Fri, 13 Dec 2002, 00:10:49 UTC-08:00

Yet another slam against cycling?

Last July, Boston Globe sportswriter Ron Borges wrote an inflammatory article as a response to a statement made on NPR about Lance Armstrong being one of the greatest athletes in history. In his article for MSNBC (I would post a link here but it seems the article has been removed from MSNBC's site... curious), Borges denounced Armstrong as an athlete and cycling as an athletic sport. I won't rehash that particular piece of stupidity now. It's all been said before. However, several other articles (none showing any greater intelligence in journalism) have come out since. Shortly after the MSNBC article ran and just after Lance captured his fourth Tour win, this article by Skip Bayless appeared in The Mercury News, almost parotting word for word Ron Borges. A trend seems to have been started by sports journalists hoping to capture the [negative] attention (remember that any attention is good even if it's bad attention) of readers by publishing baseless opinions. The latest in this crop seems to be an opinion article written by John Kelso in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution as a response to Lance being picked Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year. Kelso claims that "Lance Armstrong's great, but pedaling's not a sport". Now I'm not sure if Kelso's real views are truly reflected in his writing or if it's simply to get a rise out of the public. Either way, it's at best crappy satire and at worse incredibly poor journalism. Given the premise that he really means what he writes, I'm inclined to refute the "points" made in his article. I do this in an attempt to dispell any inaccuracies one might gather from reading Mr. Kelso's article. I will try and stick only to the purely technical errors and leave the sophomoric parts to be judged independently by the reader.

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[ The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: 12/12/02 ]

Lance Armstrong's great, but pedaling's not a sport

"If the season doesn't start with a bunch of guys gathering around a keg and holding a draft, it isn't a real sport."

Lance Armstrong being named Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year is an early Christmas present for me. Under normal circumstances, I only get one chance a year -- in summer, during the Tour de France -- to make ha-ha of bicycle riders.

But this year, thanks to SI, I find myself with this little gift-wrapped package under my tree.

It's not that I don't admire Lance Armstrong, our hometown hero, who has won the Tour de France four times, beaten cancer and managed to tick off the entire nation of France for dominating its sport, which in itself should be worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize. Anybody who can jerk the chain on those poodle-pandering cork-sniffers has my vote.

It's just that -- let's face it -- bicycling isn't a sport. Ever heard of a Fantasy Bicycle League? No, you haven't. If the season doesn't start with a bunch of guys gathering around a keg and holding a draft, it isn't a real sport. Although bicycling does have one thing in common with the upcoming SI swimsuit issue: The swimsuit models shave their legs, as do bicycle racers, to cut down on wind resistance.

Obviously Kelso is yet another moron who hasn't bothered to check his facts. Fantasy Cycling does in fact exist and has been sponsored by large corporations (such as Italian bicycling component manufacturer, Campagnolo) as well. A quick Google search returns just a small listing of the many Fantasy Cycling leagues out there. Publications such as Velonews support fantasy cycling too.

At least that's their story. But I don't believe them. You'd have to be hairier than the Abominable Snowman to get slowed down on a bicycle by your own hair.

I suspect the reason bicyclists shave their legs is, they think it looks cute. And it does -- on Britney Spears.

There are many reasons cyclists shave their legs and most of them have nothing to do with impressing other people. Let's face it. A cyclist will never impress anyone with their activity when they're walking around clad in nothing more than underwear, smelling of 100 miles of sweat and road grime and sporting multiple scars from bare skin kissing pavement, rocks and dirt at 30+ MPH. Cycling "fashion" is lost on the general public and often lost amongst cyclists as well. There's a saying that how stupid anyone dressed as a cyclist looks increases exponentially as the square of the distance between the rider and their bicycle. As for shaving legs, a friend of mine has a pretty good article on his website concerning the many popular reasons.

What the heck is Sports Illustrated doing picking pedaling, anyway? What's next? Pingpong? How could bicycle riding be a real sport?

