Alan Snel's Long Road Back To A Better Future

Cyclist and LVSportsbiz.com producer Alan Snel with his new book.
On a sunny morning in March 2017, Alan Snel got on his bicycle in Vero Beach, Florida for a routine (for him) 40-mile bike ride.

That ride changed Snel’s life and became the motivation for his first book, Long Road Back to Las Vegas.

A few minutes past 8 a.m., as Snel pedaled along Old Dixie Highway near Fort Pierce, a Chevrolet Cruz driven by Fort Pierce resident Dennis Brophy plowed into him from behind. Snel doesn’t recall the collision and doesn’t know how long he was unconscious. He came to his senses while lying on a gurney being wheeled through a hallway in a Fort Pierce hospital. “You were hit by a car,” the EMT told him.

Snel was lucky. Besides a concussion and other injuries, he’d suffered two broken vertebrae that came within a half-inch of either killing him or paralyzing him from the neck down.

The collision knocked Snel out of his old life and into a new one. Fifteen months after the accident, he was back in Las Vegas, where he’d worked as a reporter for the Las Vegas Review-Journal before going back to Florida to take a new job in Vero Beach. Drawing on his expertise and deep experience in the highly specialized genre of sports business reporting, he’d launched a lively, insightful website called LVsportsbiz.com and was hustling to report on the city’s burgeoning sports market.

In between the near-death experience in Florida and the glittering lights and new start in Las Vegas were weeks of physical pain and a painful self-examination and frank reappraisal of his own life. Lots of people don’t recover physically or emotionally from such an experience. But as his friend and former South Florida reporting colleague Jeff Houck noted, “The road is hard. Alan Snel is harder.”

For the record, I’ve known Al for 25 years. Our paths crossed for the first time in South Florida in the 1990s at the dawn of the Internet age. We covered the same government beat for intensely competitive newspapers in an old-fashioned knockdown drag-out newspaper circulation war. A half-dozen newspapers from Miami to Vero Beach were entangled in an all-out fistfight for the same readers.

Al and I attended the same meetings and chased the same people for quotes. Amid the grinding daily competition, we discovered common interests, including sports in general and baseball in particular. By the time Al moved on to better things, we’d become good friends.

Anyone who has known Al for even a few minutes knows his zeal for bicycling. He describes cycling in Zen-like terms. Bicycling, Snel writes, is “the truth” because it “requires one thing of you—willpower.”

“There are no words that will propel the bicycle,” he writes. “Riding a bicycle is stunningly fair. You get exactly out of it what you put into it.  . . . You get to your destination using your own human power. There is no motorized propulsion. The motor is in your soul and the fuel comes from your food and your willpower.”

Snel talks candidly about the driver who nearly killed him and who recently died of an illness. The St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Department, which investigated the incident, did not write a ticket to the driver even though he admitted that he was not paying attention when he hit Snel and, by hitting him, violated a Florida state law requiring motorists to give bicyclists at least three feet of clearance when they pass.

The Sheriff’s Department’s reasoning for not writing a citation followed a mysterious and rather obtuse chain of logic: The driver did not intentionally hit Snel and did not set out to deliberately hit a bicyclist. So in the eyes of the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office, Snel had no more legal standing than that perpetually unfortunate, ubiquitous roadkill, a possum.

After talking to friends in Florida and Nevada, Snel decided to return to Las Vegas and start his own sports business website. He picked a perfect moment. The city had just acquired its first major league professional sports franchise, the Vegas Golden Knights of the NHL, and was about to start construction of a spiffy—and very expensive—new stadium to house the soon-to-be transplanted NFL Oakland Raiders.

Snel’s book is full of insider knowledge of cycling and tidbits about the hard-earned wisdom he acquired while recovering from his injuries.

“This book’s message is simple,” Snel writes. “If I can overcome trauma, you can, too. But it’s not going to be easy. Overcoming trauma is hard. In fact, I can understand how it can be easy to get emotionally stuck and not move forward.”

The collision with the car “forced me to re-evaluate my life,” he continues. “Faced with mortality, decisions become easier to make because the mental clutter falls away.”

Copies of Long Road Back to Las Vegas are available for $16 either through PayPal to asnel@LVSportsBiz.com or by mailing a check to Alan Snel at 2601 South Pavilion Center Drive, Unit 1091, Las Vegas NV 89135. Snel will inscribe all books ordered from him directly. The book also is available through Amazon.com.

Listen to Willie Drye talk about the upcoming new edition of his book Storm of the Century: The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 , with meterologists Bryan Norcross and Luke Dorris. The new, expanded edition of the book will be published in July 2019 by Globe Pequot Press.



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