To start his show Kornheiser made a point to state that his show is a comedy show. That it is meant to be entertaining. That it is satire and no one should take his rants seriously. This had me worried that he thought the real problem was not what he said, but that people had overreacted. I was already concerned that he hadn't decided to apologize the next day, after he got some angry calls and emails and looked back at what he said; but rather that it wasn't until Lance Armstrong brought attention (and more angry emails and calls) that he got apologetic. It made me worry that he wasn't sorry for what he said, but that he got caught.
But, he said some very good things during his interview
I went on one of my rants the other day about bicyclists in Rock Creek Park and in new dedicated bicycle lanes in Washington, DC and it got way over the top. And the bicycle people who heard it were properly offended
these rants are over, believe me. These rants are over.
He also pointed out that his daughter bike commutes. And Armstrong said that he feels the apology is sincere. It would be nice if no one ever did or said something awful. But, that isn't how the world works. The best you can hope for is that people acknowledge their screw-ups, apologize and try to make them right (more on that below).
According to one story, it appears that Tony Kornheiser is less anti-cyclist than this one rant makes him seem.
Tony and I spend the rest of the light talking sports. The light changes and he says, "you heading up Beach Dr? You wanna 'ride' part of the way?"
So Tony Kornheiser motorpaced me up Beach Dr. in his silver Lexus SC coupe.
On the downside, at one point it appears he admitted to talking on the phone while driving.
In the interview, the two discussed the bike vs. car animosity, why some cyclists might not be doing everything right (they might be new), biking to school, the obesity epidemic, bike lanes, advocacy, cycletracks, bike clothing, twitter and Lance's retirement. Some key parts in my opinion:
On cycle tracks, Lance said
if she was in a bike lane that was a designated bike lane and it was either separate or elevated so she doesn't feat that that car can't get anywhere near her, that would make her happier. I mean that would make her feel safer and she would continue to ride and achieve her fitness goals.
On bicycle clothing
You were ragging on the outfits. If you stood back and looked at, I mean, God we just finished the Olympics, you could look at Olympics sports, you could look at big time professional sports...I mean everybody when they get dressed up for their game, you gotta admit, if you didn't know anything, it all looks a little goofy.
In the end Kornheiser tried to set up a bike/beer summit wherein the two would go on a bike ride and then share some beer. Now if they're smart, they'll make this a big deal. Charge people to ride with Tony and Lance Armstrong. Get Michelob Ultra to sponsor it and provide some cheap beer. [Put Tony in a dunking booth?] And give all the money to Livestrong.
It would be great to see Kornheiser show up at Bike to Work day. That's what we Catholics like to call penance. But I doubt it will happen. Andy Clark of the Bikeleague wanted to go on, but - no offense - Lance Armstrong is a bigger get. They're worried that this has been a positive for Kornheiser and that he hasn't been punished.
I probably would have encouraged Lance to call the ESPN owners to say he wouldn’t appear on their networks again until Kornheiser not only apologized but also was taken off the air and made to do some PSAs and public appearances (maybe even in spandex…) at local charity bike events; maybe until ESPN agreed to sponsor Bike to Work Day or a Safe Routes to School initiative
They also pointed to a five-year old Clear Channel policy of not tolerating such anti-cyclist speech from their on-air personalities. One that it looks like they updated in light of the Kornheiser incident.
In light of Tony Kornheiser's comments, please be clear with your staff(s): With NO exceptions, our personalities should NOT engage in conversation or commentary about the world of cycling, professional or recreational.
I'm not sure if this is a restatement of the existing policy, or a baby with the bathwater policy (Deadspin thinks this is a stupid non-story). Let's hope it's the latter. There is nothing wrong with discussing the Tour de France or weekend bike rides.
The transcript of the whole interview is below the fold.
["All you need is love" by the Beatles playing}
Tony Kornheiser: These are the Beatles. This is "All You need is Love" Properly chastened am I and that's why we're palying this song. I'l make this introduction as brief as possible, but try to give you the fullness of it. I went on one of my rants the other day about bicyclists in Rock Creek Park and in new dedicated bicycle lanes in Washington, DC and got way over the top. And the bicycle people who heard it were properly offended and then it worked its way all the way to the most famous cyclist in the history of the United States - the multiple tour de France winner Lance Armstrong who lit me up on twitter, which many of you have read about. And through the good graces of Sally Jenkins, who has written books with Lance, and who has been my dear friend for more years than either of us want to count. I said to Sally yesterday, "do me a favor. Need your help. Can you get me to talk to Lance?" and yesterday while I was driving out here Lance called all the way from France when he was done working out in preparation for the Tour de France and we talked about a lot of things, and I certainly apologized for any inference that I made, which was not an inference- the direct thing about going after cyclists and the first thing that we talked about what seems to be a feeling on the part of cyclists almost to a man or woman that motorists are particularly aggresive towards them an Lance you were saying so many things motorists will abide but apparantly not cyclists.
