Immediately after Lance Armstrong tweeted that he had just gotten off the phone with Tony Kornheiser re the latter’s call to “run down” stupid cyclists, and after Lance noted that Tony K had apologized and would host Lance on his show the following day, Bike Intelligencer‘s Twitter followers emailed us asking, “Did Lance get the idea from you?”
Since the question came from both of our followers, neither of whom could have been Lance himself, the answer was obvious. But still, we had to wonder …
First some background. In case you live a normal, healthy life and weren’t online, Lance the Man took on Tony K the ESPN commentator on Twitter, linking to a Kornheiser show where Tony ripped cyclists for hogging lanes and wearing funny little hats. In his defense, Tony K was being deliberately snarky, like a lot of us get on occasion, particularly when it comes to matters we have little to no real understanding of. It’s obvious Kornheiser, despite being an experienced sportscaster, knows nothing about bicycles, cyclists’ rights, municipal and state vehicular code, accident and death rates, and a plethora of other cycling-related matters. But he does know one thing about the world of cycling, which we’ll get to in a moment.
Once Lance called for Kornheiser’s head on a platter, or maybe one of those disc wheels he uses in time trials, a Twitterstorm of Katrinal proportions hit the Interwebs. Soon a Facebook page was posted which by day’s end had nearly 1,900 members. The blowback of cyclists’ response attained such ferocity that ESPN took down the link containing Kornheiser’s comments. Yeah, like that worked. It immediately went back up on YouTube, gaining within a couple of hours more than 18,000 views (listens).
All of which made us scratch our head a bit.
Our first brow-furrow came when we saw Lance’s original tweet. We were like, Dude, you are Lance Armstrong. No way do you have to go on Twitter to complain about Tony K. You can just give the guy a call, have a nice chat, and next thing you know Kornheiser is on the air eating humble pie. Simple as that.
But then we got to thinking. As we’ve noted on more than one occasion, Lance is smarter than the average jock. Make that way smarter. So maybe he had a greater strategic purpose here than just getting a guy known as Mr. Potato Head’s body double to apologize.
Without a firestorm burning outside ESPN headquarters, Lance recognized, there would be little reason for Tony to follow up. And without his army storming ESPN’s gates, Lance would have little leverage to work from with Kornheiser. Without making a big freakin’ fuss, in other words, no one would learn any lessons from it.
Wouldn’t the real ends of progress — drawing attention to cyclists’ rights to the lane as well as the thoughtlessness of stereotyping and ridiculing them on a major network broadcast — be better served by all hell breaking loose?
So Lance decided to stir the pot a bit. Get people riled. Show what a united cycling front in our impending post-petroleum age can mean when something gets its dander up.
Now it’s true: After watching the kettle boil for a couple of hours, @bikeintel couldn’t help but tweet, “One phone call from @lancearmstrong to Tony K wd take care of the situation … ”
And it’s also true that an hour passed before Lance subsequently tweeted that he had “just got off the phone” with Tony K. (“Tony Kornheiser” is listed on Twitter but it’s an empty account, so that avenue was presumably out. Although Kornheiser does have a Facebook page, where he is taking major crap.)
In the face of such intriguing but flimsy circumstantial evidence, we still feel that Lance had this thing planned out from the beginning and, having watched the King work his magic over the years, we just happened to figure it out ahead of time.
As for Kornheiser, for all his cluelessness about cycling, the one thing he knows is that Lance Armstrong is an American hero. Lance Armstrong is bigger, way bigger, than Tony K. And when the world’s No. 1 cycling celebrity is on the line, no matter what foolishness about cycling you’ve expressed to your listeners, no matter how much your ears are going to burn, you pick up the phone.
But Kornheiser also knows an opportunity when he sees one. You’ve got Lance on the line, invite him onto the show. Clear this whole thing up. Make everyone look good.
Assuming all goes well with Lance’s TV appearance on Kornheiser’s show, both will have accomplished a huge win for the cycling community. We’ll all feel good about ourselves, we’ll have furthered understanding of cyclist’s rights and of our vulnerability on city thoroughfares, and we’ll have boosted Tony K’s ratings through the roof.
Everyone wins. Which is what can happen when you have a really sharp guy leading the peloton.