You remember that time we all got together, had beer and pizzas and watched Lance Armstrong dominate the 12th Stage of the Tour De France? Yeah, I don’t remember that either. You know why? Because it never happened! I have never watched one second of the Tour De France….not one second. And so tell me why I should care if Lance Armstrong is a steroid user, circus clown, bad husband or all of the above?
In sports today, as I have said many times, we often times like a story more than sports itself. Part of what makes sports so fascinating, are the stories behind the athletes. We flock to watch the poor boxer, from the inner city, who goes on to win the heavyweight title. We will talk at the proverbial water cooler for hours about the convicted dog fighter who is making his return to football. These stories provide sports with the narrative which makes it the highest form of entertainment. Its drama, action and reality TV all rolled into one.
Lance Armstrong is one hell of a story. A cyclist, who returned from a near fatal battle with cancer to win seven consecutive Tour De France titles, Armstrong’s story is almost like something out of a movie. His story and success inspired books, a series of Livestrong merchandise and even a federal sponsorship. And more recently, we have seen his fall from grace, as Armstrong has all but admitted to using performance enhancing drugs to help him win those Tour De France titles. Indeed, it is a great story, but still I am left wondering, who cares????
When people become enthralled with stories involving popular sports, I understand it. If you have read my most recent blog concerning Lebron James and ESPN, you know that the story of sports matter much less to me than the actual results and statistics surrounding them. Yet, even still, when ESPN runs a story on an athlete’s personal life or the drama surrounding the New York Jets, I understand why people watch. Stories like these provide a context to the sport and make it easier for us to cheer for, root against or relate to the characters involved. But with Lance Armstrong and cycling I just don’t get it.
In the pantheon of sports, cycling ranks somewhere between speed skating and ice curling. What I mean is, if you have the choice between watching cycling and say going to the DMV, your license it very likely to get renewed that day. I have tried to think of a circumstance which would find me watching cycling and honestly, after many hours, I have failed to think of a single scenario. Honestly, all cycling is good for is watching “fails” on YouTube of bad crashes. It is essentially like NASCAR, minus speed and any entertainment value….and I really could care less about NASCAR.
And so, why is Lance Armstrong’s rise, much less his fall such a big deal? Why does it rate headline banners on ESPN, Sports Illustrated and Yahoo? I mean, I get it; he recovered from a horrendous disease to reach the heights of his sport. But still, he’s a cyclist. I mean honestly, I would be more interested in hearing stories of a tax attorney recovering from AIDS to make partner at a major firm than to hear stories of a cyclist.
It fascinates me that Lance Armstrong is THE GUY. What is it about him that so inspired people so much when he won and then let them down so much when he fell from grace? Because I guarantee you that either in winning or losing, no one watched the Tour De France. I dare you, find and American who has watched more than a Sportscenter highlight of the Tour De France and I will personally give you a crisp American dollar.
First of all, look at the sport. Cycling is extremely boring. It’s a bunch of skinny dudes riding bikes. You know, the activity we all did when we were ten years old. There is nothing especially impressive about it. When I watch Dwight Howard slam dunk a ball, I am mesmerized. When I see Justin Verlander throw 99 mph in the 8th inning, I think to myself, “holy shit.” But when I watch cyclists, I think, “I can ride a bike too, big deal!”
Second of all, everyone knows cyclists are dirty. Well before Lance Armstrong, we had that other d-bag, you know the guy who wore his hat backwards and got busted for steroids after winning the Tour De France. I can’t remember his name and neither can you. But even when Lance dominated the event, he always rode under a cloud of suspicion. Finding out that Lance doped is about the same as finding out professional wrestling is staged….big deal.
And finally, Lance Armstrong himself is a very fascinating character. Sure, he did a lot of good with his success. He wrote books and gave speeches which inspired those with cancer around the world. And kudos to him for using his fame to perform good around the world. But he’s a skinny, hyper obsessed guy from Texas. I think we could all do without his type. All you need to know about him is that he used his fame and good looks to go and date Sheryl Crow…Sheryl fucking Crow. That alone should have him banned from any television coverage period.
In the end, it all boils down in the old cliché of finding inspiration from those heroes who actually touch our lives and not those on television. Look to those who have mentored you, helped you and you can reach out and touch or talk to on a daily basis…not some skinny cheater from Texas. And until that happens, I will just sit and ponder how an athlete, from a sport none of us have ever watched, caught or attention for oh so long.