An Open Letter to ESPN’s Mr. Michael Smith
Dear Mr. Michael-
My name’s Matt. I’m just one of the many cyclists you probably didn’t know existed until yesterday.
That’s OK. I had never heard of you either (thank goodness for the YouTube) until you started spouting off about the “hilariousness” of Johnny Hoogerland and Juan Antonio Flecha being struck by a car during the 9thstage of the Tour de France. I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that clip was your total exposure to this year’s Tour. *
If you had watched that fateful stage you would have known there was much more to the story. The two guys who were hit were in a breakaway only 35k (about 22 miles) from the finish and had a really strong chance of finishing the day on the podium.
To put that scenario into a ball and stick sport that you can wrap your head around, imagine Devin Hester returning a kickoff. He finds a seam and sprints to daylight. The defense is nipping at his heels. As yards tick by and the end zone nears, it becomes clear he’s going to score- until ESPN’s high wire camera strung up over the field falls out of the sky and hits Hester on the head knocking him unconscious. He collapses in a heap inside the 20. Thanks in part to years of muscle memory, he miraculously hangs onto the ball.
Any idea what the NFL rulebook would say in that situation?
Well, the Tour de France doesn’t stop for anything. The fluid chaos of the Tour’s peloton is river you can’t dam up (unless of course you’re a runaway herd of cows or protesting French workers). If you get spit out for whatever reason, you’re on your own to get back in. And that includes getting hit by a car belonging to the French TV network broadcasting the race.
Luckily for Flecha, he got away with few bumps and bruises and was quickly back on his bike. My new hero Johnny Hoogerland wasn’t so lucky. He flew ass over tea kettle into a BARBED WIRE FENCE after being hit with the force of 10 Ndamukong Suhs going 35 mph.
Despite being cut up worse than Joe Don Baker in the original Walking Tall, Hoogerland untangled himself, remounted his bike and kept riding to the finish where he did in fact step onto the podium to claim the coveted Polka Dot Jersey as the Tour’s best climber. After the ceremony he went to the hospital and received a bouquet of 33 stitches as a souvenir.
And this is a guy you laugh at?
As an employee of a network that hypes the most mundane news into the upper reaches of the stratosphere, e.g. “The Decision,” laughing at Hoogerland was probably the wrong course of action. If Curt Schilling’s bloody sock can be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame, then Hoogerlanddeserves his own hall of fame.
I’ve been hit by a car (an LAPD cruiser no less) and know so many people who’ve been hit a millipede wouldn’t have enough fingers and toes to count them all and I can emphatically tell you there is nothing funny about it- be it during the world’s biggest sporting event or a simple ride to work.
While your carefully scripted apology was was a good PR driven step and right in line with the multitude of ESPN apologies, it doesn’t erase the fact that you spent an entire day tweeting your stance that two people nearly getting killed was hilarity at its finest.
And that’s really why I’m writing you this letter. I thought for sure you might have had the conviction to own up to what you said and not back down. While I would still strongly disagree with your stance, I would at least respect your staunch conviction to your idiotic opinion.
Still, maybe you could use this time to take a step back and reinvent your sporting persona. I suggest becoming Mr. Michael Smith The Guy Who Laughs at the Misfortune of Others.
Take for example a few months ago. While your fellow talking heads were debating how to “fix baseball” after Buster Posey broke his leg in a collision at the plate, you could be off in the corner cackling like a 13-year-old who chugged 15 hours worth of energy saying “No! We need more broken legs in baseball and until then, let’s watch Buster break his leg again and again!”
On second thought, that probably wouldn’t be such a good plan since no athletes would want to talk to ESPN anymore.
So on that note, good luck to you Mr. Michael Smith. Whatever happens in the wake of your tweepidity, I wish you the best. Should your career take a turn for the worse and you someday find yourself in such a “dire” position you “need” to ride a bicycle to the public access TV studio, give us a call, we’ll give you a good deal on some highly functional yet office friendly cycling apparel.
ps. The US Women just scored to make it 3 – 1 against France! I love the irony that I’m watching ESPN as I write this.
*Hope you appreciate how I was being nice with a qualified “this year’s” because chances are the last time you even knew the Tour de France existed a guy named Lance was still adding to his collection of Yellow Jerseys.