Likes Likes:  0
Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast
Results 1 to 20 of 43

Thread: Bill Strickland

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania
    Posts
    22
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Bill Strickland

    Action is character, according to a guy named Francis who is dead and who I never knew but, from all I hear and read, was pretty rotten at life except for just a few things, one of which was writing beautifully. He looked good in a Brooks Brothers suit, too. Despite my regard for his writing, I don’t get the Brooks Brothers but I do entertain the possibility that those who do might know things of which I am and perhaps will remain ignorant. That’s an action, right there, in that sentence, but it’s no kind of writing at all.
    Another guy, one who was much better at life, William, he said, “No ideas but in things.” There’s a red wheelbarrow that could prove it out but I have no chickens. Only three goats. Walt is more to their taste. There is no accounting for the appetites of ruminants. They eat his poems up when I forget to latch the feed shed. They got this in their teeth one morning: “Of the terrible doubt of appearances,
Of the uncertainty, after all, that we may be deluded…May-be the things I perceive, the animals, plants, men, hills, shining and flowing waters,
The skies of day and night, colors, densities, forms, may-be these are (as doubtless they are) only apparitions and the real something has yet to be known. . .When the subtle air, the impalpable, the sense that words and reason hold not, surround us and pervade us,
Then I am charged with untold and untellable wisdom, I am silent, I require nothing further.” Their heads are hard.
    One time, so a story goes, someone asked this other guy, Al, who was a howling prophet, how to become a prophet, and he said, “Tell your secrets.” Asked for his secret one day, a guy named Edouard said, “Ride lots.” I have failed too much where each of these men have succeeded much.
    Beckett says to fail better.
    Failing even that, try again.
    I wrote a whole book that way about living like that. There are a couple scenes, a hundred pages apart, that don’t tell the whole story but tell enough.


