Control of your Life???

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I’ve been asking friends what control they have of their everyday life. By that I mean how much control to you have of where you are and what you’re doing at any specific moment. Most people answer with a big number. Something over 50%. My number is .0001%. Maybe nothing would be closer.

It is kind of hard to explain the reasoning behind my belief that I feel like a feather in the wind. But, I’ve give a couple examples.

Let’s say you have to say this year where you’re going to be for one second everyday of the year. That would be difficult, but probably doable. We’d probably pick our beds in our homes at a late hour, something like 3 am. Pretty safe. That would make travel virtually impossible, but that is part of my point. Now say you have to pick 3 times during the day you’re going to be for one second. And the times have to be 8 hours apart. For me and most people I believe, that would be very difficult. If you keep adding to the “problem”, now you have to say where you are going to be for one second once an hour, everyday of the year, it is impossible. You couldn’t even do it for a work week. 5 days. You can’t say where you are going to be for 24 seconds a day for 5 days.

I do think that we make billions of micro decisions on a constant basis that we think leads us on our life path. But, we have little choice in what decisions we get to choose between.

I’ll use riding for the Schwinn Team as an example. At the end of 1986, the Levi’s Team was over. I didn’t have a sponsor. There were really only 3 Pro Teams in the United States really. That left 7-11 and Schwinn. Sometime early in 1987, Mike Farrell, the director for the Schwinn Team tried to get ahold of me in Topeka, before the Tour of Texas. I knew what he wanted and didn’t have any desire to ride.

The reason for that was that Mark Whitehead rode for Schwinn. And we didn’t get along. It’s not like we didn’t get along, it is more like there was no way that I could ride on a team or be a team mate with him. There were thousands of reasons for this, but mainly it was that he was an asshole and there is no way I could defend the way he raced a bike. Or lived life for that matter. (I guess Mark is racing again and doing some good things in the sport now. Here is a long interview with him recently by Bob Babbit. He does have a lot of nice things to say about Greg LeMond. And about the fights after the races he participated in. )

Anyway, Danny Van Haute, longtime Schwinn rider and now director of the Jelly Belly Team, told me I needed to give Mike a call. Then Broz came over a couple days later and said I needed to call. I explained my Whitehead problem to Tom and he said he understood my problem.

So, I raced the Tour of Texas on my own. Then, the situation changed. Mark Whitehead did his normal after race craziness and ended up doing donuts in the Schwinn van on one of the main sponsors front yard. So, he had finally went too far and got booted off the Team. Mike called me the next day and was mildly pissed I hadn’t called him back. I told him I had no interest in riding for him. He told me he had talked to Danny and Tom and then he told me that he’d kicked Mark off the team a few days earlier. That changed the situation completely. I met up with Mike the next day and signed a two year contract.

So, for the next three years, I rode for Schwinn, Wheaties/Schwinn. All because Mark Whitehead pulled some stupid shit after a race. I made the final decision, but I never would have been giving the opportunity to make that decision without given the option of riding sans Whitehead. So, all the seconds of those three years were actually decided by an action of Mark Whitehead over anything I did myself. So, I guess I owe Mark. I’ll buy him a beer next time I see him.

An old Tour of Texas photo. Mark on the left.

9 thoughts on “Control of your Life???

  1. Ted Lewandowski

    I don’t recall what year it was – it could have been 1986 – I was racing Superweek and won a couple of stages – we were doing this fast crit and there was a prime announced before the end of the race – Mark got the leadout from Danny Van Haute and I jumped to the other side of the road by myself narrowly missing beating Mark. After the race, when he was being interviewed Mark was kind enough to acknowledge me and I remember thinking not too many pros would do that – especially ones that had such a bad boy attitude in the press.

    It changed my opinion of the guy in a second and thought me not to believe what the press says about someone.

    Mark was – bar none one of the best sprinters in the country at that time – could have riden circles around Phinney in a sprint!!!

  2. C.P.

    I think you see what others fail to see, the white elephant in the room. Take for instance the house i’m in at the moment. The paint/walls/carpet/wood floors/couch/windows/lay-out/floor plan/neighborhood/layout/etc. and so on…..all of those things were someone else’s idea. As such one could say that 90-100% of my time here in *my* own *home* is a reaction to THAT.

