Politics on Slowtwitch

Triathlon in general and Slowtwitch in particular are, thankfully, Islands of Détente. We all gather 'round and critique our bike positions and share our race reports, inform each other of notable goings-on; and, extraordinarily, we help each other in times of need (monetarily; through other acts of kindness; or just by "being there" in a virtual sense).

What we don't generally face on Slowtwitch—except in the Lavender Room—is the staccato of conflict and anger rampant in American politics and culture today.

Slowtwitch is a dialogue, as its readers well know. We talk to you, you talk back. Ordinarily that conversation takes place on our reader forum. You can also write a comment about an article we publish, and that comment appends to the article and forever accompanies it, like an ornament, or an albatross (depending on what you thought of the article). I validate these comments before they're live, so that I can make sure the "comment" is not a Nigerian wanting to transfer money to you, or the latest best place to by "V1agra" without a prescription.

In the course of validating I was struck by two of your comments in response to an interview now ongoing with Jordan Rapp (our chief technologist here on Slowtwitch, and a top long distance pro). These comments read, in part:

"I don't read Slowtwitch to be indoctrinated in politics by some 23 year old kid who hasn't done any living outside a classroom yet. Stick to triathlon specific stuff... or be fair and balanced and interview a conservative."


"I sort of liked Jordan Rapp before I read this story in which he is trying to insert his left-wing views about the Bush Administration... Please stay away from politics in these articles!"

In broad strokes I agree with the sentiment expressed in these comments. Slowtwitch is a triathlon portal, not a political site. It should not use its platform to advocate for left or right wing, or any wing of, politics.

That established, I think our readers ought to understand that we will, from time to time, write about issues tangential to politics. For example, I've always admired Outside Magazine for writing on subjects that are environment-specific. I think that the preservation of our planet, and its unspoiled lands and ecosystems, are topics in which any triathlete may take an interest.

Accordingly, I've written here on Slowtwitch about the depletion of ocean fisheries, and, I've interviewed several of the most respected climate scientists on the subject of climate change. I took no firm position on global warming at the time, and had no idea what these climate scientists would say to my questions. It just seemed to me a topic relevant to triathletes, so, I wrote about it.

I've also found it interesting when those in politics intersect with our sport. Years ago I interviewed Gary Johnson, governor of New Mexico, even though he is a Republican and I am not; and even though he advocates for marijuana decriminalization and I do not (well, I'm an agnostic on that one). When I saw Governor Johnson on the Bill Mahr show last week, it spurred me to connect with him again, for another interview, although he and I agree on probably very little politically. He's a compelling guy, he's a multiple 10-hour finisher of the Hawaiian Ironman, and I don't have to agree with his "platform" to like and admire him—and to share much more in common with him than what truly might separate us.

Likewise, I have little in common politically with Scott Brown, the new Massachusetts senator. Nevertheless he's a triathlete, and so am I, so, it turns out he probably has a lot in common with all of us. Should an interview on Slowtwitch appeal to Senator Brown, we would and will print that interview here.

Simply put, I don't think politics is a problem on Slowtwitch. But I think skin-sensitivity to politics could be. Take the interview with Jordan Rapp as an example. He and I have never discussed politics. Further, he did not discuss them in the interview. Jordan, (28 years old, not 23) was asked about his family.

We learn a lot about Jordan through knowing that his father holds a PhD, two masters degrees and, now, at age-70, just earned his law degree. This, because, "He has spent his life doing things because he believed in them," Jordan tells us, which prompted (dad) Bill Rapp...

"... to go to Law School after the 2004 election because he felt that the Bush administration had unfairly used legal loopholes to allow churches and other non-profits to wield political influence which ultimately won the election for them. He was very angry as a result and decided that he needed to understand how to prevent it, so he went to law school."

This gives context to the academic standards in the Rapp family: "A's were expected. Anything less was not considered very good. In high school, I considered a B to basically be failing."

We also learn that one of Jordan's two sisters is a witch. Not a nasty person, mind you, "a practicing witch," who "runs a witchcraft store on the Lower East Side of Manhattan called Enchantments, Inc. She has five cats, lots of tattoos."

I know Jordan quite well, and, though I'm not sure of his politics, what I do know (because we've done swim workouts together) is that he does not have a lot of tattoos (none at all that I remember), nor does he practice witchcraft. This, even though his sister does. I think it's fair to state that Jordan is not proselytizing for his sister during the interview, nor advocating for the practice of witchcraft nor the amalgamation of tattoos on one's body. He's answering questions asked of him about his family; about his sister; about his father.

We know these things about Jordan because it's the style of Slowtwitch Senior Editor Timothy Carlson to immerse himself in his subjects. This interview with Jordan takes place over four installments. That's Timothy. That's why I hired him. That's his passion. That's his style.

In contrast, when I conduct interviews my style is to avoid anything about you that's not absolutely to the point. If you're a top pro I frankly don't care about your personal life very much, I just want to know why you're so fast. My interview might consist of: "What is your seat angle? What is your armrest drop? What's your functional threshold power? Now get off my telephone line."

Herbert, our editor-in-chief, is our most prolific interviewer. He seems always to want to know what's in your fridge. Why? Is he planning a road trip that'll take him right past your place?

Back to the subject of subjects, that is, what you should expect to read on Slowtwitch. Please, write to me if you think we're in danger of swamping our Island of Détente. You, the reader, shouldn't have to suffer my political opinions or those of anyone else who writes articles on Slowtwitch (unless we meet up in the Lavender Room, where the gloves come off).

That established, I'll ask that you grant us a little leeway as we try to tackle, and answer, questions that we think are of import. Pursuant to that, I'll tell you about something in development. Shimano and Campagnolo have, in my estimate, have made the bare minimum investments in the sport of triathlon over the years, compared to the investments they've made in other cycling categories, using any metric I can imagine. But they've certainly yielded the largesse of our sport's dollars. Shimano in particular. Fine. Their marketing and product development money, their decision. Alternatively, I'm interested in other ways these giants give back—SRAM as well—such as in the area of advocacy.

If and when an article-worthy story develops on the advocacy practiced by the big component companies, I'll probably brush up against some hot political topics. I'll ask your indulgence.

You should know one other thing. I think American civics is desperately important, and Jordan's dad—regardless of political bent—is a monument to civics through putting his concern so fervently into action. But I don't consider the sort of partisan politics either on Fox News or on MSNBC American civics; rather, it's a parody of it. Politics as sport is not "real life." Further, I don't consider triathlon "idle time." I think it's the opposite. I think the rancorous politics evident on cable TV and radio is how America spends its idle time.

Then there's what we all do for a living.

But our time with families, and what we do here, and on the roads, and at the pool, and on the trails, that—and not a fistfight over a talking point generated in the back room of a think tank—is what makes your life and mine worth living. That ethic is what you'll continue to see on the pages of Slowtwitch.