    …Alaric Gayfer had been standing in the grassy infield of the velodrome when I showed up for the first day of an instructional program I’d signed up for—a kind of regular-people-give-these-funny-bikes-a-try introductory class. He was in his late thirties, already retired from pro racing, and into his second or third career as a coach. Under coarse yellow hair and a big-featured face, he carried a low center of gravity thanks to boulderlike glutes and thighs, so that he seemed much shorter than he was. He wore no special jacket, no whistle or clipboard or anything else that would identify him as the instructor, yet he was instantly recognizable as our leader.
    There were maybe ten of us—some promising juniors, including a 12- or 13-year-old girl with national-class and perhaps world-class talent, a couple of guys like me in their late 20s or early 30s, a retired racer trying to lose some weight (whom Alaric would quickly nickname Suds, which meant he could clean the track with us), and a few others scattered across ages and abilities and ambitions. We stood before him in a half circle. . .We began with the basics—learning to strap our feet into the pedals, getting used to how the non-coasting rear wheel would of its own momentum push the pedals around once you’d started it rolling, figuring out how to apply back-pressure to slow the bike. Then he coaxed us into whispering our front wheels up to within an inch of the rear wheel ahead of us, showed us how to safely dive down the steep banking of the velodrome, reminded us over and over to pull back on the handlebar instead of pushing down in a sprint, and to pass cyclists in one quick and decisive move—not, he said, as if we wanted to wrestle with them but as if we were stabbing them. Near the end of the summer, he began organizing us into little groups so we could try out the strategies and tactics real racers used.
    While we spun around the velodrome, he’d stand in the infield, shuffling in circles to keep an eye on us while yelling instructions: “Suudddsss - nowww!”
    Out in turn four, Suds would know exactly what to do, springing off the 13-year-old girl’s wheel to cross the finish five bike lengths clear, for a victory that embarrassed him and disappointed her. Alaric would begin walking toward the finish line, giving one short wave of his hand to the girl. She would roll over to him. He’d grab her shoulder, lean in, and give quiet, wise advice. Next time she would finish only four bike lengths back.
    Sometimes he would yell at me: “Biilll—”
    But I could never tell if the second part of his command was “Gooo nooww,” or “Go downnnn,” or even “Not nowww!” So I’d pick something to do—abandon the sheltering draft of Suds’s wheel and wrestle around him for 200 feet, so that at the line I could lose by four bike lengths to him and three bike lengths to the Princess of Genetics.
    I’d take a recovery lap, rasping and blind. Still standing in the infield, Alaric would yell, “Biilll, wot ’appened?”
    I’d replay the race in my head, then gasp something like, “I came around Suds on the far straight, but got caught by both of them.” My voice would be barely audible; I almost could not hear myself. Even so, Alaric would scream, “Whyyyyy?”
    I’d analyze the action as rigorously as I could. “Uh—I guess that—because I went too early to hold them off?”
    Alaric would scream, “Whyyyyy?”
    “Because maybe—I thought I was faster.”
    “Whyyyy?”
    Everyone on the track, our class and the pro racers there to practice, could hear this.
    “Because,” I’d say, “I thought–”
    “Whyyy?”
    “I don’t know, Alaric. I don’t know.”
    I’d be back at the finish line. Alaric would give a short wave of his arm, and the future female champion would roll over to him. He’d grab her shoulder, lean in, and give his wise, quiet advice…
    …At the last class of the summer, Alaric wanted us to try a race called the miss-and-out; at the end of each lap, the last person to cross the finish line is pulled from the track. There were seven pros and top-level amateurs doing some training there that day, and Alaric put them on the track with us to keep the speed high and smooth—safer.
    “You’ll kill your bloody selves, won’t you, if I let you miss-and-out alone,” he said.
    One by one our class dropped out. On the ninth lap, I came around the gifted young Princess from two bike lengths back to put her out. On the tenth, I beat the ex-racer Suds by no more than the width of a tire. It was me and seven real racers circling the track. I would be the next one out: Eighth place.
    I finished third.
    I smiled, dying, all the way around my recovery lap, and when I got near the finish, Alaric gave a short wave of his arm. I rolled in his direction and he walked toward me. When I was near enough, he grabbed my shoulder and leaned in. He rested his forehead against mine and kind of rolled it back and forth, as if we were bears.
    He whispered, but like his speaking voice, it was a big whisper, one that filled the area bounded by our heads and arms. “I need you to think hard on something for me, Bill.” He paused, and though not long, it, too, was big and heavy. “Why is it that you ride better when you’re about to lose than when you’re about to win?”


    I love bicycles for some reason, and bicycling even more (the same unknowable reasons any of you do, I imagine), so the stories I tell mostly happen on a ride or after or before. I am just about sure I must be aiming toward something I cannot imagine let alone fathom, so I focus instead on the small accomplishment of finishing a story. In this, you can, eventually, bring to bear some craft, and get to know which tools to pack for a job, and on tricky bits try some technique you picked up on your own or from a friend. Sometimes it feels like art. Mostly, you get through it. You know stuff about it nobody else does, what happened inside it, what was cast out, what was resurrected. There is some private and intractable satisfaction in that.
    I need to be paid, too. This is my profession, telling stories. I work at the largest cycling publication in the world, the largest one there has ever been. Three or four times a year, we have to explain how to change a flat. We tell people they don’t need underwear with bike shorts. We remind them how to take off the left pedal. I think this stuff is important. I think it aims toward the same unimaginable and unfathomable something as any of the other words I string together. I remember when I didn’t know which way to turn the barrel adjuster. I remember riding cobbles with Johan Museeuw. Same sport.
    I ride with guys who, when I look around the pack and see them and see them expecting me to be there with them, remind me I should not be there with them by any measure except the desire for the unimaginable unfathomable. They have their private and intractable satisfactions. Maybe that is what I’m aiming for.
    Small clock. If your chain is having troubling shifting to the smaller cogs, you turn the barrel adjuster clockwise. That is how you remember when your bike and your brain are rattled from riding cobbles with Johan Museeuw.
    Alaric is dead. I ride to his grave sometimes. Some of those sometimes I write about it. I use action and things. I tell my secrets. But I never get past the words to the silence that requires nothing further. Jack Simes said to me once after a race: “Amazing different complexity of the human element mixed with a gadget. Hard or impossible to make sense out of it, sometimes. I guess that’s what the finish line is for.”
     