    But because the noise of the constructed world is so ambient…. I’m not aware of it. I could easily fool myself into thinking I *chose* all of that by living here…. when the fact remains….no matter where I decided to live…. none of those choices would have been created into being by me. Just showing up does not = agency.

    I agree with your point.

  3. dirty_juheesus!

    Your story comes as no surprise. I had the great displeasure of being around Whitehead when he ‘coached’ track in Southern California when the velodrome was outdoor and concrete.

    I genuinely hope he’s changed because the guy was a fireball of rage that drove me and many others away.

  4. Old and Slow

    I was told that Meathead could “put a city block” on Davis Phinney by a pretty decent sprinter himself. The one time I ever saw him in a road sprint it was more like Fleche Wallone the other day.

    The matter was completely decided 150 meters out & Whitehead put half a football field on people like Randy Whicker. Going from a very long ways out.

    I saw Phinney lock horns with Bauer maybe ten times, I saw Bruce Donaghy in his (first) prime but I never saw someone get on top of a big gear faster than Whitehead. In this instance he pretty much was his own leadout and had a thirty yard gap almost instantly.

    The thing was you would look at his legs and they were nearly twigs, especially for a track rider. Neither bulk nor definition! WTF?? Must have been all fast twitch? And he rode match sprint in the Worlds against guys built like linebackers?

    He was the only sprinter at the 86 Worlds that tried to poach a quarterfinal? heat going full blast from the first lap too. Just goes to show you that even a guy with a jump like Whitehead’s will eventually come up against someone that he is afraid to take to the finish line with him.

  5. Tom Gates

    Steve – another good story that brings back memories. Like anyone around in those days I have a bagful of Meathead stories. But I also have to say he was a very talented rider, I saw him do some amazing things on the bike – and I mean that in a good way. You’d probably be better off buying him a cup of coffee or soda instead of a beer. Also you are so right about the decisions we get to make – I write this recovering from a broken arm – a souvenir from my recent trip back to San Diego.

  6. Ethan

    Very little control indeed – though I baffle myself on how much I still try to control the uncontrollable. Funny thing is, when you let lose of the control, sometimes you gain control. Friggin’ paradox.

    I remember racing againt Meat down in Florida. Mike Murray (Stl) was with us working as an official. Mike got on to Meat for trying to start the race with both feet clipped in and hanging onto the rail. Meat lost the stare down and unclipped. Meat won the race. He sat at the back of the pack the whole race. With about 5 laps to go, Alexi Grewal (I think) fell to the back and towed Meat to the front and he took the field sprint.

    Later that night we bumped into Meat at some bar. Meat was on the winning/losing end of a evening bender. Him and Murray stared down again. Meat backed down – probably a good thing.

  7. bob

    Steve. well my respect for you just jumped 10 points with your story of whitehead. So many altercations with the guy. He put me into the barriers once in a crit because i had the audacity to pass him as he was settin up for the sprint. Apparently he didnt like that i was trying to make the race into a long sprint and he didnt feel like putting out the effort to win so he just ran me into the snowfence.
    A couple years later i met up with him on the track as he was coaching/screaming/frothing at the mouth and getting banned. Oh yeah it was a juniors race that he was swearing at the tactics against his riders.
    Then the next time i saw him was standing frothing IN THE ROAD as we were trying to race a crit. He was beat red and i could see the veins bulging as we wove around him. Apparently he took some swing at guys he didnt like in the pack. Just a total a hole.
    I dont care about his redeeming qualities, if he has any he is obviously bi polar or something along those lines. People who fly in rages like him normally do have a redeeming side, that is how they are able to still function in society. He pulls his crap and then the people who have seen”the true Mark” stand up for him.
    Sort of like the mass murderers neighbor
    “He was such a nice boy he would take my garbage to the curb and feed my cat when i was on vacation, I can’t believe he bludgeoned to death 5 schoolchildren…”
    Don’t give him a beer, just let the urge to make amends fade away, it does him no favors to offer him redemption. Then you just become another enabler indulging him. He needs to be seperated from society. Seriously.


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