Lance Armstrong: Well, first of all just let me say on behalf of myself and all the people that get on bikes, we appreciate your apology and we take that as a sincere apology. So many times, if it's you or me or anybodty else out there that has this podium, I mean whatever we say sometimes, we may think it's funny and we might think it's a joke but people actually take it serious sometimes. So to your point on this interaction between people on bikes and people in cars, I mean, it just meets a wall sometimes and I think obviously that's a relationship that has to coexist now and forever because as I mentioned yesterday to you, we're both going to be around for ever. It's one that's going to require mutual respect. Cyclists can't go down the road five abreast in Rock Creek Park I understand that. I go on rides all the time and people start lining up beside me and wanting to chat and I say "hey, we got to single up here. We got some cars back" but at the same time there is no need for a car to come by and brush a cyclist especially considering - obviously - these are human beings on bikes which makes it a special case in my opinion. Not everybody is used to riding with cars. It could be a 40 year old lady on her first ride and some guy comes by and brushes her and taps her with a mirror and trust me she never gets on her bike again because she's so scared; and that a shame. I know it's a volitie situation sometimes, but both sides have to understand each other and we certainly don't need... lookit and the other thing to I think I should say, when this all blew up yesterday was cycling lost a guy yesterday who was well regarded and loved by many many people. Got hit by a car and killed in the Carolinas - a guy by the name of Adam Little and I think it just touched a nerve for a lot of people in the cycling community for both of those things to come out in the same day and so, look, we gotta all get along here...and... it some times is heated.
TK: Here's what I wonder about...you were saying to me that people will get behind a school bus, people will get behind a tractor, a hay tractor, people will get behind an animal, in cars and wait forever but you sense an antagonism when they get around cyclists and I guess I'm wondering, you drive a car as well as ride a bike. Why do you think that is?
LA: I don't know. I've seen cars do all kind of crazy things to avoid squirrels and cats and dogs and tractors and horses and sheep and runners and everything else, but I'm not nearly smart enough to be able to figure out why it is that a single cyclist or two cyclists or a group of cyclists even, even if they're double or two abreast or trying to stay out of the way, why that gets people so angry some times. Listen, it is what it is. I think that the cycling community can do a better job of creating awareness, either through you and I sitting here having this interview or through PSA's or through all of the advocacy groups that exist within cycling, we can get that message out there and say 'Lookit, this is good for all of us.' This is good for our kids. I mean look at the stats - to take it all the way down to our children, the things that we care about the most. 40 years ago 40% of our kids rode their bikes to school and the obesity rate was 14%. Today, you know how many kids ride their bike to school?
TK: I say it's very small
LA: 3 percent of kids ride their bike to school. Do you know why? Their parents are afraid to put their kids on the street. They're afraid they're going to ride a mile to school and get run over.
TK: I think It also goes further. I think they're sort of afraid the bikes will be stolen. I think that there's just a fear factor, and I think Lance, that we probably agree, that generationally parents have become not just more protective, but over protective because they're scared to death with all the horrible things they read about.
LA: Agreed agreed. the fact is that this whole discussion started because you started talking about bike lanes and the fact that Pennsylvania Avenue is going to have these dedicated bike lanes. Y'know you have certain cities and certain examples out there, you could look at Portland, OR; you could look at Lexington, KY; you could look at Boston, MA. They will not build a mile of pavement for a car without a mile of bike lane. That really helps the entire situation because then you avoid this intersection, or this conflict, between the two. Of course that then too becomes an issue of funding and resources and allocation of these funds and so that's tricker too, but..
TK: You said something to me that I thought was fascinating, though you said it couldn't happen, you said if it was up to you, you'd build the bike lanes above where the cars are.
LA: Well, for people to feel the safest...let's go back to this lady. She's 40 years old. She's gots three kids. She says, 'you know what I want to lose 10 pounds'. She goes and buys a bike. She goes out for a bike ride. She gets brushed by one car, she never does it again, trust me. Now, if she was in a bike lane that was a designated bike lane and it was either separate or elevated, so she doesn't fear that that car can get anywhere near her, that would make her happier. I mean, that would make her feel safer and she would continue to ride and acheive her fitness goals. But again I don't have the magic wand and I don't have the money tree, so it's not possible to just snap your fingers and have bike lanes all over the place and have elevated bike lanes and things like that. That again is a process that we as cyclists and as a cycling community have to go through with the advocacy groups and make sure that when people are building roads in cities or states or communities or countries that they think about the bike, that they think about alternative means of transportation. I mean if you think about it...so many times people get in their car and drive a mile, why wouldn't you just get on your a bike? That's actually good for all of us.