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Better to be ruined than to be silent atmo.
    Posts
    18,534
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: Bill Strickland

    hey biil -

    welcome here at V atmo. one quick story...

    when i was in england in 1972 or so, alan gayfer was still a name in the publishing circles wrt cycling periodicals. at the time, his son alaric was just starting to break into the results columns in the schoolboy division. within a year or three he was a bona fide real national level racer with the Archer R.C. sponsored by Cutty Sark. i am sure he went on to win many national championships there. i don't know the back-story about how he ended up moving to lehigh valley, but was duly surprised when i started seeing results for an alaric gayfer (then member of a team in brooklyn) once again making the breaks and podiums with regularity.

    i never got to know the man, but knew well of him, and that he died young at some point in the 1990s.

    again, thanks for sharing.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    no shore, mass
    Posts
    13,033
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: Bill Strickland

    good intro bill..
    welcome aboard. nice line.

    “Why is it that you ride better when you’re about to lose than when you’re about to win?”
     

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Woodstock Valley, CT
    Posts
    1,935
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: Bill Strickland

    Bill,

    Is there one story, one article or one book that stands out in your mind as being your best work?

    Welcome,
    WayneJ
     

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    DC
    Posts
    20,632
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: Bill Strickland

    Bill, you had me at about 300 words into your S.O. statement with "I love bicycles". Welcome and here is a small familiar story from your turf.

    A few yrs. ago my wife Queen and I went for a ride from the Velo. We were not gone long when an older gent and a young fella passed us both smooth as butter. They gently tossed us a "howdy" and offered a wheel. No words, their easing pace said "come on tag along if it suits you". The older mans bike was in terrible disrepair. Wires were not cut, no ferrulels and the chain chattered but he was pure class.

    When we got home I had a chance to relate to Tom Kellogg what happened and before I could ask he said "Jackie Simes".

    Stories are secrets, they just need an audience. You are a master at the craft sir.

    Pleased to meet you.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Better to be ruined than to be silent atmo.
    Posts
    18,534
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: Bill Strickland

    and PS bill you must musT muST mUST MUST MUST join us for the baller's ride weekend in late may atmo.
    toots can tighten you up with the details.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Posts
    3,473
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: Bill Strickland

    hey bill-
    this is such an honor to have you taking part in a smoked out..... you are one of my favorite writers- the fact that the boundaries of your prose most often involve cycling is a plus. i recently read foot's history of italian cycling, "pedaliere, pedaliere" which is as much as a lament for the smaller role cycling plays in the italian popular conscience today as it a history of the sport. he's dreadfully wrong- there's a greater story in vdb than there ever was in bartali- and tough fucking shit- but michele bartoli on a bike made coppi look like a monkey humping a football in comparison. even more than most sports, cycling has the almost trite ability to mimic a greater human condition-but it is at the same time so infused with the moment and the epoch in which it takes place. cyling is timeless yet irrelevent out side its moment. the great italian sports journalists have always been able to pull this dichotomy off and i really feel you are the only writer working in the english language to be able to convey something beyond the banal when writing about my sport and suggestive of something wonderous and universal working within the subject of the bike.

    i used to think that there was something terribly wrong with the fact that more often than not the writing is far better in sports illustrated than it is in the new yorker....but really, there's something terribly right with that. thank you for bringing your skills to your chosen field. we as readers are culturally, intellectually and emotionally better for it.

    bill- now a question- what's the book on cycling that needs to be written?

    thank you for many things-
    craig gaulzetti
    bamboo, aluminum, wood.

