It's 5:31pm Saturday evening and once again I'm late. I punch the car's accelerator in a vain attempt to change lanes and break free of the huddled traffic that ensnares me. "Geesh, I knew it. I knew we should've left earlier" I tell my wife. Just then my car's GPS signals me to exit off Crenshaw Blvd. You know which one I'm talking about. The same Crenshaw Blvd. near Compton that little teenaged, pimple-faced daisy's like me used to karaoke to as we bumped 2Pac and Dr. Dre. The same one that's been forever immortalized as LA's ground zero for "the hood". "Hmm, where is Seth is taking us" I wonder to myself. "Maybe this is another one of his jokes?" For that certainly is something Seth would do, and this snowflake is now a long way from yuppy-ville. As we take a right turn, followed by a left and then another left turn. My wife and I finally arrive at the Strand Brewing Co. a.k.a. party central for the South Bay Cycling Awards. Or Wanky Awards as they are perhaps more affectionately known. Entering the building I immediately see scattered rolls of toilet paper (more on that later) on the ground, just then I glance up and see a roll airborne and streaming towards the stage where host Seth Davidson is MC-ing. As the roll careens through the air it just ever so slightly grazes past Seth's noggin; almost a direct hit. I chuckle and think to myself "this is going to be fun".
What exactly are the Wanky Awards you may ask? Well, first I'll tell you what they aren't. They aren't the Oscar's, or the Emmy's, or the Grammy's. The Wanky's aren't all gussied up by industry insiders, and made for industry titans, just so they can publicly pat each other on the backs. Sorry Harvey Weinstein (oops, bad timing on that)! The Wanky Awards aren't a schmoozing opportunity for your next 7 figure sporting contract. And it isn't even to acknowledge the success of anyone's particular race season. "Okay, so what the hell is it then" you're asking. The Wanky Awards are one word, authentic!
You see, what makes the Wanky Awards so special is its ability to draw people together that are truly passionate for their sport. It's not because anyone is obliged to be there, or because it's one more way to suck up to your boss so that you can keep the "dream" of making partner alive. It's simply a moment for us cyclists to band together, take stock of the year, genuinely acknowledge those who have made an impact on our sport and to remind ourselves to not take it all too seriously.
Why is it called the Wanky Awards? Truthfully, I don't know. Perhaps there is some deeper symbology to the title that I'm unaware of. It wouldn't be the first time this mental midget missed a beat. But since you're asking, to me its a reminder that while we cyclists can often take cycling seriously, probably too seriously, the reality is unless you're trying to secure next year's pro-level contract it's just not all that big of a deal. And there are certainly numerous things in life more important than a top 5 result on your latest Saturday group ride, or hunting down more Strava PR's. Because face it, unless those legs of yours are fuel injected with World Tour talent your time sucks!
As the evening rolls on and after I've stuffed a mound full of marinated carnitas tacos into my mouth and guzzled a pint of Strand brewing IPA, I begin to settle into my chair and take stalk of the scene. I watch those around me who barely missed out on garnering a Wanky Award pat away their tears with the Charmin 3 ply toilet paper they were given in consolation. I watch friends mingle. Some talking about the utter beat down they took on the morning's group ride, while others seemed to be reuniting for the first time in years. I watch Seth Davidson rattle off award winners for those who have truly made a difference in their cycling community. And I think to myself, what a cool opportunity to be a part of all this. What a privilege to be among such a great group of men and women that actually care to be here. And then I ask myself, would I schlep through LA's hellish traffic and down Crenshaw Blvd. again to join in on the Wanky Awards next year? Without a doubt!
On a more serious note: This year's Wanky Awards did have a very serious element to it. As many know a cycling patriarch and legend, Steve Tilford, passed away this year after being struck by a truck. Steve was an incredible fixture within the cycling community. And while I didn't know him personally, the Wanky Awards' dedication to Steve served as a personal reminder that although easily taken for granted life is certainly no guarantee. My deepest condolences to his family.
For more insight into Steve and his impact on the cycling community please visit his website.
*The Strand Brewing's owner, Rich, doing his best photo-bomb impression on my wife (centered above). I laugh every time I see it!