I watched the Ronde on Versus last weekend. Do you think as Cancellara glided away from Boonen on the Muur, he muttered "who's specialized now, bitch?" Probably not. His English is kind of Euro-speak funny. The race wasn't really a head scratcher other than wondering if David Millar was going to make the bridge up to the leaders or blow up (he bonked). But after the race finished, Versus segued right into "Whacked Out Sports," a program that is kind of like "America's Funniest Home Vidoes" meets "America's Best Crashes (that almost kill you but not quite)." I knew I wasn't in my white, urban-suburban West Coast blue state anymore after watching clips of a young man wearing a helmet and pants that must've formerly belonged to the world's fattest man try to do wheelies on a motorcycle - and gloriously fail in a shower of sparks and minor explosions. Moving on to the next collection of crashes or athletic feats, three very tan women with bleach blonde hair and all wearing six inch lucite heels tottered across the screen and the announcer drawled as the "hotties" that had come to inspire the men to drive trucks into the backs of old trailer homes on a raceway. That's when I decided I had lost interest and was turning the TV off.
So this is Versus's audience: cyclists and transplanted Europeans alongside hunters and people who like to crash four-wheelers into hovercrafts. People who are comfortable in spandex and those who equate pant looseness as an ascertain of heterosexuality. Those who ride their bikes on the road and those who drive fast and yell at cyclists to "get off the f-king road" A few weeks ago at on a ride, we got an earful of expletives from an irate driver - big truck, an "I'd rather be hunting" sticker and camo vest. My group had been riding two abreast and could have been closer to the shoulder but we weren't, for a variety of other reasons. What happened was an angry exchange that ended with the truck speeding away and us pissed off and riding hard. And the interaction undoubtedly soured attitudes and stereotypes even further. Ironically we might both be heading home to watch the same channel but very different programs.
Of course there's hyperbole; not every fisherman and hunter hate cyclists, and some cyclists I know participate in those activities But perhaps there's a great opportunity in this disparate space for a dialogue and interaction especially about road safety. Versus seems to occupy an unique position of holding the attention and fan base of two very different groups. This might offer another type of discussion - not one based on telling the other how to behave, but one that acknowledges the need for cognizant and respectful behavior on each side.