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July 12, 2007
PHIL WEIDINGER: Let's get started if we could. I'm Phil Weidinger the tournament media director. Thanks for coming today.
What we'd like to talk about a little bit is the charity focus of this year's American Century Championship. It's expanded somewhat this year in light of the recent Angora Fire that hit Tahoe in late June, early July. And this tournament has always had a very personal relationship with NBC Sports, with American Century and with Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. We're going to let all of our panelists discuss a little bit about the fire, about what we're going to be doing for this tournament this year.
The Lance Armstrong Foundation this year was scheduled to be the sole beneficiary of charitable dollars. When the fire hit, the tournament folks got together with American Century, NBC Sports and the Lance Armstrong Foundation and said, hey, this place is very important, we need to do something to help this community and the people that have suffered losses. That's what the conference is about today.
The folks we have on the panel, Mr. Lance Armstrong is here; Mark Killen from American Century; Gary Quinn from NBC Sports; and Brad Nelson from Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. I'd like to open it up with Gary Quinn from NBC Sports.
GARY QUINN: Thanks for coming everybody. Just to give you a sense of what's taken place over the last three weeks, ever since we found out what was going on out here, we've been coming out here for 18 years, and the community, not to overstate it, has become like a family to us. Obviously you can't comfortable here for that long without creating a ton of friendships.
My first reaction was to call my friends like Phil to make sure everybody was okay and you personally are thinking, wow, I know so many people and are they affected by this. Corporately, the next phone call I made was to this handsome gentleman next to me (Mark Killen) and said, "Look, we need to do something here." And we knew we had the opportunity to work with Lance and to corporately comfortable up with a way to help everybody. As I said, that was our first reaction was how can we help.
Then as the fire progressed there was a thought like, you know what, we have to be sensitive to the fact that maybe we shouldn't be doing this event and that maybe the community is not ready to have a celebrity golf tournament coming to town. And we worked with closely with the business leaders here, and they were adamant; you have to come back and show the rest of the world and the country that we are back on our feet and the recovery process has started and the fires are under control. We heard that loud and clear and we came up with a plan.
We went with -- Mark and I ended up with Phil talking to the folks at Raley's Supermarkets in cooperation with Lance's folks and they were able to match up to $50,000 in contribution before we got here. So that made us feel really good in some small way that we're trying to get people back on their feet, and that all of the funding would go and stay local.
The other thing that we are going to try and do is tell the story that Tahoe is back open for business; the casinos aren't on fire right now. We have the national platform that starting tomorrow. We are going to put our 800-number that was created this week, and the HelpTahoe.com Web site, we'll have a crawl on Friday's coverage of ESPN and our coverage on NBC on Saturday and Sunday and tell the story. At the same time, Jimmy Roberts, one of our great interviewers and announcers is going to take a couple of the celebrities down to one of the affected areas tomorrow and get their reaction and tell the story on Saturday in the last half hour of how this has affected so many people and devastated so many and how -- that things are -- the recovery process is slowly starting and we want to be a part of that.
I drove down the other day and I can't even fathom the sense of loss that these people must be feeling. But it gives me a good feeling to work with Mark and Lance and to know that we're in some small way helping the recovery process. Thank you.
PHIL WEIDINGER: I'd like to introduce Brad Nelson, the president and chief executive officer of Edgewood Golf Course.
BRAD NELSON: On behalf of Edgewood Tahoe we want to make our continued commitment to the Lake Tahoe community. The Park family has been here for over a hundred years and they have had an ongoing relationship with the community. Lake Tahoe area has been a great place for us to do business for a number of years and we want to continue with that kind of a relationship going forward.
Edgewood Tahoe itself has stepped up; first of all, helped some of our employees who are directly affected by the fire and then we have gotten involved with the community with some initial financial support. One of the things we are concerned about is after the initial fire, there's a long-term healing process.
So Edgewood Tahoe is making plans for a special day on Labor Day where we will donate proceeds from green fees that day to the charitable efforts of the community. Green fees will be reduced that day, and we will be looking at continued programs throughout the coming year; what we can do to stay involved with the recovery effort. Edgewood Tahoe has been a long-term partner with the community and we want to continue with that.
PHIL WEIDINGER: I'd like to introduce Patrick Kaler, who is the executive director of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority and have him give you background on what the community is doing to distribute funds.
PATRICK KALER: Thank you. It has been an amazing few weeks here with the fire and moving forward with the process as a community. And it really shows the strength of our community that we have been able to comfortable together as citizens and as a business community to start the Lake Tahoe Fire Relief Fund for the residents of our community and that we can begin that healing process of moving forward.
