Roy Exum: Rule - Save Your Tomorrows

Monday, May 6, 2013 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

The most profound rule in active sports participation is also the most forgotten – save your tomorrows. So as my fears turned to furor Saturday afternoon with the death of a cyclist, I wish that every rider who took part in the “3 States 3 Mountains” bicycle ride could be issued a non-punishable misdemeanor for either forgetting or ignoring the fact that anything that looks dangerous most probably is, especially in the eyes of each beholder

I don’t dare criticize the concept or the reason for the bicycle ride – anything that can bring people together for wholesome and fun laughter is worth me taking a detour anytime. But let’s be honest -- Saturday’s torrential rains seemed to alter the common-sense receptors of almost 2,000 people.

Now with one man dead, another female cyclist in critical condition, and the confirmation that Erlanger Hospital’s emergency room also treated a number of others, what should have been a magnificent showcase for our city turned into the biggest sports tragedy in Chattanooga that I can remember.

The blame – and it must be addressed –  should be pointed at the riders themselves, who stubbornly threw their “tomorrows” aside and ignored what were horrendous conditions for all but the most expert cyclists. I personally stopped on South Broad Street Saturday morning to watch the cyclists for a few minutes and everybody was miserable. The riders whose vision was blurred by the rain and their thin wheels going perilously through standing water on the street, the soaked police who guarded the intersections and the befuddled motorists who couldn’t decide to pass or dangerously cut in front of moving cyclists. Isolated? No, all morning!

This was an event that should have been called off – let’s make 2,000 mad with a rain-check for the next day rather than pray over the emotional scars some poor soul must bear for eternity after a careening cyclist was killed by the car they were driving up Ochs Highway. Anyone who participates in anything has a first duty to himself and those around him for safety – not a trophy. The price of stupid can never be paid in full because innocents are usually involved.

I have been a huge proponent for foot races, more cycling events, charity walks and anything that betters an active society. I wish we could have stuff every weekend and that will never change. I feel closing certain streets is a wonderful service by the city and for countless volunteers who make each a success I am forever grateful. We are blessed to live in such a place.

In my lifetime, I have been scared only twice as a spectator. Several years ago there was a triathlon, I think it was, at the riverfront where the running stage called for athletes to stupidly go out Highway 27 and back. There were huge rains that day and when I watched cars going 65 miles-an-hour pass past runners not ten feet away on slick streets with visibility diminished, I was for putting somebody in jail.

Yesterday I was scared again. Water overflowed ditches and cascaded across three mountain roads and – on Ochs Highway – automobile traffic should have been totally diverted rather than limited to just one lane with oncoming traffic in the other. Sure, hindsight is 20/20 and being a Monday morning quarterback easy, yet I firmly believe if the riders had been made totally aware of the deplorable conditions, our city and its people wouldn’t be as miserable over the “3 States 3 Mountains” event today as those who rode in it Saturday.

I understand why there was an urge to press on. Volkswagen did a fabulous job and Village VW added a lot of glitz. People came from distant cities and paid steep entry fees; they hardly wanted to leave empty-handed. But with more than nine inches of rain above normal already in the ground and Saturday’s addition falling in torrents, unforeseen water was everywhere and whoever is in charge of public safety failed the citizenry of Chattanooga miserably.

I have seen a lot of race committees and, as volunteers, they work miracles but usually they are chock full of experts –  which is what you want – but who also struggle to understand there are a lot of participants who are in no way their equals in skill, experience or ability. The weakest link is the most critical in any chain.

That’s why it is imperative for every participant in any event to embrace the stern rule, “Save your tomorrows.” Play a double-header the next day or go to the clubhouse and scratch at the first sign of lightning. Postpone a race until late afternoon if heat is unbearable. Live to play another day. Again in hindsight, Sunday in Chattanooga would have probably worked fine.

Apparently we can’t seem to learn that lesson. While I abhor rules for everything we do, our city and county leaders need to give and demand our police chiefs or sheriffs to have the authority to cancel or close down any event that could be harmful to people, this despite egos or competitive streaks or stubbornness that obliterate their ability to think and reason.

We have to reach the point where we can stop asking “How stupid can you be?” because too many dummies now think it is a dare. People used to laugh when you’d tell them that many a redneck’s last words are always, “Hey, ya’ll, watch this!” but today it is true. Honestly, how can anyone be a winner in an event where a cyclist is killed and others maimed? That’s sounds harsh but rings true.

The police should have herded the cyclists into sensible groups and escorted each – with blue lights bright – to the safety of Finley Stadium. Better yet, the event should have never taken place until the weather wasn’t a factor. The Atlanta Braves called their game and other events were cancelled due to the weather. What’s the difference? The answer is the black eye we all share.

The “3 States 3 Mountain Challenge” is fantastic –  we never want to lose that – and the U.S. Bicycle Trials at the end of May will be spectacular in glorifying our town and its people. The Chattanooga Bicycle Club and Chattanooga Track Club put safety foremost but what happened on Saturday must never be repeated because at least one cyclist has no more tomorrows.

Petty County Tyrants - And Response

Last week's County Commission meeting was quite a show. Ironically, the preacher giving the opening invocation asked that "truth may prevail" because that is the opposite of what happened. What we actually saw was bickering, verbal attacks, and a collapse of democratic discourse. It is typically not my approach to "attack" individuals, but as each commissioner made public statements, ... (click for more)

Enforce The Bond Forfeiture In Padgett Case

Now that Christopher Padgett  was taken into custody by the Chattanooga Police Department and checked back into the Hamilton County jail, I trust the judge will do no favors and enforce the forfeiture of Padgett's entire $350,000 bond. Padgett was accused of murder, he was granted $350,000 bond and he ran. Padgett was found guilty. A convicted murderer was ... (click for more)

2 Shot On Shepherd Road Tuesday Evening

Two people were shot Tuesday evening on Shepherd Road. Chattanooga Police were dispatched just before  6:30 p.m.   Tuesday,  to a parties shot call in the 1900 block of Shepherd Road.   Upon arrival, police were told two injured parties were transported to a local hospital via personal vehicle.  Both victims told investigators they were walking ... (click for more)

In Surprise Vote, Chattanooga City Council Turns Down Short Term Vacation Rentals

In a surprise vote, the City Council on Tuesday night turned down allowing a process to legalize short term vacation rentals in Chattanooga. Only Chip Henderson and Jerry Mitchell voted in favor. Opposed were Carol Berz, Yusuf Hakeem, Larry Grohn, Moses Freeman, Ken Smith and Russell Gilbert. Chris Anderson was absent. Afterward, Councilman Smith said, in light of the vote, ... (click for more)

Taylor Luthringer, Thomas Porter Win Region Cross Country

COOKEVILLE – Tuesday was a pretty good day for the Signal Mountain cross country teams. Not only did they celebrate with both individual winners in the Region 4-A/AA races, but both teams finished in the top three and will advance to the state meet, which will be held at Nashville’s Percy Warner Park a week from Saturday. Taylor Luthringer and Thomas Porter captured the individual ... (click for more)

Notre Dame Draws Top Ranked Greeneville, CCS Opens With Madison Magnet

For the second year in a row, Notre Dame drew the top-ranked Greeneville in the opening round of the TSSAA Class A/AA state tournament.  Notre Dame is scheduled to play Greeneville on Wednesday at 8 p m. (EST)  in Murfreesboro. CCS will play Madison Magnet in the first round on field #1 at 7:30 p.m. (EST) . CCS and Greeneville met in the state championship game ... (click for more)