BikeMonkey Guest PostPalMD came up with a reflection on just what bothered him about the recent debacle in which a beloved and bucolic icon who practically defines "Minnesotan" (not to mention upper-Midwesterner) appeared to be an antiSemitic idiot. PalMD was previously a fan of Garrison Keillor and felt included in the folksy community of Prairie Home Companion and Lake Wobegon. Keillor's blatherings were, from appearances, received as a chest push and door slam accompanied by "Wait, not you Jewboy!".
This let me crystallize my discomfort with another cultural icon, albeit one considerably less famous than Garrison Keillor.
Actually, two icons from the subculture of professional cycling.
It goes like this. I am a cycling fan. I've followed pro cycling on and off since the early 80s and I have the usual jingoism, fueled by the fact that US citizens generally were not players in the top ranks of international cycling. This changed, slowly and haltingly...to the point where you have very likely at least heard of Lance Armstrong and also Greg Lemond (if you are of a certain age).
Nevertheless, the sport of cycling is small potatoes and if you want to root for a US pro cyclist your options are limited. Conversely if you ARE a pro cyclist in the US, your fan base is pretty damn small. Consequently, your ability to make a living doing public entertainment is limited by the scope of your sport. In short, fans matter to cyclists and pro cyclists matter to fans. Big surprise.
I never really liked Lance, I have to admit. The random chances of fandom, really. He had an amazing career, cycling wise. But he just sort of seemed like an ass. There were other US cyclists I preferred to follow.
He totally rehabilitated his image with me through Twitter. Dude Twitts. At a very high cadence, much like his climbing style. Through these updates it becomes clear just how much this now-unretired, pushing 40 professional athlete puts into his promotion and fundraising for cancer research support through the Lance Armstrong Foundation which you know via the Livestrong yellow wristband. Although I'm sure his huge ego is entirely intact, you really do get the impression that the biggest reason he un-retired was to do his cancer thing. Anyway, I follow the guy on Twitter and today I was struck again by something he's Twitted before.
Chris "The Redneck" Horner gets himself a website! http://www.chrishornerracing.com/articles/
I like Horner as a pro cyclist. He's got a great story in the US-favored vein. Hard luck guy, talented but never quite hits the top of the game. Shows a lot of promise and class but manages to break the hearts of his fans, year after year. Great stuff. Whenever he writes a riders' diary or piece for his local paper, you feel like this is a likable dude.
He might be. Probably is. But when a guy he rides with calls him "The Redneck", it gives me pause. Yeah, probably just his buddies joking around with him. Guy's pretty pale and he spends a lot of time with the back of his neck exposed to the sun. Probably just Armstrong giving his teammate the Texas nickname treatment made famous by W.
I can understand that. But I'm not particularly interested in being a fan of bigots. When someone like Mel Gibson goes all wackanut, it decreases my enjoyment of his movies. Speaking here as someone who was and is squarely in the target demographic for the Mad Max and Lethal Weapon movies. Someone who enjoys semi-provocative film enough to be in the zone for his recent weird-ass director efforts. Just like I'm finding myself reaching for the radio knob when Keillor comes on in recent weeks.
I'd hate to find myself bypassing Chris Horner's Twitts and website updates this season. I mean, I know he can put it together this year. He's getting to the end of his career but he's been riding sweet when he can keep it upright. This could be his year....