It's even more special for us to have our single, premiere event, celebrity golf continue this year, especially with what American Century and NBC Sports and the Lance Armstrong Foundation are bringing to our community this year.
So we are encouraging everybody to contribute to the Fire Relief Fund, because all 100% of these funds will be given to the survivors of this fire.
So it's a great time to be in Lake Tahoe. It's a great time for us to get back on our feet and to celebrate exactly the spirit that we have in welcoming NBC, American Century to our community, and again with the special help that Edgewood golf course is giving to the community, as well. It's just very encouraging to see how we can comfortable together as a community in a time like this.
We are a very positive place and we encourage everyone to comfortable to Lake Tahoe and experience that positive spirit.
PHIL WEIDINGER: I'd like to introduce Mark Killen, the chief marketing officer with American Century.
MARK KILLEN: Thank you, Phil. I want to say that we absolutely love coming to this event. And as Gary mentioned, when we heard about the fires, we were on the phone immediately talking about how we can support this community.
That's a very important aspect of this tournament for us, obviously to celebrate the performance of great athletes and celebrities but more importantly to raise funds and awareness for worthy causes. Over the years we have raised almost $3 million for these causes.
This year as we had announced the Lance Armstrong Foundation was the sole beneficiary. And we did talk with Lance and his folks and decided we needed to redirect some of those fund-raising that were so affected by these fires.
So we are thrilled to do that. The focus of our press before the tournament was to get people out here to Tahoe to tell them that we are open for business, and that it's a beautiful place to be; comfortable on out and support the community.
So we're thrilled to be here. We're very happy to support this event. It's our marquee event, as well. I think we are going to have a very special presentation by Lance in a few minutes to one of those affected by these fires.
So what I'd like to do now is introduce Lance Armstrong, seven-time Tour de France winner and cancer survivor and head of the Lance Armstrong Foundation.
LANCE ARMSTRONG: Thank you, sir. It's an honor to be here, again.
You know, when it comes to us sort of, as Mark just said, initially this was sort of an event benefitting us. Of course when you consider something like a wildfire, you really, if I look at it, I look at it just almost exactly like a cancer diagnosis. Because the week before you have a fire, life is normal, life is great, there's no problems. Just like the week before a cancer diagnosis; and then all of a sudden something comes along, essentially a bomb comes along and rocks your world.
I'm always in favor of not only doing events that raise money for charities, but also keeping money local. So, you know, say, for example we didn't have fires, I think it would be appropriate that the money raised here would go towards cancer programs in this area. But of course, due to the fires, that's an obvious choice.
And again, I think that nobody deserves their life to be changed that way. Nobody deserves their life to be changed because of a cancer diagnosis, but it happens. And so what we do as people and corporations and as television networks and as golf courses and as celebrities is step up and help sort of alleviate that pain and sense of loss; it's something that's an obligation of ours and I'm proud to be a part of, and I look forward to getting out there and hacking away a little bit today. Keep the cameras off me while I'm golfing, please. (Pointing to Gary Quinn).
Look at, you look outside, and this is arguably one of most beautiful places in the world and it doesn't deserve to have that sense of loss. And so I'm happy to be here and honored to be here and I hope that people step up, not just in this area, but all around the country and realize that you are open for business and that you have a really special thing to offer.
PHIL WEIDINGER: Before we open it up to questions for Lance we have a special presentation, Garrett Singer, who is 13 years old whose family lost their home in the fire and when they lost their home, he also lost his bike and we have a special presentation from Lance and Big Daddy Bikes in Gardenerville, Nevada where we want to replace that bike. So come on up and meet Lance.
GARRETT SINGER: Hi, Lance! (Laughter).
LANCE ARMSTRONG: What's the ride that you're doing?
GARRETT SINGER: It's the Death Ride.
LANCE ARMSTRONG: It's called the Death Ride. And how long is it? It's long. 16,000 feet, all these climbs, hot -- and you're 13, right? So for a 13-year-old to even attempt that -- I was riding a little bit when I was 13, but I wouldn't have done that, I don't think.
Maybe a future Tour champion, but we need to get him a bike. In order to win the Death Ride or the Tour de France, you have to have a bike. New ride so you can fulfill your dream.
(Lance presenting bike to Garrett).
LANCE ARMSTRONG: We can lower the seat.
GARRETT SINGER: Do you have an Allen?
LANCE ARMSTRONG: An Allen wrench to lower the seat. (Laughter).
PHIL WEIDINGER: We're going to get you a credential to ride around the golf course.
Q. Just wanted to tell you that Garrett, chip off the old block, he's a philanthropist himself. I've seen him out working in the community, in fact, when we had our Gondola Fire here, he helped plant trees when we were doing the rehab.