    My name is Craig Gaulzetti.

    www.summercycles.com

    www.gaulzetti.co

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    The Barn
    Posts
    1,734
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: Bill Strickland

    Welcome aboard. Its all down hill from here. If I can come up with a question, I'll ask you on the Derby. And yes, join us at the Ballers Ride. Its a hoot. at least once it is all over.
    Tom Kellogg
    Rides bikes, makes 'em too.
    Spectrum-Cycles.com
    Butted Ti Road, Reynolds UL, Di2, QuarQ, Conour lite, SP Zero
    Steel Cross, X-7, Crank Bros, Concour Lite, Nemesis, Grifo
    Steel Piste, D-A Piste, PD-7400, Concour lite, Zipp 404
    http://kapelmuurindependent.be


    Shortest TFC Member (5'6 3/4") & shrinking

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    W. MA
    Posts
    736
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: Bill Strickland

    I had the pleasure to briefly know and ride with Alaric. I still have a set of wheels he built for me and my Peter Mooney-build I did in the 1990's. Sad to see him go. He was the real deal which is often hard to explain. -Nat
     

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Posts
    960
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: Bill Strickland

    Synchronicity

    Bill, I'm halfway through Ten Points and all day I've been pondering Alaric's question. That's the central question in many of our lives; it might be easier to run from pain than to race to joy. Last week, I was talking to one of my riding buddies, Chris, about cycling as therapy and synchronicity (met a psychotherapist roadie at a stop light the week before - we've gone on 4 rides since that meeting). After telling Chris about the chance meeting with the therapist he immediately pulled out Ten Points and insisted I read it. Not only is your book illuminating and inspirational but now I know you're Chris's (justridingalong) biggest literary influence..haha.
     

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Wash DC
    Posts
    512
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: Bill Strickland

    Hey Bill - glad to have you on board. Might force us to elevate the quality of our posts a bit.

    Anyway, on to the smoke. Cycling has always had close ties to the literary. From the beginning, writing about cycling was almost as important a connection to the sport as seeing it. In the past, that writing (the really good stuff, anyway) has tended towards the historic or the journalistic , but you really seem to push it towards the personal. Even your books about Lance and might-as-well-winning seem to be couched in your observations as a cyclist - being an insider in that aspect (not so inside as when expros write, but still) seems core to the observations and the feelings you portray. Is that something that comes from the editorial and blog writing culture in cycling you have been a big part of making happen, or do you see this as the progression in sports writing as information about everything expands and our amateur/hobbyist/leisure pursuits become all-encompassing?
    This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the bike.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Seattle, WA
    Posts
    144
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: Bill Strickland

    Bill

    Welcome to the V. Similar to the last poster, has the evolution of blogging and I guess to some extent, tweeting, changed the kind of editorial topics that mainstream publications (of which I would count Bicycling as one) consider? For example, following the Inner Ring blog recently has made me think several times, that would be an interesting article in longer form. Knowing how important advertising revenue is, when you were at B, did a staff writer/editor/freelancer/intern propose topics off blogs for further treatment? Or does the short form make it harder by giving everything treatment immediately while publishing a monthly mag would require longer lead times? i guess am asking about the boundaries of expression on the interwebs and how they play out via traditional publishing channels? For example, we have had "will campy survive" threads here and I LOVED piece on campy in recent issue of B. Curious how it relates, if at all?

    Scott
     

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania
    Posts
    22
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: Bill Strickland

    Hi Wayne,

    I find it interesting how the reception of a story can differ from the ideas I had about it when I was writing. Sometimes I'll do a blog or another type or writing and know it's not anywhere near my best work -- in a sort of technical sense, usually having to do with structure or simply the execution of the expression -- but readers respond to something in it. When I figure out it's popular, I'll go back and reread the story a few times and try to figure out what is working about it. It's pretty simple with readers: They read, and they like it or not, sometimes love it, sometimes hate it (and sometimes apply all those judgments to the writer as well), sometimes get bored, sometimes write down lines and paste them on their walls. Once a lady named a goldfish after me. Once a guy told me he wished I would die right away and burn in hell forever. I think hell was a very real place to him, too, and the flames, so it was an impressive curse. All of that, though, is based on something elusive to me as the writer. I can't ever have that experience of just reading the story and figuring out if I like it or not.

    I tend to think highly of stories where I worked out some knotty writing problem in a way that was new for me, or that was graceful but will end up invisible (sort of like, maybe, when a mechanic figures out a really innovative way to repair something, but in the end, the bike is simply repaired and the customer remains, understandably and rightfully, ignorant of the process), or because I got some little moment exactly right. Or, sometimes, it's the stories I struggled to the death with just to end up with something acceptable; I remember all the effort that went into it.

