Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Letter to

In my last post about Kona and Matt Hoover, I briefly referenced all the pressure which was on Matt. This pressure was some good, but mostly bad. It was amazing to me the negative response so many people had to him getting the spot in Kona. Some of the things which were said were not something I would ever want someone I care about to hear said to them. I honestly believe this is a small minority of individuals in the sport, but sometimes it's not the size the population that matters, it's the strength of their voice.

There is one particular website which has a strong voice in the sport, They expressed a negative opinion of Matt's presence at Kona. I don't mind that, as everyone has their opinion, but later I felt compelled to write this letter and I think you'll see why. I normally try to stay away from controversial topics, but as I get older I am realizing being PC 100% of the time is impossible. I also care about my athletes. Here is my letter...

"Dear Mr. Roman Mica,

I was the coach who worked with Matt Hoover, winner of The Biggest Loser, in his attempts to conquer Ironman Hawaii. I am writing this email to you to express my disappointment in the actions of your website, As the editor-in-chief of the website, I believe you hold the key position in deciding what stories are written, reported and which opinions are expressed.

I especially noted the following opinion piece from May 7th, (which has no name attached to it, and did not make any attempt to separate itself from the opinions of, where it stated:

"Wow Matt, you know what would really impress us and how you could really, 'show a lot of people who have the idea that an athlete is 5'10" and 160 pounds that a big guy can do this?' Put in the hard work and ACTUALLY QUALIFY FOR KONA, or at least enter the lottery like everyone else! All that you are showing us is that like the other Biggest Loser who ran a marathon in a van, your biggest accomplishments are all for the camera with a lot of help and special treatment that in our opinion don't add up to a hill of beans at the end of the day."


I did not confront your opinion, because you are entitled to it. However, it seemed very clear that your website has a serious problem with the human interest stories. It seemed clear you did not like to see Matt in the race. Never mind the fact these stories can help the sport grow, they also help Ironman grow as a business.

Ironically, last weekend in Kona, Hawaii, you had Mr. Ben Greenfield do not one, but TWO interviews with Matt. You used them as both article-based posts for your website, and audio podcasts of the interviews, unedited, pre- and post-race. See below:

I have no issues with Mr. Greenfield's portrayal or treatment of Matt during the interviews, but I do find it rather hypocritical of to criticize Matt for bettering himself and his life to be an inspiration to others, and for Ironman and NBC to help grow the sport with the exposure from his participation, all the while you are blatantly doing the same with both articles and audio of interviews, trying to attract viewers for your website and business.

I also found the piece you originally wrote added to an extremely pretentious attitude in our sport, and is not what will help it grow. Nor will it positively influence the millions of Americans battling weight issues to use the sport to enrich both their lives and health. I hope you will consider these further for your future editorial decisions.


Jim Vance"

Coach Vance


Trevor Glavin said...

Right on Jim! Great letter and this needed to be said. Pretty sad to see people taking away from Matt's attempt to encourage a healthy lifestyle across the globe.

Chris said...

Thanks for writing this Jim. Matt is a perfect example of why the celebrity/sponsor slots exist. He's well known, and his story helps widen the audience for our sport. It's a great "if I can do it, then you can do it" story. Without these NBC wouldn't be televising the event, and most people would never have heard of Ironman.
I'm sure you are correct in that it is a small minority that has issues with (jealous?) the sponsor slots. If there belief is that the athlete did not earn their way to Kona, why aren't they protesting the Lottery? Or the CEO Challenge? The charity slot raffle?
Matt has nothing to apologize for in accepting a sponsor slot, that is why they exist.

Pamela said...


Well said. I agree.

Honestly I had never heard of the web site until you mentioned it here.

Many in the sport are obsessed with IMH. However, it needs to be understood that this is an event run by a for-profit private company. As such they can do as they wish in terms of who gets in to this self proclaimed "World Championships" A good analogy is The Master's in golf - the Augusta National Golf Club controls who can enter and who plays - it's not based strictly on ranking or qualifying. IMH is somewhat the same.

Having celebritry entrants at IMH has been common-place over the last number of years. That someone is surprised by this, is a bit odd. It does draw a considerable amount of attention to the event and in a round-about way is good for the sport as a whole.

After all, it was Ironman founder John Collins wish that a few spots on the starting line at IMH always be held for the every-day athlete -whatever that means.


Sarah said...

Well-put, Jim.

I'd never been to EverymanTri before. Now I know I don't need to bother. I scrolled through the stories and many of them have a very negative and somewhat 'sensational' (read: gossipy) edge to them.

I'm glad you stood up for Matt and your own feelings on this issue. What Matt has done to INSPIRE people is far larger than the petty reasons brought to the table for why he shouldn't have been given a slot.

Nice work!

Pton98 said...

Good for you to defend Matt publicly. It's like the dispute over sponsor invites to PGA Tour events (but with even less basis). The rules say that the WTC can offer special invites. He didn't take a slot away from anyone. If the WTC thinks it can popularize the sport by inviting him to race, they can and should do so. Hopefully more people will watch the broadcast because he is on it, and take up the sport.
Matt's comments after the race demonstrate his is both humble and classy. Get'em next time!