Thought for the Day

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What's Wrong with Team Type 1?

This post has been rumbling around in my head for a long time. I've been reluctant to write it.
I know that it's easier to criticize than to actually do amazing things, and I give Team Type 1 credit for doing amazing things. I know I am just sitting on the sidelines pointing out little problems. You might even call it nit-picking.
But the fact is, Team Type 1 isn't perfect. It could be better. It could be more encouraging to more people. This post will deal with one of the two main problems I have with Team Type 1.
Here's a quote from the recent Weekly Update from Team Type 1:
In terms of diabetes, 74% of Team Type 1 has either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. 56% of us have type 1 diabetes, 18% have type 2 diabetes and 26% of us do not have diabetes. This fact makes Team Type 1 unique in that it is an organization comprised primarily of individuals with diabetes inspiring others to better manage their diabetes.
My problem with this quote is the fact that Team Type 1 is not at all unique in being an "organization comprised primarily of individuals with diabetes inspiring others to better manage their diabetes." It is not even unique amongst athletic organizations of diabetics inspiring other diabetics.
Although Team Type 1 has rightfully gotten a lot of press, although they act as if they are the only people doing what they do, they are actually a small organization in terms of membership, diabetic or otherwise.
That's all right. There is room for inclusive clubs like Triabetes and Glucomotive, open to every diabetic who wants to become a member, and exclusive, elite clubs, like the Team Type 1 RAAM team that has repeat wins cycling across the United States.
But Team Type 1 should not be promoting the idea that they are the only "organization comprised primarily of individuals with diabetes inspiring others to better manage their diabetes." That tends to reinforce the idea that there are only a few athletic diabetics.
Team Type 1 should acknowledge that there are many, many diabetics out there living active, healthy, athletic lives. They should promote awareness of the existence of Team WILD, Triabetes, Glucomotive, MAD (Mountains for Active Diabetics), HypoActive, Type 1 Rider, and other organizations "comprised primarily of individuals with diabetes inspiring others to better manage their diabetes."
I apologize to the organizations not mentioned. I know there are more, but these were the ones that leapt to mind for me.
I know that members of Team Type 1 are aware of the existence of these other organizations because there is a lot of cross-over. Many athletes are members of Team Type 1 and other diabetic athletic organizations. Matt Vogel of the Team Type 1 Triathlon team is the founder of Insulin Factor, another organization of this type.
Personally, I would like to see Team Type 1 do more to use their prominence and public attention to promote membership in DESA and other organizations like those I've mentioned.
I know that they do make occasional appearances that help to promote other diabetic causes, and that's a good thing. Tom Kingery of the Team Type 1 Triathlon Team has visited the Phoenix area twice in the past few months, once for the Team Diabetes marathon training program, and once for the Tour de Cure.
I know his help was greatly appreciated by the ADA, and local diabetic athletes were very happy to meet him and talk to him.
The current Team Type 1 web site is a work in progress. There are a lot of links there that say, "Coming soon..." I hope that as the web site comes together, it becomes a place where people with diabetes who want to become athletes, and not just fans of elite athletes, can find links to resources that can help them.
If Team Type 1 is reluctant acknowledge that these resources exist, that doesn't seem likely to happen.


Anne said...

I don't think one statement here or there should deflect from the amazing things that TT1 has done for all athletes with diabetes. I, for one, am grateful, as I participate in bike racing this year, that they have paved the way, raising awareness in this sport. Really, it is a lonely world for a t1 athlete in bike racing.

Although there have been many athletes w/diabetes who have become well known for their successes, and countless others who have succeeded quietly, there is a great value to all of us by the amount of press that has been earned by/worked for by/given to TT1.

While acknowledging other groups is nice, we don't expect that of other athletes with diabetes do we? I have always had very positive interactions with the members of TT1 bike racing and triathlon teams, and have felt that they all appreciate that we are in this together.

Just a few of my thoughts...

Marcus Grimm said...

As a professional writer, I'd agree it's poor copy... what they should say is they are only professional bicycle team (and I suspect, perhaps the only pro. team in all of sports) comprised mostly of diabetics.

As far as what they do w/ their time, I dunno... seems like keeping a professional bicycle team going is tough, whether your sponsor is Dex4 or the US Post Office.

jpnairn said...