    A long time ago, I wrote a vignette about an inner-city grocery story for a writing class I was taking, and with the encouragement of some friends and editors tried to expand it into a short story. I spent months and months -- I have no idea how many drafts -- learning how to create backstory, a little bit about how to give characteristics to people, how vary dialogue. It's not a great story, in the end, but it meant a lot to me. I felt like I was on my way. It's called Generics: Generics « some of the writing of Bill Strickland

    Another one that sticks with me is the first time I ever told even a little bit of the truth about my life, in what was assigned to be, and started out to be, a simple nonfiction piece about cardiac health. There wasn't much of the awful truth in that story, just a few lines, but putting those out there changed me as a writer . . . little corny, but, it was almost as if not being honest about who I was had kept me from finding honesty in writing. Ehhh....I almost deleted that, but, dammit, it's true. That story was called "Riding With (My) Heart" Riding With (My) Heart « some of the writing of Bill Strickland

    There's an old blog post, from my first narrative blog, Sitting In, about riding in a church parkling lot with my daughter. It was a blog, and I was writing quick, and I can see now that I wasn't in control of the style -- there are hiccups all through it -- but it felt so real to me as I was writing it, as if I'd been able to go back to the moment through words. And I was glad I'd caught that moment. We let so many of them go by. That one was Chasing Shadows: Chasing Shadows « some of the writing of Bill Strickland

    Of my books, Ten Points is by far the one that means the most to me. There are some passages in Tour de Lance that I think I executed about as well as I'm able to, like when I captured the rhythm of the radio chatter between the car and the riders, or when I was able to tell the story of whole day like at the Tour of the Gila, or the quiet minutes at the Giro with the guy and his daughter who were more or less genuflecting before Lance's bike. But in Ten Points I had a specific idea about how I wanted the language to work -- to be as physical as the racing itself -- and also how the structure could be created with really uncertain boundaries between past and present. And I was so honest in that book I still sometimes regret doing so at that level. (I am worried about what happens when my daughter finally reads it.) It's interesting at book signings, or when people recognize me and want to talk. The Tour de Lance readers ask me about him, about doping. The Ten Points readers thank me for writing it, and tell me about their own lives. I think it's close to what writing a cult book must feel like: Just about everyone who reads it loves it, but just about no one reads it: Ten Points « some of the writing of Bill Strickland

    And I wrote a poem when I was like 8 or 9 that might be my finest work:

    See the happy corpses
    rejoicing in their rigor
    dressed in suits of mortis,
    their smiles grow ever bigger
     

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania
    Posts
    22
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: Bill Strickland

    Too Tall,

    Jack rode that ancient Colnago for years and years. I used to be able to hold Jackie off my wheel. Then one year he started coming around me. Then he started giving me wheels. Now I can't hold his.

    It marches on, doesn't it?
     

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania
    Posts
    22
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: Bill Strickland

    Craig,

    I wonder if we already have our great book in Krabbe’s “The Rider.” He achieves that astounding – to me, being in the trade, I guess – feat of making the writing become the riding. You’re in the book so far the book disappears. It’s absolutely true (though, as he writes about in the passage about Coppi’s water bottle, suffers not at all from the obligation to be factual).

    An interesting thing about the book, though, is that it is impenetrable to non-cycling readers, and even to some casual cyclists. I’ve thought about this a bit. And Mike Magnuson, a writer I much admire, and I have talked about this. When I’ve written cycling books for mainstream publishers, there’s always a point when the editor or editors say something like, “You need to explain what a peloton is,” or “you have to provide a summary of how the Tour de France works,” or they want you to explain how the derailleur works before you can use just use the word or something. They’re good editors, sometimes great editors, and they’re just doing their jobs. They’re right. If the book has any chance to find a wide audience, to show the beauty of the sport to people who otherwise would know nothing about it (which is something I hope to achieve someday), that impentrability has to be removed.

