Mess Media

monitors, analyzes and corrects media reporting errors and bias concerning messengers and couriers.

Messenger Institute
 for Media Accuracy




Dead Fuckin' Last in the Alleycat

Village Voice, July 5, 2007

Dead Fuckin’ Last. DFL for short. It’s generally not the best way to finish a bike race or any other competition. But most races don’t begin at one bar and end at another. Most races aren’t called Chumpionships.

“We’ve got one plan, one goal,” said Tom Sarvella, flashing his grills as he waited for the Staten Island ferry to dock and the alleycat to get underway. “Dead Fuckin’ Last. DFL is much different from DNF — Did Not Finish. DFL takes skill. I’ve got a streak of about ten DFLs going.”

This alleycat — a no-holds-barred, share-the-streets-with-traffic bike messenger race first run in Toronto on Valentine’s Day 1996 — kicked off the first East Coast Messenger Chumpionship, a five-day bike messengers jamboree of sorts that organizers hope will become something of a tradition. About 45 current and former bike messengers met at the Patriot Bar on Chambers Street at 2 p.m. on Independence Day, drank beers, and awaited further instructions.

At the start, they sprinted to their bikes to find a note stuck in their spokes. “Greetings operative, Agent 0031 has been captured behind enemy lines… meet agent 0031’s contact on the main deck of the Staten Island ferry….You now have 20 minutes to obtain two 16-ounce cans of beer …and rendezvous on the ferry. Do not run push or shove in the ferry terminal or YOU WILL BE ARRESTED.”

No one was arrested even if racers bent a few rules, bombing down Manhattan streets at breakneck speed to hit the eight necessary checkpoints to gather the clues needed to piece together the location of the finish line: the 169 Bar on East Broadway.

“Alleycats are not illegal; they are alegal,” said Josh Whitesnake, who organized the race and the Chumpionships. “We are not saying you break the law. You should stop at lights. If people do, that’s another question. But we’ve never had a problem with the cops. And we don’t want anyone getting hurt either.”

One checkpoint: cruising to the Irish Hunger Memorial on the Hudson River to find out when it was dedicated. The other destinations weren't so easy to find. Anyone know where Mosco, Beach and Collister streets are? Like a game of hangman, each destination provided a clue — one letter or number in the name of the final destination. The winner Austin H. finished the alleycat, hitting eight spots, all south of Houston Street, in a little more than 20 minutes.

“Some people value DFL,” said the 25-year-old from Brooklyn. “I prefer to win.”

The winner might get a messenger bag, gear or even a new bike when awards are handed out on Sunday. DFL gets an award too. True to his word, Sarvella rolled up to the 169 Bar as most contestants were on working on their fourth or fifth drink or wolfing down some dumplings. Was Sarvella DFL? It wasn’t really clear. No one was really counting anymore anyway. But Sarvella smiled.

“If you’re fast, you can win races,” Sarvella said. “DFL involves drinking prowess and slow rolling. It takes more skill than you think.”




Send comments or suggestions, to:



Bike messenger emergency fund