Shouting match

February 16, 2017 § 25 Comments

I know I’m old because I misremember everything. But I’m pretty sure that people didn’t used to scream at each other as much as they do now. In fact I’m pretty sure that the people I rode with didn’t scream at each other at all, except for that time in the Cat 4 road race at the Tour de Louisiana in 1984 when some guy screamed at everyone for two hours straight before the screaming tired him out and he got dropped.

Part of the reason we didn’t scream is because we all knew each other pretty well, and part of it is because back in those days screaming, by definition, was going to lead to punching, and there were a whole bunch of guys you pretty much didn’t really ever want to get cross wise with. Jerry Markee was one of them, Kevin Callaway the Good was another, but probably the biggest reason you kept your opinions to yourself was Fields.

Fields never screamed at anyone, and you sure never screamed at him. You thought four or five times about even raising your voice, and it was that fifth time that always led you to the right place, which was to hold your fucking tongue until after the ride when you could go complain behind his back.

Nowadays people scream all the time. They scream in races, which is weird but a little understandable, and they scream on group rides, which is incomprehensible to me. We had a race a couple of months ago when an 18-year-old kid who weighs about 130 pounds started cursing a dude who weighs 220 and is a former football player and a father and who could pretty much punch his fist through a concrete wall.

Back in the day that kid wouldn’t have gotten to the “ck” in “fuck” before his teeth were making an emergency exit out the back of his head. After the race the big guy came over and said, “Wanky, you need to get your rider to calm down a bit with the f-bombs.” It was kind of incredible to me that I had to explain to someone who weighs 130 that it’s bad policy to get aggressive with a dude who weighs 220.

When I was a kid the first thing I always noticed first about someone was his size, and then his temperament. That’s because where I grew up if you were little, which I was, and someone else was big, which a lot of people were, and if you had a smart mouth, which I did, you would end up getting a lot of ass beatings if you didn’t size people up properly. It also helped that I could run real fast.

Nowadays you can’t pull someone aside and beat his ass. I never could, but guys like Rick Kent didn’t take any shit from anyone. I never heard Rick raise his voice but he was legendary for getting off his bike and beating the shit out of motorists. If you wanted to go home to your wife with your ass beat and a handful of loose teeth, the best way was to pull up to Rick while you were driving to the store for a jug of milk and cuss him out, or better yet, swerve at him, call him a homo, then pull over and challenge him to a fight.

And then there were powder kegs like Dan Gammill, a guy who simply looked insane and whose body type was “giant coiled muscle” so that you either tried to get on his good side or you left him alone. I’m pretty sure that no one ever yelled at him his entire life, or if they did, it was a one-off deal followed by a tasteful graveside service.

But screaming and yelling and shouting is pretty common now. Today on the NPR two good friends got into it. One of them pretty deliberately chopped the other one’s wheel, and the choppee went after the chopper with more fuck-you’s than a NYC bike messenger.

It was embarrassing to watch these two guys on YouTube, one of them chopping and the other one cussing. Retaliatory bike handling has always been a part of this fake sport, but seeing it between friends made me wonder when and where we made that particular left turn. I’m a pretty crappy bike handler but I’ve never whacked a wheel intentionally in my life, and that time I chopped the shit out of Robb Mesecher at the 805 crit in Lompoc three years ago, he said “Whoa, Wanky, you chopped me and put me in the gutter!” and I apologized on the spot about eighteen times and still feel bad about it. It’s pretty demeaning to think I almost knocked down another rider just because I wasn’t paying attention.

And  watching the choppee on the NPR let loose with a bunker-buster’s worth of f-bombs made me wonder when it became okay to completely lose your shit like that. The mark of a good bike racer used to be someone who was always in control. If someone chopped your wheel and you didn’t like it, you either chopped them back or put them into the curb or rode them off your wheel or beat them in the sprint or dropped them on the climb or after the ride you beat their ass. If you couldn’t do any of those things you did what I always do, which is slink to the back and be thankful I didn’t fall off my bicycle and hit my head.

What would be cool is if both those dudes apologized to each other because they’re both super good bike handlers and solid people in pretty much every way, and after all the feathers get smoothed over, we’re really just overwrinkled kids on bikes in our underwear, and how serious can that really be?

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§ 25 Responses to Shouting match

  • Joe C says:

    Ha ha ha! Growing up in Texas. Better filter everything you say, or be ready to beat wholesale ass. I think it made people politer.

  • debster822 says:

    I don’t know any of those people you named but I lived in Lompoc from 1986-1998 and I never saw a bike race. I saw cyclists riding the Solvang Century and at the time I thought they were nuts. I’ve since then joined their ranks.

    As for all the shouting and yelling: Could that be a reflection of the current atmosphere of the country as a whole, due to the faux-POTUS’s penchant for coarse and abusive language? Or is it guys who are really nervous and have poor bike-handling & language skills? Or youth who skated through school without learning to diagram sentences? I could speculate further but I have to get to bed so I can get up early and ride my bike before the epic rains begin again.