Marcus, the Team Type 1 Professional Bike Racing Team is mostly non-diabetics. The Toronto Blue Jays almost have as many diabetics on the team. That fact, and the fact that you apparently didn't know it, is a topic for a different post, though.
The text I cited is bad copy because it makes a totally false statement and a statement that's insulting to much of the diabetic athletic community.
I agree, Anne, that one statement should not color everything I think about Team Type 1.
However, it does matter to me that someone in the organization wrote these words, the article was reviewed and approved, and it sits there on their web site. It says something, something bad, about Team Type 1.
As for whether we expect other athletes with diabetes to acknowledge other groups of diabetic athletes, well, I've always done that. It just seemed like the right thing to do.
It would be a whole other thing to try to say I'm in the only diabetic athletic group that exists.

Marcus Grimm said...

Jerry -

Interesting. I didn't know that...

Curious, were you being hypothetical or do the Blue Jays have multiple diabetics? I'm a Phillies fan, so I always rooted for Dave Hollins back in the 90's....

iv.whitman said...

As the Communications Director of Team Type 1 and the person responsible for the press and weekly updates, I appreciate the conversation you have started regarding what Team Type 1 can do better. Of course, Team Type 1 can do better. We have less than 100 people promoting the mission of the program, and we only have six teams within the program. We are participating in over 100 races domestically and internationally in 2010, and there are a lot more we want to be in, including the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France. Sure, we can do better. And we intend to.

However, you misrepresented Team Type 1 saying that it claimed it is the "only" program of its kind. That is false. We never said or wrote that.

The statistics were stating fact and not making an exclusive claim.

In fairness, here is the quote regarding the survey from last week's Weekly Update:

"First off, we discovered that within Team Type 1, we have a total of 720 years of collective experience living with and managing our diabetes. Among the 85 full time people with Team Type 1, 79% are men and 21% are women. Of course, we want to equalize that percentage, so if you know athletes with type 1 or type 2 diabetes who want to be part of Team Type 1, please let us know.

"In terms of diabetes, 74% of Team Type 1 has either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. 56% of us have type 1 diabetes, 18% have type 2 diabetes and 26% of us do not have diabetes. This fact makes Team Type 1 unique in that it is an organization comprised primarily of individuals with diabetes inspiring others to better manage their diabetes."

End quote.

We want to include as many people as possible in our program. The invitation is there for qualified athletes. We also do not claim to be the "only" organization of its kind.

jpnairn said...

Thanks for responding here, iv.whitman, but I don't see why you say I misrepresented what you said when I copied and pasted from your web site the exact words that you used. I further don't understand why you copied and pasted the same words into the comments here.
The words used, "This fact makes Team Type 1 unique..." do, in fact, make an "exclusive claim." That is the meaning of "unique," that there is only one.
I can understand if you are saying that you did not intend to claim to be the only organization of this type. If that is the case, then it is just a bad choice of words, "poor copy," and not an indication of a lack of knowledge or respect for other diabetic athletic organizations.

jpnairn said...

The Blue Jays traded type 1 diabetic outfielder Michael Taylor to the Oakland As in December, but they still have two type 1 diabetic pitchers, Brandon Morrow and Dustin McGowan.
Interestingly, Brandon Morrow was one of the pair of type 1 diabetic pitchers, along with Mark Lowe, at his previous team, the Seattle Mariners.

Anonymous said...

I sense some trouble is afoot at TeamType1.

Some photos on their Facebook page had their jersey sponsors blotted out. I wonder if Apidra no longer sponsors them. And they don't say they're going to the Tour de France in 2012 anymore either. That was how I first found out about them (video on YouTube called One Shot).

I wouldn't say that they're a good pro team either because their diabetics never win races. But they're still doing good things for all of us diabetics who need others to prove that you can be athletic.

jpnairn said...

In some countries, it is not legal for pharmaceutical companies to advertise drugs the way they do in the United States. That's why Team Type 1 has different uniforms, without the names of Apidra and Lantus on them, for competitions in other countries.
I have no inside knowledge, but I would guess something like that is the reason for Apidra to be blurred out in pictures on Facebook.
But I'm just guessing.

Anne said...

