So much for the Buddhist equanimity.
Cadel Evans gritting out a fantastic win in the 2011 Tour de France was impressive. But on the human and emotional level, perhaps nothing was more impressive than Johnny Hoogerland’s reaction to nearly being killed on stage nine by a French media car.
While most riders would have gone ballistic with anger, Hoogerland responded with admirable zen calm and class. He didn’t rage against the driver, demand apologies or assign blame. He got up the next day, covered in bandages and remounted his bike. In that moment, his fan club membership multiplied by 100 and he made millions of new fans everywhere.
That’s all done with now. The rider for Vacansoleil is going to court against Euro Media — things have gotten ugly, lawyers are involved and an inspirational story turns into a bitter battle over money. The media company has refused to negotiate a financial settlement and so the litigation begins.
Besides the sad ending to one of the best stories of the 2011 Tour de France, we have a few observations. First, what is Euro Media thinking? They should still be thankful that by some miracle the driver didn’t kill Hoogerland. Think about the vast sum of money that would have cost them. Cutting a “we’re so sorry” check would have kept the story from resurfacing. Euro Media looked negligent then, now they look negligent, stupid and stingy. Not a good PR story.
Second, the Tour de France isn’t coming off any better. According to Hoogerland’s manager Aart Vierhouten, ASO has washed their hands of the mess and refused to take any responsibility for the events that lead up to Hoogerland being launched into a barb wire fence. At the time of the incident, race commissars had warned the Euro Media car to clear the area but it was too little to late. That kind of disinterested reaction from ASO might just be enough for Hoogerland to decide to sue both Euro Media and ASO. Again, even a junior PR person at ASO would know this story needs damage control.
Just the other day the Inner Ring blog pointed out how the dated quality of the Tour de France website and that it was due for an overhaul. While we’re not getting ASO’s side of the story, right now their approach to L’Affair Hoogerland also lacks sophistication.
Third, Johnny, if you want to win this case and a bank-load of euros, plan your legal strategy with a little more skill. Hoogerland will tell the judge that he suffers from back pain, mood swings and insomnia as a result of the crash. That may be true but if so, don’t turn around and tell the media you’re aiming for the King of the Mountains jersey in the most physically demanding stage race in the world. Guys with insomnia and back pain might make it through the Tour, but not with a polka dot jersey on their back. If I’m a lawyer for Euro Media, my argument is hey, he can’t be suffering that much.
Here’s hoping that Euro Media comes to its senses and does the right thing and ASO brokers the arrangement.