  • Tom Paterson says:

    I never got really good at diagramming sentences.
    And, well… here I am.
    Not much else to say. I did try!

    • fsethd says:

      Mrs. Fulgham in 8th Grade at Jane Long Junior High was the grammar beast. She never punished unruly kids. She just made them diagram sentences. Horrible monster.

  • dangerstu says:

    I didn’t grow up in Texas but my youth was pretty much the same, there were some people that you just didn’t in your right mind mess with.

    While typically malenials get the brunt of the blame for this, I think society as a whole have been sold that they are entitled to things, wealth, shiny teeth, meaningful employment, all off the road, being able to run your mouth off and not get your ass handed to you, and has bought it.

    As someone who was never enjoyed or been good at fisticuffs, on some level I do appreciate the progression in restraint when it comes to physical aggression, but I’m not sure if this modern take on the chivalrous code and all it entails, is quite all it is cracked up to be and what it means in general.

  • Tflow says:

    Deliberately chopping someone on a group ride/training race?? Weak. Even if you are a “good guy” that’s a grade A d-bag move in my book. Retaliation might have been overkill but if you lob the first bomb better be prepared for the blow back and to take your lumps. If you’re not and you continue on your tirade I’d wager you’re seriously eroding any “good guy” credits you’re holding in your sweaty clenched fist…
    It’s just a bike ride…

  • Michelle landes says:

    Someone was going to chop my wheel yesterday ,but Daniel bonfin taught me to make birdy noises , I can’t so I just yelled chirp chirp 🐥Totally Worked!!!

  • Greg Seyranian says:

    This is not an issue of bike handling. It’s not an issue of shouting. It is an issue concerning what to do about riders who violate the most basic tenet of rider together: do no harm to each other. We are all relying on each other to insure our collective safety. Of course people make mistakes due to ignorance or ineptitude and the community reaches out to those people to educate them. But when it’s done by an experienced rider, willfully and with malice it’s a much bigger deal. That is a person who is saying, “I don’t give a shit about you or anyone else’s safety.” I believe those people should be called out and ostracized. There is too much at stake.

  • Spinner says:

    Another great post, Seth. I would bet that most middle class kids have NEVER seen two adults going at each other with the intent to cause serious damage. A case in point to illustrate. On a ride a few years ago a 130 pound super climber (rich kid) got into it with our team sprinter (210 lbs/6% body fat/bench press 390 lbs…). Multiple FU”s were hurtled by the climber kid to the sprinter man. Sprinter man calmly and without uttering a word rode next to climber boy, grabbed his helmet strap, shook climber boys head multiple times and then shoved him into the ditch. I never heard that kid utter a word in a race after that……Oh the peaceful and fond memories I have of racing….

    • fsethd says:

      I’m not an advocate of violence. But I’m always surprised at people who fail to recognize it as a possible outcome of ill-chosen words …

  • fsethd says:

    This in from a Dear Reader:

    Our club had its own hothead, Mr. Fists, who we witnessed tackling a burly pickup driver while the Marina ride made it’s way down Pacific in the early 2000’s. This ride happens every Tuesday and basically blasts from stoplight to stoplight. On this particular day, a pickup driver pulled out right in front of the pack just before Venice and Mr. Fists took offense. Actually, he was an ex-defensive end who played for the University of Miami when it was notorious. He rode up to the driver’s side window and tossed his water bottle. Hard. The the driver did something, he stopped his truck in the middle of the street, got out and stood up. Damn, he was a big dude and all of us figured it was going to be a full on fight. However, you just don’t take on a former defensive end and boom, he went down fast when Mr. Fists confronted him. GH and I calmed it down and we all got back on our bikes, the driver took off and it was over. That was intense! I fully expected to see the guy again but we never did. Nothing like a boxing match in the middle of a street with a bunch of guys in spandex.

    Years later, Mr. Fists did it again. It was a very windy Tuesday and when I saw the weather, I said to myself, this is not good cycling weather. The tops of the trees were wildly swaying and I knew this spelled trouble on the always squirrelly Marina ride, so I stayed in. (I wish I was always this smart). Later that day, I found out that there was an incident on the ride when a rookie pulled a dumb move that caused a crash and hurt a few people. Mr. Fists was pissed and popped the kid in the face. Unfortunately for Mr. Fists, the kid did something legal that almost cost Mr. Fists dearly. You see, he later moved to another city to be a nurse and with the violation on his record, he couldn’t get the job. A few of us wrote letters or did something to help him out and he did get that job. It was painful watching a grown man sweat about his future.

    Lesson: Don’t do it, it just may cost you.

  • TDL 84 – Callaway was 2nd in the Cat. 3/4s that year.

    • fsethd says:

      Now that is some record keeping! I did okay in the TT if I recall, pack filler in the RR, and it was a full on Louisiana bucket-dumper for the crit. We drove over with Jim Martin, who crashed out of the crit.

      Thanks for the awesome intel!

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