LANCE ARMSTRONG: Wow! What a hero.
Do you want to say a few words, give an interview or anything? How about that? You might have to give a lot of them later in your life. You might want to start practicing right here.
GARRETT SINGER: No.
LANCE ARMSTRONG: No? I don't blame you. (Laughter).
Q. What kind of bike do you have?
LANCE ARMSTRONG: It's a Trek now.
GARRETT SINGER: I had a K2, but the chain and all the gears are just melted together now.
LANCE ARMSTRONG: You're welcome.
Your mom and dad here? Good luck to y'all. Good luck keeping up with him. (Laughter)
Q. Last year when you showed up here, you were just fresh from hosting the ESPY's, and you told us you had no game and had not touched a club; have you comfortable close to a club this year?
LANCE ARMSTRONG: I've practiced more than last year, yeah, but still not much.
Q. Still no game?
LANCE ARMSTRONG: I have no game. (Laughter) Proud to say.
Q. Where have you been riding lately?
LANCE ARMSTRONG: I've been riding -- the kids and I, we just had an extended summer vacation. So we were two weeks in Coeur d'Alene Idaho and then two weeks in Aspen. So mostly mountain biking, so I've been on the bike a fair bit. I still love that. It's still my favorite thing to do.
Q. Can you elaborate more on helping the locals here in Tahoe?
LANCE ARMSTRONG: Well, as I said, I think that there can be -- these are parallel situations, what I dealt with. The week before I was diagnosed with cancer, I thought I was Superman and invincible and my life would never have issues or problems, and all of a sudden that comes along and you're told you might die.
Same situation here, obviously different scenario but it's that same sense of shock and surprise is what clearly you have and then of course with fires you have, obviously fire grows and is an aggressive thing, almost like the disease. So people start to have the sense of fear that it's coming in on them. I've never lived that, but I can imagine what that's like.
I think in our country, to me I think that sometimes we lose a sense of what our priorities ought to be. So if that's an issue, you can compare a disease like cancer, you can compare Katrina, you can compare tornados in Kansas, and you can compare floods in Texas, fire in Tahoe all of these things where sometimes as a country we fail in terms of making the recovery effort what it ought to be.
You know, efforts like this, events like this, having people talk about it, bringing exposure to it. It somehow minimizes the void there.
So I hope so, and, you know, unfortunately a fire, when you look around, you see such huge trees. So fire takes a tree; those trees are, I don't know, a hundred years old, at least. So it's hard to put words to what that means to a landscape. But the most important thing is to make sure that people have homes and shelter and safety and food, and, quite frankly, all of the things we take for granted.
Q. Not to put you on the spot, but do you have any reaction to that latest story in Sports Illustrated about the Tour de France?
LANCE ARMSTRONG: No. (Laughter) No. We're not here to talk about that.
Q. Are you watching the Tour?
LANCE ARMSTRONG: Watching or following? I haven't been lucky with having the live feed, the Versus Network. But definitely following this morning. For example, I followed it on the Internet live and paying attention just with the team, seeing how the team is doing.
I will say I think it's been an exciting Tour thus far.
Q. If you were to make a prediction, could you?
LANCE ARMSTRONG: Strongest guy, who will win -- I always say that. I don't know. I've never been good with predictions. I will say, I mean, the favorite going in was (Alexandre) Vinokourov, and then today he crashed in the end and lost a minute 20. You look at a minute 20 in an event like that; could be the difference between winning and losing.
As I said, it's going to be exciting. Saturday we'll know more.
Q. The event tees off on Friday the 13th. Did you have any superstitions when you arrived?
LANCE ARMSTRONG: No, I didn't. I seem to always get on my bike from the left side is the only thing. (Laughter).
Q. Have you ever thought about doing RAM?
LANCE ARMSTRONG: No. Actually a couple years ago they asked me to do it. If somebody asks you to do something, you have to consider it, but that would require a lot of hard training.
Q. How about the Death Ride, Lance?
LANCE ARMSTRONG: I still do ride. So I do -- not only do we do our own live strong rides around the country but I'm doing a whole week's worth of RAGRAI in Iowa and I would consider doing the Leadville 100 outside of Aspen. So I think in our country we have certain legendary rides that people talk about and have a certain mystique about them. I'm 35 years old now. I suspect I'll ride until I'm at least 70.
So I have plenty of years to cover all of the legendary, epic, insanely hard rides that we have.
Q. Did you ever expect Live Strong to get as large as it has?
LANCE ARMSTRONG: No. I had hoped that something would come along and take my name off of the front door. That always felt odd putting your name on it. Although in the beginning we sort of had to do that.
