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July 06, 2004

Is there a US cycling commentator curse?

VeloNews | Tuesday's mailbag: OLN's on-air talent, doping, Tour history, left field and The Great Gazoo

Trautwig needs to try listening for a change


Al Trautwig needs to listen a little more - no, a lot more - and talk less. His producers should squelch his talking over Bobke and maybe monitor the timing of Al's ADD meds a little more closely, so as to calm him down for the Roadside Tour commentary. It's not all about sensationalism, wet roads and crashes, and "riders tucking under the slipstream behind the riders 'breaking wind' in front." Reminds me of the inane comments of Paula Zahn interviewing Greg LeMond 20 years ago.

Don Schilling
San Diego, California

It appears I'm not alone in my disappointment in Al Trautwig's work during Outdoor Life Network's “Cyclysm” coverage of this Tour. My expectations were low, based on Kirsten Gum and Adrian Karsten, but I think Trautwig has undershot even my low expectations.

The way I see it, Trautwig has 2 problems:

1) He's not smart enough to discuss the sport at the level of his teammates.

2) He's not willing to show his ignorance and be the stand-in for American fans who aren't familiar with the sport's ins and outs.

I didn't have as much problem with Kirsten Gum, since she didn't try to hide the fact that she was new to the sport.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 6, 2004 in Television | Permalink


Totally agree with you. I am officially nostalgic for Kirsten.

This seems to be the curse of the corporate broadcast professional working the more offbeat sports. The one time a year my favorite sport (short track speedskating) makes it onto tv, the ABC guy covering it couldn't be more clueless.

In Al Trautwig's case he's a dreadful combination of clueless and annoying as hell.

Posted by: lancefan at Jul 6, 2004 4:37:17 PM

"The Bald Fish," as we've taken to calling him around the house, makes me almost incoherent with frustration. I'm aghast at how clueless he is--not just about the sport he's "covering," but about basic human interaction. "You guys are English, so I feel like I'm in a Monty Python movie! So, Ms. Crowe, I guess you're cooking and cleaning like any good girlfriend, right?"

I miss Kirsten, too, especially since all we get of her is those spliced in "roadside" moments that I refuse to watch. I'm taping the morning call, and that's what I'm watching.

All of which raises the question, one that anybody likely to read this is by definition unable to answer: is OLN's approach (Trout Wig and all) an effective one for hooking the casual Lance fan in to the sport in general or even to le Tour specifically?

Posted by: Christopher at Jul 6, 2004 4:41:49 PM

I think Phil Liggett, Paul Sherwin and Bob Roll make a wonderful team. Bob is the a fun, free-wheeling counterpart to Phil and Paul's almost encyclopedic knowledge of all things cycling, and all are equally passionate about the sport, but in their different ways. Al Trautwig, however, is the bully of the bunch, constantly putting down Bob for a to elevate himself, and the viewer picks up on his insecurity and subtle hostility very easily. Even my wife asked me why "the guy on the left is always picking on the guy with the arms."

All-in-all, I'm VERY pleased that OLN is putting so much effort into this year's Tour, and I hope the return on investment keeps the coverage high for years to come.

Posted by: Freddy at Jul 6, 2004 5:09:06 PM

Ya know. There was something bugging me about that guy, couldn't quite place it and that's what it is. He projects this asshole personality. I doubt he's aware, it's just the way his persona comes off, next to Roll. They should switch him out, put him on the road and bring Gum back. She was fine, nothing wrong with someone playing the new to cycling role.

Posted by: -b- at Jul 6, 2004 5:18:15 PM

I completely agree. I have been cycling and following cycling for years, however this is the first Tour de France my wife has watched. Al mixing up his phrases and the lingo is completely confusing her. He is making my life hard, and making the American Journalist in France look like idiots.

Posted by: Russell Kelly at Jul 6, 2004 6:42:43 PM

I might be able to answer that question up there, though I am not a casual Lance fan (not really a fan of him at all). I've just started watching bike racing - say 3 days ago and I'm hooked on the sport - but Al Trautwig is an ass. I was watching it with my roommate on Sunday and about 45 minutes into it we were yelling at him to shut up. So I can only imagine what it must be like for people who know something about the sport.

It would be lovely to have a commentator who didn't know everything and who humbled themself to ask some questions. Those are probably questions I'd like answered myself - as it is I pretty much just muddle through.

My TiVo is set to record the early morning coverage which yesterday had a couple of British guys. Are they always on in the morning and Al et al just does the afternoons? I haven't figured the programming schedule at all but they seemed much more interesting to listen to.

Posted by: marylynn at Jul 6, 2004 7:18:11 PM

"is OLN's approach (Trout Wig and all) an effective one for hooking the casual Lance fan in to the sport in general or even to le Tour specifically?"

So far I like last year's coverage better, and I say that as the casual Lance fan who got hooked on the sport (well, the Tour, at least, though I tune in to Vuelta and Giro and TdGeorgia coverage too) because of OLN.

However, in for a penny, in for a pound, and I really read up on race tactics and strategy and the top cyclists last year. I know more than the casual fan but I'm still very much a newbie. I think I'm in a good position to say that most casual fans will be better served by Phil and Paul, plus Bob than by Al and any combination of the others.

I have only seen teasers for that Cutters show and it makes me embarrassed to be an American. Please, OLN. Don't dumb the Tour down for us. Don't lower your standards now.

Posted by: lancefan at Jul 6, 2004 7:23:52 PM

Adrian Karsten. That name gives me the jibblies.

OLN is really going in the wrong direction with this. Instead of giving us less Phil & Paul, they should contract them to call PBR, Extreme Skiing, and whatever else they would like me to start watching.