    But the sport demands obsession – at least at the level in which I like to write about it. And that makes it impenetrable. And much of what we love about it stems from that impenetrability. You show up for a ride, and right away you get dropped, or you can’t figure out why everyone swings off to the right sometimes and the left sometimes, or how everyone knows to shift all at once without having to talk about it, or how they all just automatically swoop out wide at the same spot before a corner – a hundred thousand little iimpenetrable acts in a single ride. Maybe you stick through that, then you confront the true, profound impenetrability at the core: When the shit gets tough, all becomes inscrutable.

    An ideal representation of cycling would capture that, portray it, but not necessarily have to explain it. But it needs to be explained . . . which weakens the effect, and so on. Maybe this is why movies – I’d point to Breaking Away and Triplets of Belleville – seem to portray the sport better than most books. Movies, simply by their format, can never drill as deep into the quiddity of anything as books must. Films are always operating in a kind of shorthand, symbolic representations that evoke authenticity without having to bother to get all the tiny hundred thousand impenetrable acts true.

    There are good and great books out now, and guys like Rendell, Fotheringham, Herbie Sykes, Richard Moore knock me out with their reporting and ability to stitch so many facts into a cohesive narrative. I like Michael Barry’s Le Metier. That photo book, The Peloton, expresses the sport better than many prose books.

    But, to finally try to answer your question, I would like us to have a book that is true to us, but which we could hand to anyone and say, “this is what it’s about.”
     

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Woodstock Valley, CT
    Posts
    1,935
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: Bill Strickland

    Bill,

    Amazing responses. Thanks for that. Now off to read some of the works you referenced.
     

  17. #17
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Better to be ruined than to be silent atmo.
    Posts
    18,534
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: Bill Strickland

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Strickland
    I find it interesting how the reception of a story can differ from the ideas I had about it when I was writing.
    good morning bill -

    i go into a race with the attitude, "someone has to win this thing, it might as well be me atmo." it took me years of riding, racing, and then getting near the front and doing something about it before i adapted this ^ mantra. i bracketed your quote because one takeaway i got from the original post was that part of the lesson at the track was to realize that you, bill, could get it done.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    dove capita
    Posts
    304
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: Bill Strickland

    Ciao Bill,
    Dario here , just to send you my welcome on board .
    It is great to meet you here on vsalon , i have a small question for you and is a curiosity , you are in contact with the biggest bike brands , how they look at the framebuilders world ?what they think about our small niche business?
    my best wishes for a great new year
    Dario

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Posts
    1,598
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: Bill Strickland

    Welcome Bill and wonderful writing.

    "The Rider" was far and away the best read of summer for me. We passed a copy around the team, handing it off at different races through the season. Many guys bonded with the story, others no so much. I felt bad for the latter group but perhaps with time...
     

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania
    Posts
    22
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: Bill Strickland

    Jmgorman

    You bring up a really perceptive point that, as you say, has a line right back to the beginning of the sport. Hell, as we all know, the Tour was founded by newspapermen as a marketing and sales gimmick. (And so were, to some degrees, many of the great one-day races and, of course, other stage races.) And there has been some great writing and thinking, by people such as Benjo Maso (“Sweat of the Gods”) about the role that writing played in shaping the dynamics, boundaries and perceptions of the sport. Sort of simply: At the beginning, there was only the writer to interpret what had happened in the race, and the writer could not often see much of the race. No press room, no radio feed or race radio (let alone tv images), so the writer would construct from the comments of the racers what had happened and, to a greater degree, focus most intently on some moment he’d happened to have personally witnessed. This might have been Chevalier struggling through a crowd while the real breakaway by Magni happened far up the road, but too bad — Chevalier got the ink. And the fans got only the story that came from the writer.

    This is one reason those old riders seemed more heroic, why they unfurled the wings of archangel as behind them the penitents of the road quaked and tore at their clothes in pain et cetera et cetera: It all came from the image-makers, the writers. Radio transmissions changed this to some degree – there could be live reports, but it was really TV on motos and, eventually, helicopters that gave everyone the ability to see the race, and to see that, mostly, there were no Promethean figures stripping off their armor and throwing themselves upon the jagged points of the mountain swords, but dudes heaving and sweating and blowing snot. There is, as well, a school of thought that slo-mo tv footage altered the fan’s perception of the race – giving them the kind of intimate access and providing images that no writer ever had been able to.