Team Type 1 inspired me to believe that I could not only be a regular athlete with type 1 diabetes, but also confirmed to me that it was possible to excel competitively. There have been others who helped me with this, including athletes such as Gary Hall and Kris Freeman and especially groups such as Triabetes and Diabetes Training Camp, as well as my own determination. All of these play an important role. But I would rather that TT1 focus its energies on raising awareness and supporting its athletes to succeed, than worry excessively about building ties with every other diabetes organization out there. (By the way, on a personal level, at least, they do connect with other diabetes organizations and individuals--myself included.) In the realm of competitive cycling, they do have a unique role. In the realm of diabetes organizations, they are one of many excellent advocacy and support organizations for athletes with diabetes.

I can completely understand the need to expand their professional cycling team to athletes without diabetes. It is a tough sport, bike racing, and getting a team to the level of Tour de France is not trivial. Sponsorship is difficult to come by at the level to support the needs of a bike team! It is not cheap and logistics can be insane. If I had a chance to race at a pro level, I would even be sponsored by, say, Radio Shack, to get there. And I would be sincerely grateful to Radio Shack! The fact is that their cyclists with diabetes are supported on the developmental and professional levels and this is something special.

jpnairn said...

I am mostly in agreement with you about TT1. If they inspired you, that speaks volumes in their favor.
I started that post by saying that TT1 did amazing things, and that it is easy for me, as someone not actually doing much, to sit back and criticize.
That's the frame I would put around all of my statements.
Consider them for what they are worth.
If there was going to be a professional cycling team, then for that team to be competitive it had to be open to non-diabetics as well as diabetics. I'm no expert on professional cycling, but I agree with that.

Mike said...

Good discussions!

I love the concept of TT1 but somewhere between concept and execution it seems to be more focused on getting sponsors names out there. As a cyclist and Type 1 diabetic it would be more intriguing to see an Elite team with more than 50% of T1 diabetics. 4 out of 17 of the Pro Men can seem like more of a publicity stunt. I hate to be so brutally honest but I will keep track of TT1 and see where it leads to in the future.

When TT1 smashed the RAAM record I was beaming with pride as a diabetic. Everything seems to be a little muted now. I guess it comes down to the fundamental question: Is TT1 designed to be a cycling team with diabetes specific sponsors or is TT1 a catalyst to inspire other diabetics, create awareness about the disease and show that diabetics can be just as competitive as someone without diabetes? Maybe the line in between has become to Gray.

I apologize if I have offended anyone. I just wanted to express my questions as well.

jpnairn said...

Just so there's no confusion, it's not the pro team that races RAAM. The RAAM team is all type 1, and now of course another team that is all type 2.
I have the same sorts of reservations about the pro team that you do, Mike.
That gets into my next post on Team Type 1, whenever I write it.

Sean Weide said...

As the team's former communications director, I felt compelled to chime in regarding the comment, "it seems to be more focused on getting sponsors names out there."

Without sponsors, there would be no Team Type 1 or Team Type 2. And, in the professional cycling ranks, it's all about promoting the sponsor. To founder Phil Southerland's credit, he stuck to his guns and didn't sell out when the team easily could have been "FreeStyle" when it won the Race Across America in 2007 or "Apidra" when it was runner-up in 2008 or "Lantus" when it won in a record time last year.

As to the comment about the low ratio of professional racers with diabetes to those without: to date, only one rider with Type 1 diabetes (Fabio Calabria) has ever finished in the top 10 of a National Racing Calendar event. That should be a testament to how hard it is to compete in the pro ranks – with or without diabetes.

jpnairn said...

Thanks for coming into the conversation, Sean Weide. It is good to see two representatives of Team Type 1 come here.
It's a little concerning that neither of you commented on the original blog post. It appeared iv.whitman didn't even read it, since he quoted the same text I did.
I understand the role of sponsorship.
Sponsors have been very important to the teams, diabetic or not, key to their success and in getting their positive message out to millions of diabetics.

I intend to eventually post on the issues of having a sponsored predominantly non-diabetic professional cycling team.
I think this is what Mike was talking about, and it's something completely different.

Anne said...

Bike racing is fierce! And, it is a team sport. Getting a team of 100% type 1 athletes to the Tour de France or other elite event is in some way like getting a similarly comprised team into the NBA! Also, even in the amateur ranks, we make efforts to promote our sponsors because it really is impossible without them and we are so grateful to have a chance to pursue the sport.

All of the other TT1/TT2 teams are comprised of athletes with diabetes (including their elite development team, RAAM team, triathlon teams). In my mind there is absolutely no conflict with their decision to bring on pro cyclists w/o diabetes while remaining true to their stated mission.