Posted by: Del at Jul 6, 2004 7:55:03 PM

Big ups to Russell Kelly for jumping in to the small (but growing, dammit!) US pro cycling fan pool and to MaryLynn for instantly recognizing that those two Brits (longtime cycling journalists extraordinaire Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin--Paul's also a retired pro cyclist and, um, African diamond mining magnate, I believe) have it all over the nighttime coverage.

I watched a little of the Bald Fish explosion tonight during "pause the tape it while I go for more wine" breaks and was reminded that while I _do_ miss Miss Gumm (and I neglected to say in my previous post that I'm greatly digging her expedia.com travel spots) I miss Bobke, too, and can't imagine how he's kept himself from strangling the Trautwig thus far. We also caught the Cheryl Crow interview and I was astounded at how much I like her--hey! OLN! ditch Trougtwig! Hire Cheryl! Her enthusiasm for and grasp of the sport completely eclipsed that of "our man from New Jersey."

My girlfriend mentioned that Crow's publicists and managers might not be crazy about her spending all summer watching bike races and doing interviews for "small time" sports, so GOOGLE ME THIS, RECORD COMPANY DRONES! I'M GONNA GO BUY CHERYL CROW ALBUMS _JUST BECAUSE_ SHE DIGS CYCLING.

Um, also, fantastic race today. Mayo! Be a hero and take back the time in the mountains! Levi! Way to sneak in there for five more crucial seconds! Roberto! You're so tiny!

Posted by: Christopher at Jul 6, 2004 9:22:10 PM

This is Christopher's girlfriend chiming in to remind him that it's Sheryl Crow. Not that any of those variations won't pull up a million google hits, but I'm thinking the record co. guys aren't smart enough to try the variations.


Posted by: Gwenda at Jul 6, 2004 10:14:39 PM

Thank god I am gay. I agree with a lot of what you all have to say about Al. But I will take him any day over Kirsten. She was so ditzy well not quite as bad as the blond that she replaced doing last years background of the Tour. It would also help if OLN got a language coach since they (Al & Kirsten and Bob doesn't count) constantly pronouncing city names & riders names wrong. I myself would know any better most of the time if it wasn't for my boyfriend who speaks perfect French as well as five other language correcting them. I give this years OLN coverage four and a half fingers. I would hate to go back to the days of Wide World of Sports on Sunday.

dslboy, Santa Cruz

Posted by: dslboy at Jul 7, 2004 4:30:44 AM

It's not that Trautwig is not smart...it's that he did (obviously) less than the bare minimum of preparation necessary for le tour. That is unforgivable.

Liggett said two days ago that Cancellara was riding to a high level of "superbness." God Bless Him.

Posted by: Jason O. at Jul 7, 2004 11:56:00 AM

I, too, have been puzzled and disappointed by OLN's coverage so far. Give us more Phil, Paul, and Bob, and cut out the other morons entirely. Trautwig is an ignorant buffoon, and OLN needs to dump those idiotic "Cutters" segments now. If you have a minute to waste, let OLN know what you think of the dumbed-down coverage this year.


Posted by: Larry at Jul 7, 2004 3:47:47 PM

i do agree that Al Trautwig is a terrible commentator however i also feel the Lance, Lance and Lance is being layed down a bit thick! i feel they have a way to one sided approach to commenting the tour. Jan Ullrich is in great form, Tyler Hamilton is a great American rider and is having a super tour. Levi and Bobby julich are also on strong teams with great success. the Lance stuff is a bit over the top for me.

Posted by: Drew at Jul 7, 2004 6:29:01 PM

I hear ya Drew, but without Lance it would be a moot point. If there were no Lance, and no history at stake, OLN wouldn't be covering the Tour at all. Certainly not giving it blanket coverage at any rate.

Lance IS the Tour in this country.

Posted by: lancefan at Jul 7, 2004 9:53:56 PM

Well, I think lancefan is overstating the case a bit, but hey, the name says it all and you got to respect truth in advertising.

Anyway, on Larry's comments--I think a lot of the trouble some folks have with the Bald Fish is precisely what you're talking about. This is the man who, during an epic breakaway, asked why they didn't drop back a motorcycle to "see what Lance is up to." Trout Wig may be acting on orders, but I can't see him being told to march a different line than Phil and Paul and those two are _not_ all Lance, all the time.

Of course, with performances like today's, all USPS (in service, after all, to Lance) all the time is pretty much the ethical journalistic stance to take.

Posted by: Christopher at Jul 7, 2004 10:07:22 PM

To followup - did anyone else catch Al Trautwig referring to the riders hating the weather "with the passion of one thousand supernovas?" That one made me laugh out loud. Way to redeem yourself a little bit there, Al!

Posted by: Freddy at Jul 7, 2004 10:36:18 PM

Actually, not really Christopher. I'm a Lance fan and I want him to win, but I'm far from a blindly supportive fan. I'm just stating the obvious. We wouldn't be getting this OLN coverage without Lance and his consecutive years of success. I can't imagine anyone really thinks otherwise.

(To be honest, if Lance wasn't chasing history, I'd be rooting for Tyler over him.)

Posted by: lancefan at Jul 7, 2004 11:00:48 PM

Less Trout, more Phil, Paul and Bob. Trout is more interested in hearing himself talk, than covering the race. I agree with the guy above that pointed out at least Kirsten admitted she was a newbie.

Posted by: Ken at Jul 8, 2004 2:55:19 AM

I've written to OLN several times complaining about too much Al, not enough Bob Roll and those ghastly Cutter Boys - UGH! I bet the more comments to OLN the less we see of Al.

Posted by: Andrea at Jul 8, 2004 8:33:59 AM

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