TK: My daughter bicycles to work when she's out here in Delaware...
LA: Tony, what's the farthest you've ever ridden a bike.
TK: Probably when I was a kid...
LA: No, no, that doesn't count...
TK: Lately? No, I haven't been on a bike, other than spinning classes, I haven't been on a bike in forever and ever. I think I'd go right into a tree after about five feet.
LA: I got serious money for the first person that comes up with a picture of Tony in a ...
TK: We can laugh about this but I'm not putting on the Chinzano outfit. I'm just going to wear jeans, that's Ok isn't it?
LA: That was the other thing. You were ragging on the outfits. If you stood back and looked at, I mean, God we just finished the Olympics, you could look at Olympics sports, you could look at big time professional sports...I mean everybody when they get dressed up for their game, you gotta admit, if you didn't know anything, it all looks a little goofy
TK: If I saw a guy in a Redskins uniform walking down Connecticutt Avenue I'd call the police to have them arrested. It would just be too weird.
[Discuss twitter, media and social media]
LA: Now I got to tell you, this all started yesterday not because I saw this and I said well this is B***** ...but this started because I was getting so much feedback from my followers that were saying "you gotta listen to this, you gotta do something about it." So then - I get asked all the time to react to certain things - I sat down and I listened to the interview. You started and were kind of joking around about the bike lane and about the clothes and I thought "well, this isn't so bad" and then it just elevated. And the I thought, "OK, this deserves a reaction." And so then with the tap of a few fingers on the blackberry you got this thing going. That's what happens these days
TK: Well the power of that is overwhelming. Somebody my age...you're in France now. You're not around the corner, but metaphorically and realistically you are around the corner all the time now, right? With the ability to electronically, or however it works, communicate instanteously.
LA: It's just become a small world. You are never out of sight or out of mind or out of reach. And this is 2010. Things are going to continue to evolve. God knows what is going to happen in 2020. In 2020 we will be watching people live do the stupidest things you can imagine, including harassing and assaulting cyclists. And that's going to hold people accountable. It's kind of scary, I got to admit, and we all get caught up in it, but, that part of it I don't think is going to change.
TK: Can I ask you one or two cycling questions?
TK: You retired a few years back. A lot of people go through this. Micahel Jordan. Brett Farve retires every six weeks. But you came back to something that has to be physically the most strenuous thing imaginable. Did you prematurely retire? Why did you come back? What drove you back?
LA: No, I came back last year for two reasons. First of all, all of the work I had done with the team at the foundation and really tried to establish Livestrong in our local community of Austin and establish Livestrong around the United states, we saw this opportunity to take that message around the world. And the easiest, most efficient way to do that was for me to be on a bike actually racing. Secondly, I rediscoverd this joy of it, and going back to what we've just been talking about, I would go out for bike rides and think "Gosh, I like this. I enjoy this. I can do anyhting I want to do right now. I could go down to the bar with my buddies. I could go play golf. I could go for a bike ride, and everyday I'm finding myself making this decision that I want to go for a ride." And so those things coupled together put me back on the bike in a competitive way and in reality it was a great scenario for Livestrong, because faced with these economic times that we're all faced with in the nonprofit world. We can all sit back and say that we had a very succesful year in 2009. People were very supportive of us. we raised a significant amount of money to try and alleviate this burden around the world. We're still in business so we haven't done a good enough job, there are still people diagnosed and dying of cancer on an hourly basis, but all in all I think it was a good decision.
TK: I'm going to ask one more question. I know you're a Texas boy. Do you actually drink that Ultra? you don't really drink the Ultra? Sally told me you don't really drink the Ultra
LA: Right now I'm in the middle of a season, so I'm trying to driunk as much sparkling water as I can. I'm no stranger to cold beer. And yes. The answer to your question is Yes, I do drink it.
TK: So some day the deal is, that you and I will take a bike ride of probably no more that a mile, cause at my age I don't think I could make more and then we're going to go have a beer. Is that fair?
LA: That's absolutely fair. I'm going to continue to pay attention..
TK: I know
LA: ...as are the millions of people that you have now encouraged to watch you closely, their going to all pay attention to make sure that we don't get singled out again. But absolutely, listen Tony I think I heard it in your voice that you did not mean this obviously
TK: these rants are over, believe me. These rants are over.
LA: It's a cruel thing, you have listeners that listen to you and say 'Tony said it's cool so it must be cool.' I have people that follow my career that if I say jump they say 'how high?' and that's a little scary, but that's the reality of the world that we live in today. So we'll all just get along. We'll all be on bikes and move as far to the right as we can, and the cars just give us a little space. And y'know what? You'll still get home. You're going to still get to the red light at the same time. It's all good
TK: Thank you so much Lance. Good luck with the Tour.