Who is the Real Bradley Wiggins?
The behaviour and colourful words of Bradley Wiggins during this year’s Tour de France have caused quite a stir, but is it acceptable to label a rider based on solitary reactions?
Following Sunday’s stage of the Tour de France, Wiggins was asked what he thought of people who use forums such as Twitter to accuse him of doping. It was not a fair question, and with it came a response that has had many people talking and opinions created. This came on top of the run in he had with a cameraman after stage 6, so his antics have definitely been getting a lot of exposure recently.
People see this behaviour and view it as typical Wiggins: Prickly, hard to deal with, angry, panicky and stressed.
But if you look at the footage with an open mind, it is not hard to understand his reaction. But many journalists and fans on Twitter did not look at the footage and understand the perspective in which his reactions were coming from.
My point is we don’t just take single events at face value. There is something in us that skews it to fit our overall picture of someone, or how it supports our perceived image.
It would be interesting to think what would happen if Jens Voigt reacted that way with a cameraman. He may not use similar language, but Jens would possibly attempt to swat a camera away if it were coming towards his face. I have seen footage of him angry before.
Like a friend of mine said, “we’d have a million tired jokes about it by now” (e.g. the camera saw Jens and broke itself, and people outraged at the cameraman). We would see a whole host of reactions that supports the view that Jens does no wrong, and is cute and funny.
I try my best to separate single behaviour from an overall opinion of something, just like when it comes to watching cycling and commenting on it. Don’t get me wrong, I fall into this trap still. For example, Schleck withdraws from an early season race and I think it is because of cowardice. I am wrong, and I admit it.
So what about Wiggins’ colourful rant after stage 8? If you were forming an opinion of the man, you would not be wrong thinking he is one who enjoys using a colourful word. I understand, but don’t agree with his use of it.
But this event should be looked at for what it is, not how it fits into your image of Wiggins. Wiggins was not asked a question where he could answer the way everyone on Twitter demanded (i.e. talking about his watts and numbers, and coming out all anti doping). And because he didn’t answer that way, it seems everyone is immediately suspicious – he must be a doper.
Wiggins was specifically asked what he thinks about the many fans and commenters accusing him of doping on Twittter and the like. I have read what people say directly to and about him on Twitter, day and night, 24/7. In about 90% of cases, it is not subjecting a public figure to scrutiny, it is anonymous bullying. Of course it wasn’t the right language for Wiggins to use, but it was the right sentiment.
I feel the real issue was that the journalist asked the wrong question. Fans should demand their journalists ask better ones. For example, ask David Brailsford why he employs a doctor on his team with a colourful doping past. Ask a press officer for the data they all eagerly want but won’t tell.
And take this reaction from Wiggins as it is. Don’t immediately revert to the default position of the currently accepted narrative for Wiggins.
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