But the bands, the yellow bands came along and were such a monster success that surprised all of us, nobody believed that, that that would happen. But the band as enabled us to build a brand so the brand of Live Strong now represents a whole community of cancer survivors.
And also, I think on a larger scale, it represents people just trying to do the right thing on a daily basis or on an hourly basis. We hear stories of people that want to stop smoking or want to lose 20 pounds or want to run a marathon or want to be a better wife or husband or employee or student and that's Live Strong for them. To me it's been an amazing seed as a spectator to sort of watch it grow and take on a life of it's own.
You consider the bands, it's been three years, so we launched the yellow band in 2004, we sold 65 million of them. So, I mean, it's been -- and now of course you see bands on all different colors and causes, which is great, but yeah, we have built a brand -- or the brand has built itself, I should say, rather quickly.
Q. What's going to be tougher, the opening tee in the Pro-Am, running a marathon or biking through the Alps?
LANCE ARMSTRONG: The marathon. Nothing was harder than the marathon. That was the worst. Although, the Tour was not that difficult because you trained for it and you were prepared for it. The marathon, I didn't train for and prepare for it; so it was such a slap.
Teeing off in front of people, I don't ever like that anyways. But I didn't prepare for that, either.
I have a few little tricks this year, but I would not be surprised if, you know, didn't make it to the ladies tees.
Q. So what's your little trick with Charles Barkley this year?
LANCE ARMSTRONG: I don't know yet. I was asked about that and thinking about that last night. He's hard to pull a trick on.
Did you know what I did to him last year? No? Good. (Laughter) Ask him.
Q. Since last year, since you were here last year, what are some of the major accomplishments that Live Strong has reached their goals on?
LANCE ARMSTRONG: I think the biggest accomplishment that we have done, that I could say that I was associated with, the cause, or our cause was associated with was the $3 billion bond initiative in the State of Texas. So we proposed to the Texas legislature a $3 billion cancer research initiative over then years.
So $300 million, a year just to give you an example; right now the State of Texas gets 200 million a year from the federal government. So by giving an additional 300 million, you've easily doubled that. So then you will have 500 million a year devoted to advancer research. Nobody said it would be done; the House would defeat it; the government would never sign it, but we did it. On November 6 we take it to the people for a vote and I'm obviously optimistic and hopeful that they will vote the right way.
But by far and away, that was the best thing that we did.
Q. Is there a feasibility of maybe carrying that into other states?
LANCE ARMSTRONG: Absolutely. Texas is a big state, a lot of revenue and income as a state of a big population. But you could take, I mean, California did it with the stem cell initiative. You could certainly take it, Missouri did it with stem cell initiative. You could easily go to a New York or a Maryland or a Massachusetts that has a ton -- you need a place that has facilities to spend that money.
So Texas, we consider Texas to be the leader in cancer research because you have M.D. Anderson and UT Southwestern, Baylor, all of these huge medical systems that actually have people in place that need the money. So you need to go -- Massachusetts would be perfect. New York would be perfect.
So you could definitely go state-by-state. If the federal government doesn't do it, then state-by-state you could do it and set an example and say, okay, fine, you don't have to do it. We're going to do it. Although I'm still optimistic that in 2008, we will have a president that will want to do something federally.
Q. Speaking of Texas, have you ever thought about approaching Bush on your stance on stem cell research?
LANCE ARMSTRONG: (Laughing) I'm -- how do you say that, I've always been pro stem cell. I think that's -- I understand the debate, the moral and the ethical debate around the issue. But to me, when you have something so promising, and you're not taking full advantage of that and actually exploring that option, then you are failing morally and ethically.
And if you go out -- I was at an event about a month ago with Michael J. Fox, who is one of the most compelling stories, just standing there looking at him, and thinking, wait a minute, how can you not be in support of that. I think there are too many people that are affected by a variety of issues and diseases that could be benefitting from that.
So I've been a supporter -- President Bush, I think that one you can really draw the line down the middle, you're either Republican, you have to be against it; Democrats are for it. But you know, the extent of my interaction with him has been on cancer. I've asked him for a billion dollars -- when I asked for a billion I didn't want to also say, 'Oh, by the way could you maybe pass the stem cell initiative, too.' (Laughter).
That's been -- I've avoided that with him. But I am in favor of that.
Q. I'm wondering what percentage you broke down the fires and the Live Strong.
GARY QUINN: We'll know at the end of the week when we tally up all -- we had some charitable auctions last night. We'll have some more on Friday. And then there's a $600,000 purse, and the Amateurs in the celebrity field, they don't take the money. That money goes into a charitable pool. So we won't know what that is until Sunday.
PHIL WEIDINGER: Thank you, all.
End of FastScripts