There are no U.S. Postal Cheerleaders. The Dallas Cowboys have cheerleaders. The U.S. Postal Service bicycle team does not have, say, the Stamp Sweeties, the Glue Gals or the Overnight Delivery Dolls.

Many sports do not have cheerleaders either and yet they are still considered sports. No cheerleaders in fishing, NASCAR, bowling, baseball (yes, I know they have mascots, but that's not the same thing), golf, tennis, skiing, boxing (the girls holding up the numbers don't count)... I could go on.

Does bicycle racing have bubble-gum cards? Maybe in Belgium, which reminds me: What do you call people from Belgium? The Belch?

I personally have not heard of bicycle trading cards. To many cyclists, trading cards were the kind of things they stuck in their spokes as a kid (sometimes they still do). Cycling like most other respectable sports doesn't need trading cards (nor cheerleaders) to qualify itself as a sport.

Ever seen a marching band take the field in the middle of a bicycle race? Nope, you don't see tubas at the Tour de France, and for darned good reason. The French hear marching music, and they think the Germans are coming.

See remarks above concerning cheerleaders.

There is no such thing as Monday Night Bicycling. OK, so on Monday nights, there is bicycling. But it's some guy whose tight pants are cutting off the blood to his brain riding over to the Wheatsville Co-Op to pick up a Tofurkey.

The lack of blood to the brain has little to do with the tightness of cycling apparel and more to do with the fact that the cyclist is exerting his/herself. I wonder what excuse Kelso has for the lack of brain activity exhibited in the writing of his article. Like many racing sports, major bicycle races generally occur on Sundays. Around Seattle there's a weekly held race that occurs on Thursday nights at Seward Park. Likewise, The Outdoor Life Network (OLN) generally dedicates Thursdays to programs about bicycling. They also televise cycling throughout the week to a lesser extent. They do provide live and replay coverage of all the major road and offroad cycling events such as the international cycling classics (Paris-Roubaix, Giro d'Italia, Vuelta A Espana, Tour de France) as well as the the UCI and NORBA series races.

OK, by now you bicyclists are out of your chairs, making snide comments about how I'm a big fat slob. Every time I write something snotty yet poignant about you nerdy little bicycle riders, I get a bunch of e-mails pointing out that my picture makes me look like a canned ham.

Since this is a matter of words and not physical attributes, I will refrain from making judgement about Kelso's figure.

Hey, at 5 feet 11 inches, I'm a scant 210 pounds. Stacked top to bottom, that's only 2.96 pounds per inch. Heck, I've eaten sandwiches that weighed more than that.

A poor attempt at science. I fail to see any scientific relevance in the above statement.

Besides, this is America, where it's not considered a real sport unless it comes with a beer ad. When famous bicycle riders start appearing in Coors commercials in a hot tub next to "the Twins," I'll know bicycling has become a sport. Now, I've got to go shave my legs.

Coors sponsored (Coors Light Cycling Team) one of the greatest US cycling teams in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Coors also sponsored the Coors Classic race. As a matter of fact a movie (American Flyers) starring Kevin Costner was made which used the 1985 Coors Classic as the backdrop during filming.

John Keslo is an Austin American-Statesman columnist.

Cycling may not be a popular sport here in the United States but it's quite different in the rest of the world. It's articles like this that do nothing but proliferate the image of the egocentric and close-minded dumb American who can barely see past their own beerguts to watch the Sunday football (American) game on the big screen TV while draped torpidly on the Lazy-Boy. Meanwhile, cycling fans around the world are riding their bikes to watch the bike races and sometimes following along (also on their bikes) on the same routes the racers take... hopping from vantage point to vantage point.

I guess one of the prices we pay for free speech is the embarrassment unleashed upon us by the actions of our own countrymen. Had the above article appeared as a USENET newsgroup post, it would have immediately been flagged as a perfect example of how to employ The USENET Guide to Power Posting.

Posted by khuon on Fri, 13 Dec 2002, 00:10:49 UTC-08:00
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