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NBC plays up gruesome crashes in Tour de France– then blames the riders

US Politics
on 15 Comments

You don’t have to be a cycling fan to have heard that this year’s Tour de France has had many spectacular crashes. The tour isn’t halfway over, and four top riders have abandoned the race with serious injuries. Several crashes occurred two days ago, on the hardest stage of the Tour, which featured a couple of extreme climbs in the French mountains followed by extreme descents. It was on these high speed descents that the race lost two of the top contenders; and Richie Porte’s spill, losing control of his bicycle on a slick twisting road at over 40 MPH, was caught on camera from a trailing motorcycle.

The ghastly footage made the evening news. The Australian rider’s bike bounced away down a ravine as he flew across the course on his side taking down another contender, Dan Martin, before crumpling like a doll against the rocky slope. On camera we watched the doctors slip an inflatable brace around Porte’s neck and head. On camera we watched an interview of a shocked doctor saying Porte was lucid.

Martin got back on his bike and crashed again on his way to the finish. After the race he said, “I guess the organisers got what they wanted.”

Martin’s biting statement has become The quote of this year’s tour. Today commentators on NBC were doing their utmost to deny the Irish rider’s claim during their narration of Stage 10. The legendary English broadcasting duo of Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen, along with their analysts, said this morning that the riders have themselves to blame. They knew the Sunday course well; they had ridden it several times in recent months; they decide to take risks going downhill in order to make up valuable seconds in the standings.

This is grotesque bull—t, and NBC and the Tour de France need to be called on it. They are selling these crashes to get a wider audience for the event. They promote the crashes in most of their ads for the cycling classic. The many crashes from this year’s race are shown in the breaks and whenever the broadcasters get a chance to relive the moment. The way the camera hovered over Richie Porte’s slender form as he lay broken in the road was one of the sickest exhibitions of television journalism you will ever see; and though I gather this was the official Tour feed, NBC gave it all to us, doing nothing to cut away, even as the folding gurney was slipped under him. We could have been watching the end of someone’s career, even life; though happily Porte says he will be riding again before the end of the year.

The use of violence to sell sport is of course ancient news and spectators are much to blame. We want it, they provide it. My anger is toward the promoters of these events, including all the equipment and nutrition advertisers, who innocently claim that they are merely setting up/funding a dramatic test of athletes’ abilities when they are thrusting these athletes into the dragon’s mouth. On the first day of the race, a leading cyclist left the competition with a shattered kneecap because the tour organizers had not taken the care to pad metal barricades on tricky turns in a wet road. On the fourth day of the race one of the top sprinters in the world went off in a sling with a broken clavicle during a finish on a crowded road that the commentators had warned us all day was a bit too narrow for a safe finish.

Hockey and football are both dealing today with their legacy of selling violence, and the incentives those sports created for top athletes to risk maiming themselves. The amazing thing about the Tour de France is that because of the sport’s elite origins and surroundings, it gets away with murder. Dan Martin had the guts to call out the organizers on Sunday. He deserves great respect for this — and a lot more support from journalists. Fans, cyclists and writers have a role to play in demanding changes to the culture of this sport. But the ultimate responsibility is with race officials and broadcasters. They could start by stopping the lies.

About Philip Weiss

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15 Responses

  1. chris_k
    July 11, 2017, 6:49 pm

    I enjoy Phil’s work of course but I don’t think I’m the only one that read through this to see if he could somehow relate this to Zionism.

    • DaBakr
      July 12, 2017, 12:35 am

      Phil owns MW and can write about whatever he feels is important. What’s your problem? If it’s not about Zionism it isn’t valid?

      • chris_k
        July 12, 2017, 8:31 am

        Mr. B I don’t have a problem just a whimsical confession. Many polemics have been valid without having made any reference to Zionism. The classical oratory of Rome, for instance, or maybe that was somehow about Zionism..

      • DaBakr
        July 15, 2017, 12:05 am


        What’s the whimsical confession? That PW finds the coverage of tour crashing exploitative and he forgot to mention in the same sentence that zionists, in his opinion, do similar things? Boy, the rules you far left totalitarian types like to promote are strict.

    • chocopie
      July 12, 2017, 2:34 am

      True, but it doesn’t have to relate directly to Zionism. You can read this and see how his mind works, how he looks at things and makes sense of them. In this case, a media outlet is feeding off of human pain and violence. It’s not much of a stretch to consider other, analogous situations.

      Anyone else remember “Shock and awe,” the televised bombing of Baghdad, heavily promoted beforehand, all could tune in to watch it on the teevee, a national pastime, good patriotic family fun.

    • RoHa
      July 12, 2017, 6:12 am

      I, too, was thinking “What does this silly bicycle race have to do with the war of ideas in the Middle East. “

      • eljay
        July 12, 2017, 9:18 am

        || RoHa: I, too, was thinking “What does this silly bicycle race have to do with the war of ideas in the Middle East. “ ||

        I want to know why not a word was said about fat-bottomed girls.

      • DaBakr
        July 15, 2017, 3:30 am


        “Silly bicycle race”. Hopefully you have nothing like the undiagnosed case of Zionist ocd.. But still, no need to panic. There is EI, the Storm, for a laugh, JAZeera,. SJP or JVP.which all should fill your needs. I guess Phil has had the good sense and made time for himself to stop and smell the daisies, take in a game, go to the 92Y . Silly raHO, all work and no play……..

    • genesto
      July 12, 2017, 12:07 pm

      I’m with you on this. Two of my passions are Palestinian justice and sports, but I agree that this is not the forum for discussing sports issues not having a Zionist connection.

      I come to this site very day because it satisfies my thirst for knowledge related to the Palestinian justice movement. I go to other sites – and am a regular caller on local sports shows – to get my sports fix.

      Please, Phil, let’s keep the focus here on I/P.

      Thank you.

  2. Sibiriak
    July 11, 2017, 10:26 pm

    NBC plays up gruesome crashes in Tour de France– then blames the riders” ETC.

    Brilliant allegory. Israeli violence, ethnic cleansing, apartheid… the Palestinians… the Zionist media…”terrorism”. Blame the victims.

  3. Ronald Johnson
    Ronald Johnson
    July 12, 2017, 8:50 am

    We would have to know more about the cash flow of the Tour de France, but superficially it looks like powerful people exploiting weaker people, who take appalling risks for scanty returns.

    More powerful people exploiting weaker people is Zionism, exactly.

  4. punterweger
    July 12, 2017, 10:56 am

    Thanks for this Phil! I am Tour watcher and long distance cyclist and could not agree with you more.

  5. JoeSmack
    July 13, 2017, 7:39 am

    I like the branching out

  6. DaBakr
    July 15, 2017, 3:45 am


    But then Joe, the world will soon see how the branches , like tentacles, reach out to every corner of the earth so that Zionism can insidiously insert itself into innocent(even virginal) communities all over the earth and infecting everything from popular culture to out right manipulation of innocents to swearing allegiance to this branch, though he know not from what stuff it be made nor not from what embryonic kernel of idea it may have been built upon.

    Branching out is a dangerous concept to consider embracing in MW but then maybe his followers will find out what the “war of ideas” facing the middle East truly is. If they be olive branches may a white dove alight with every single one and, well, the one who has to fly with the olive branch and the ak-47 , May he be strong and courageous.

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