Getting just one type 1 athlete to the Tour de France would be as exciting to me as seeing Kris Freeman in the Olympics. Can you imagine? It takes a team to get that person there... And it takes sponsors to make a team...

jpnairn said...

I think the NBA analogy is a good one, Anne.
Professional basketball is a very competitive team sport. There are a limited number of positions for players in the NBA, and each one is worth millions of dollars.
There are type 1 diabetic players in the NBA.

Jill Casper said...

i think team type 1 is a bit of a sham for those of us who have lived with diabetes for most of their lives (32 for me).

i heard Phil Southerland at a conference in orlando a few years ago and all it amounted to was "me me me" and how great his team was in a race that most of us had never heard of. he couldn't seem to relate to those of us who can't afford all the fancy meters and cgms.

when (or if) he gets his bikers to the Tour i might pay attention. but for now i believe lance armstrong is doing more for cancer than what team type 1 will ever do for diabetes.

jpnairn said...

While I have a couple of issues with some of the things under the umbrella of Team Type 1, it is not a sham.
I'm not sure how it would be seen as "a sham for those of us who have lived with diabetes for most of their lives...." (about 35 years for me.)
Criticizing them for not being diabetic long enough is really stretching it.
I don't know how long all of the riders have had diabetes, but I know that several of them were diagnosed at younger ages than I was.
Phil Southerland hasn't been alive as long as I've had diabetes, but he was diagnosed at 7 months.
Rest assured, people in Team Type 1 know what it's like to live for years with type 1 diabetes.

Teri L. said...

A friend of mine on Team WILD pointed me to this thread.

What Team WILD is doing is so much more productive than the spin TT1 puts out there. Team WILD exists to support and inspire fitness, healthy living, and self-confidence for women of all ages with all types of diabetes. The women on the team are genuine and not sponsor-controlled like the 'robots' that TT1 trots out every year at TCOYD.

TT1 is a bunch of wanna-be (white male) bike racers. There's obviously not a lot at TT1 because the years when a real team shows up at the RaceAcrossAmerica, TT1 loses. The diabetics who are on the pro team are nothing more than a big publicity stunt.

I don't know much about TT2 but from the website, it appears to be a bunch of middle age white guys. Where's the women? The minorities?

Thank goodness for Team WILD. They're setting the example for us, not TT1.

Marcus Grimm said...

This thread is all kinds of fascinating...

From the "Communications" people from TT1 who won't address Jerry's first question: what makes you unique? the comments from Team WILD an ONLY-womens team calling TT1 all male (when they have a women's team), this has been one of the most interesting diabetic athletic threads I've followed in some time.

Well done for stirring up the bees' nest, Jerry! :)

For what it's worth, I think Jerry's right: TT1 isn't "unique," as they write. However, they are special, as is Team WILD, Triabetes and every other group that's inspired people like me to put in another mile. I'm grateful for all of them, even though I'm too slow for TT1 and too male for Team WILD.

Mike Fraser said...

Well said Mr. Grimm.
While most of the time I have no need to go throwing my opinions on the net, I have been waiting to see what comes for an answer to Jerry's original question. Patiently...curiously.

Anonymous said...

The only thing that really matters is there are groups out there trying to help the cause. It really doesnt matter how long you have had diabetes but you have it and have to deal with it. It doesnt matter if you are male or female just the fact you are out there trying to help others is the main point. It just seems everybody wants to one up each other but when we need to join hands and make a bigger voice heard. Just my 2 cents


PJ said...

I had a big long comment written out but instead of that I think I'll just quote what a wise man you know pretty well once said to me: "Sometimes I think we forget that we're all in this together."

AdamC_ATL said...

HONESTLY - you're missing the bigger picture... even if 0% of the men and 0% of the women; and 0% were type1 and 0% were type 2; AS A TYPE1 DIABETIC - it's the first time I've been watching VS Network (fka: OLN); and they TALKED about diabetes! It's not the % or statistics of the team! Luckily - not everyone on Team Radio Shack had cancer (I hope not); but the MESSAGE is clear! For TT1 - same thing - if you are not getting their message, you miss the point! THANK YOU TT1! Keep it up!

jpnairn said...

That's an interesting perspective, and I wonder how many share it, that it doesn't matter how many, if any, of the riders have diabetes.
At any rate, I think you missed what I said about Team Type 1 being a good thing, but not as good as it could be.