    What were the writers – the journalists, I’m talking about – left with? Well, they did have the expertise of having seen personally so many races, and having access to the racers and directors the fans didn’t, so the good writers then took over the job of providing analysis and inside stories, and background.

    Then we got the age of public relations, media training for riders (all athletes, really) and, finally, the internet, where not only could anyone set up a site or, eventually, blog and become through repetition somewhat of a known commentator if not expert. But, also, anyone could see just about any race – even long-lost rare historical footage that, once, long ago, a reporter might have been considered a kind of intellectual treasure for having seen. And, hard on that came the time (now) when riders simply interacted directly with the fans through facebook, twitter, videos, etc.

    What’s a simple race recap hold for a serious fan? What’s the value (again to a serious fan, not the casual follower) of a news report that simply collates, paraphrases and summarizes the social media posts of riders and team directors? There are writers, probably most popularly, Bill Simmons, who believe that the only sports experience that can be truly, imaginatively written is the experience of a fan – the point of this reporting is not what happened but what the fan experienced. I think that’s a revolutionary idea in sportswriting, especially so for, say, baseball or basketball or soccer, where the access to the players and managers is a joke, as bad as any hyper-controlled access to A-list celebrities. Cycling can be much better, simply because it’s a smaller, poorer sport.

    I don’t go so far as to think the fan’s experience is the only one that matters, but, as you said, I write almost always from a personal point of view. Part of that is simple affinity – it’s where my strongest abilities as a journalist lie. (I’m a lousy investigative reporter, for instance, because I don’t have or don’t care to develop that mentality and those skills. Likewise, I’m not very good at all at writing quick recaps or organizing a traditional news story. As I’ve said a few other times, I’d probably get sacked if I worked for CyclingNews. When a race is over and the riders are saying what they say after races and the quotes are being handed out to the journalists in the press rooms, or played on a tape recorder for the journalists by a pr manager, or in the press conference a rider is asked what the decisive moment was and 37 journalists scribble down the same reply, I tend to get bored, and wander away and talk to a mechanic, or a fat man I saw leaning out of a second-story window to watch the race, or the guy sweeping up the discarded beer cups. I’m pretty good at reporting, and great at taking notes — I had 30,000 or 40,000 words of faw notes from the Tour de France for the Lance book — but I’m just not good at news gathering.)

    I think some people connect with what I write because I’m not trying to express who I am but to find something in me that is surprisingly universal. I mean by this some quirk, or some not-obvious feeling that ends up being something we all have in common. A quick and perhaps dumb example just for the sake of explanation: “I hate being cold on a ride” is universal but not very interesting because it’s too obvious. But, “I love hating being cold on a ride” might be one of those surprising universalities. I want to show the ways cycling threads through us all, connects us (even when it puts us in opposition), and as well explore how and why it is so central to who we are. I mean, I am, relatively, lousy at cycling. There’s no damn way or reason it should be as important to me as it is, but it is. And I am not alone. So I try to speak to that.

    I guess the answer to why I write personally is because it is the way journalism is evolving, but also the way I best know how to get to the things that matter.

    This may be a dumb answer.
     

Similar Threads

  1. No more cell phone bill -
    By Justin Spinelli in forum General Discussion
    Replies: 24
    Last Post: 10-27-2011, 10:07 PM
  2. Bill Cunningham - New York
    By atw in forum The OT
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 09-16-2011, 04:21 PM
  3. Bill Strickland: Now I believe Lance doped
    By Craven Moorehead in forum General Discussion
    Replies: 34
    Last Post: 04-01-2011, 11:24 PM
  4. Bill Ladd Gallery
    By Bill Ladd in forum VSalon Cycling Gallery
    Replies: 4
    Last Post: 12-20-2009, 04:22 PM

Bookmarks

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •