May 21, 2010
Photos: Maria Nasif
Photos: Maria Nasif
Photos: Maria Nasif
You can own a piece of team history for only a dollar! Enter our $1 raffle for a chance to win a jersey signed by the 12 2010 riders from Jelly Belly p/b Kenda. Frame it as a keepsake or wear it for inspiration on your own rides. Enter as often as you want. The winner will be announced on Friday, June 4th 2010.
Minneapolis (May 4, 2010) – Registration is now open for the Minnesota Fixed Gear Classic, a thrilling three days of track racing at the National Sports Center Velodrome in Blaine, Minn., that leads off the Nature Valley Bicycle Festival.
The Fixed Gear Classic provides different fields for men (Pro-I-II) and women (Pro-I-II-III) in a unique dual omnium program that showcases separate competitions for sprinters and endurance specialists. Competition begins Friday night, June 11 and runs through Sunday, June 13. Events will include both men’s and women’s Madison races along with cross-over events like the Miss-n-Out that offer points for both omniums.
“Track was a part of the Nature Valley Bicycle Festival for the first three years, from 1999-2001, culminating with the 2001 Elite Track Nationals,” Nature Valley Grand Prix Executive Director David LaPorte said. “We brought it back in 2008, but the economy forced us to take a year off in 2009. Now it’s back, this time we hope for good. By bringing track racing under the same media and marketing umbrella as the Nature Valley Grand Prix, we hope to gain national exposure for this sport even in non-Olympic years.”
Fields are filling fast through online registration, which closes June 4. Downloadable registration forms and more details can be found at http://www.nscsports.org/sports/cycling/events/fixed_gear_classic.htm.
The Fixed Gear Classic is run in conjunction with the Nature Valley Grand Prix, the premier stage race on the 2010 USA Cycling National Racing Calendar. This year’s race includes stops in Saint Paul, Cannon Falls, Minneapolis, Menomonie, and Stillwater. The Nature Valley Grand Prix is a part of the Nature Valley Bicycle Festival, a volunteer-run event, with all proceeds donated to Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, the festival’s benefiting charity. More information can be found at: www.NatureValleyBicycleFestival.com.
Team RadioShack’s Sébastien Rosseler won the historic 50th edition of the Brabantse Pijl in Belgium on Wednesday. In true fighting sprint the Belgian rider beat his two companions Thomas De Gendt (Topsport Vlaanderen) and Jurgen Vandewalle (Quick-Step). After his earlier stage win in the Tour of Algarve it is Rosseler’s second victory of the season.
After 30 kilometers of racing, Rosseler was in the attack with Vandewalle. Later they were joined by Niko Eeckhout (An Post), Alexander Gottfried (NetApp) and Enrico Peruffo (Carmiooro). The latter three riders were dropped in the demanding six local laps around Overijse (with 24 climbs).
“I did my work the whole day,” commented Rosseler. “Maybe one lap I recovered a bit. I didn’t want to attack earlier as I knew it was better if we stayed together. With three of us, we had a chance to stay in the front. Fighting alone against the rest would have been impossible. Can you imagine that I chased Vandewalle in the beginning only to be in an early breakaway, to have some TV publicity for our sponsor, knowing that we would be caught by the peloton? I had such bad legs this morning in the beginning of the race. This is incredible.”
Team Director Dirk Demol added: “When we saw that the break got 8 minutes and 40 seconds, I started to believe in a happy ending. The chase behind by other teams was never well organized. Séba had some difficulties in the end, but that bad moment passed. I told him to stay in the back the last kilometer. We knew that the last 200 meters suited him well. The only unknown factor was that young rider from Topsport Vlaanderen. He appeared to be very dangerous in the end.”
The victory in the Brabantse Pijl is the eighth but nicest professional victory for Rosseler.
“He deserved this,” continued Demol. “I told Séba to believe in it. This is a big compensation for everything that went wrong for him in the classics so far. When you don’t expect such a victory, it is twice as nice.”
“Flat tires and crashes ruined my Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. This is a nice compensation, also for the work I’ve done last winter,” concluded Rosseler.
Result: Brabantse Pijl (Leuven-Overijse)
1 Sébastien Rosseler (Team RadioShack); 2 Thomas De Gendt; 3 Jurgen Vandewalle; 4 Paul Martens 00:41; 5 Philippe Gilbert; 6 Thomas Voeckler; 7 Bjorn Leukemans; 8 Greg Van Avermaet 00:55; 9 Oscar Freire; 10 Daniel Moreno
Los Angeles, USA – Jonathan Cantwell displayed grit and tactical prowess to position himself out of harm and in the best possible position to win the Dana Point Grand Prix and to also win the first National Racing Calendar (NRC) criterium of 2010.
The race started after a minute’s silence and a lap of honour for Jorge Alvarado (Bahati Foundation Racing Team) who was tragically killed in a vehicle accident in the days leading up to the event.
Joining Jonathan, as Fly V Australia teammates were Bernie Sulzberger (Australian criterium champion 2009), Ben Kersten (winner of the US PRO Crit champs 2009), David Kemp (2nd place Australian Championships – Road Race) and Hayden Brooks (5th place Australian Championships – Road Race).
Jonathan said, “The pace was on today, we saw that Rasain Bahati attacked from the start and it really didn’t let up from there. We lost Kersten and Brooks in that crash with three laps to go so I just had to focus on my position from there.”
Cantwell went on to say, “You really needed to be at or very close to the front coming out of the last right hand turn. From the front you have to go full gas to the finish. I was actually third out of the last corner with the two Jamis riders in front of me. The road opened up on the right and I had the speed and momentum to come over the top and take the win.”
The NRC is a collection of 26 races across America that encapsulates the multi disciplines of criteriums, time trials, one-day races and tours. Fly V Australia has started the 2010 NRC campaign well by winning the first two events on the 2010 race schedule to lead the individual classification (Ben Day) and be second behind Team Jelly Belly in the teams classification.
Dana Point Grand Prix – results
1 Jonathan Cantwell (Fly V Austrailia) 1:29:49
2 Alejandro Borrajo (Jamis/Sutter Home p/b Colavita)
3 Anibal Borrajo (Jamis/Sutter Home p/b Colavita)
4 Kenneth Hanson (Team Type 1) 0:00:01
5 Justin Williams (Trek Livestrong U23)
6 Jeremiah Wiscovitch (Williams Cycling p/b SC VELO)
7 Jacob Keough (UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis)
8 Andrew Pinfold (UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis) 0:00:02
9 James Williamson (Two Wheeler/Specialized)
10 Eric Marcotte (Team Pista Palace)
Story From: Christopher White
Day won Thursday’s uphill, 3.1-mile (5 km) Sun Time Trial race in 9 minutes and 16 seconds, two seconds faster than Carter Jones (Jelly Belly Cycling presented by Kenda). Jones’s teammate, Kiel Reynen, was third, another two seconds back.
“I went in as the favorite and that adds a bit of pressure, but I kind of drew on that today,” Day said. “I didn’t win by much but I’m really, really happy to win.”
The victory was the 16th of the season for Fly V Australia, a second-year continental team that aims to achieve ProTour status and one day represent Australia in the Tour de France. At the San Dimas Stage Race last week, Day also won the prologue and successfully defended his lead through to the end of the three-day race.
“Last week, I was surprised that my legs were feeling so good,” Day said. “Today, I even had a little bit left in the tank at the end.”
But the 31-year-old native of Brisbane, Australia, said he didn’t realize he had won until he rode his De Rosa Formula time trial bike back to the start area – where his Fly V Australia teammates and staff members were waiting to congratulate him.
“The boys were there with their arms in the air to congratulate me,” Day said. “The guys are all great.”
By virtue of his win on a course that gained 680-feet (207 meters) of elevation, Day also earned the red jersey as leader of the Best Climber competition.
Fly V Australia Director Sportif Henk Vogels said the team is confident it can defend the lead in the Stage 1 City of Beaumont Road Race. Friday’s 105.7-mile (170 km) race consists of one lap around a 35.7-mile loop, followed by four laps of a 17.5-mile circuit.
“We have a really strong team,” Vogels said. “We’ll do it like we did last week. We’ll put a few guys on the front and save a few guys on the back. As fast as Ben went up the hill today and last week, I don’t think he’ll have a problems at all tomorrow.”
— Fly V Australia —
It is no secret that I often make stupid movie references when writing about cycling, largely because I enjoy both subjects. However, while I almost always like bike racing, I have not liked an overwhelming majority of films viewed during the course of my lifetime. I don’t really count anything that I saw during my youthful “Star Wars/Muppet Movie” phase so at this point, I would put my rate of pleasant movie watching at about 20% over the last 25 years. Not a good percentage.
Not coincidentally, I haven’t seen a single movie that was nominated for an Academy Award this year. And honestly, there is virtually nothing that could make me pay to watch 7 out of the 10 films up for the Oscar in 2010. When I search for entertainment, I have no desire to watch anything that will make me feel any emotions other than happiness, curiosity or excitement. Therefore, Precious and The Hurt Locker will certainly not be passing before my eyes anytime soon. I would much rather watch Enter the Dragon or Fletch for the hundredth time than put myself through five minutes on Mo’Nique screaming or people getting blown up in Afghanistan.
While cycling may not get as much play as cheesy football films with Sandra Bullock or feel-good heart-warmers about abusive mother-daughter relationships, WWII killings, and creepy blue people, it is not for a lack of effort. Regardless of my recent frustration with Hollywood, there have been some solid cycling-related films in the past. And besides, as long as they keep letting Robin Williams into these events we will always be one moment away from an uncomfortable “bikesexual” joke or Lance Armstrong testicle reference in the mainstream media.
Obviously, Breaking Away and American Flyers are well known, and a few people may even think of Quicksilver as a cycling film, even though it is really more like an odd semi-Brat Pack kind of thing. I’m sort of down with the bike messenger scene (I did work in the Financial District of San Francisco after all, and watched them all hang out and smoke cigarettes at the corner of Market and Sansome as I rode to and from Marin…with gears) but for some reason I only remember Jami Gertz. The point is, there are a number of other less recognized elements of cycling in Hollywood history. In fact, although there have been a few memorable films dedicated to the sport, most of my favorite bike-related cinematic experiences have come from movies that covered different subjects.
For example, I was 9 years-old when The Karate Kid came out in theatres, and the main thing I liked about Mr. Miyagi was that he fixed Daniel-san’s bike after Billy Zabka and his crew pushed him down the hillside in Reseda. I don’t know when I actually saw KK for the first time but I know that scene endeared me to Miyagi far more than him making Daniel “paint the fence” and basically just fix up his house. Any jerk can come up with chores but it takes a pretty cool guy to fix up a busted BMX bike for an Italian kid he doesn’t even know and kick the snot out of a bunch of high school dudes in the middle of the night.
On a side note, I was also always intrigued by Miyagi’s willingness to let the pool turn into a swamp at the apartment building the LaRussos lived in. The guy had a full-on Japanese Tea Garden and a bunch of sweet cars at his own place but the apartment building he managed was a disaster. In retrospect, was Miyagi actually a slum lord or something? Regardless, I always respected him for sticking it to The Man (and John Kreese), even though The Man rarely lives in Reseda, CA.
A year after The Karate Kid was released, another great movie came out that had some memorable bike scenes in it. Of course, that film was Better Off Dead, starring a very young John Cusack, Winchester from M.A.S.H., the fat kid from Head Of The Class, an awesome Zabka-esque bad guy named Stalin, and the always creepy Curtis Armstrong (Lance’s cousin) as the always creepy Charles DeMar. But even though skiing was the primary sport in the movie, one of the better recurring themes (aside from the AWESOME Asian dude who talks like Howard Cosell) was the bike riding paperboy who really wanted his two dollars…sort of like a professional cyclist looking for a contract.
Even though I never had a paper route as a kid, I always sympathized with the paperboy in Better Off Dead. I mean, come on, the guy is putting in the miles so give him his money. Sure, he has a tendency to chuck papers through garage door windows from time to time but there was probably not a clear “Accuracy Clause” in his contract, and you can hardly blame him for accomplishing his job with energy and vigor. Besides, I always thought it would have been much easier for Lane or Mr. Meyer (aka Winchester) to just pay the kid and get him off their back.
Anyway, I will always have a place for Breaking Away, American Flyers and all of the other documentaries and race videos in my vast media collection, but the less prominent role of cycling in numerous random movies should not be overlooked. Whether it is Elliott and his flying friends in E.T. or Ronald Miller riding over to mow Cindy Mancini’s lawn in Can’t Buy Me Love, the bicycle will always have a place in Hollywood, whether that Lance movie ever gets made or not.
Wait, Precious is about a quest for the the Yellow Jersey and The Hurt Locker is another Paris-Roubaix documentary, right? Maybe I should just get Mr. Miyagi to true my wheels while I watch Rushmore again.
Posted by The CaliRado Cyclist
So…basically, someone at ASO must have sniffed out a few deep pockets in the desert, because now we have over two weeks of world class bike racing taking place in countries whose monarchs are desperately trying to figure out what to do when the oil runs out. Their strategy is to stimulate tourism but admittedly, there is a not-so-subtle irony to having countries that profit immensely from fossil fuels endorsing a sport and industry that actively promotes alternative forms of transportation. Beyond ASO’s connection to golf, tennis and motorsports, there seems to be little relevance for bicycling in the Middle East outside of Eddy Merckx’s endorsement and boatloads of cash.
While this portion of the calendar may not be terribly exciting for many European and North American fans, it must be a pretty nice part of the year for the riders. In addition to awarding more than $12,000 to the overall winner of each event, both the Tour of Qatar and Tour of Oman offered over $20,000 for each stage and rolled out a heavily air-conditioned red carpet for the race caravan. When it comes to wealth and the desire to show it, few hosts are as accommodating as Qatar and Oman. As such, the races have been more exciting than anticipated, and the overall sentiment from the riders has been positive.
However, I can’t help but wonder about the long-term effects of this model on cycling as a spectator sport, not to mention how it reflects the relationship between the UCI and ASO. The prize money for these events is certainly enticing but the other primary factor is that most of the “wild-card” teams are likely trying to secure favor with ASO so that they can participate in other events like Paris-Nice and the Tour de France. So basically, we have two weeks of racing in the desert with minimal spectators, lots of money, and a fleet of teams who are there in order to secure spots in later races. Again, I’m not sure how much this helps the sport in the long run.
So…just out of curiosity, I decided to do a little bit of research on Qatar and Oman. Courtesy of my good friend Wikipedia, the following tidbits may be interesting. But then again, considering that the source was Wikipedia, they also may or may not be correct. Regardless, I think there is some interesting food for thought about the countries who claim be ushering in the New Year for bike racing. History, hills and cultural significance be damned…
Qatar is an Arab emirate in the Middle East, occupying a small peninsula on the northeastern coast of the larger Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south.
Qatar is an oil- and gas-rich nation, with the third largest gas reserves and the highest GDP per capita in the world. An absolute monarchy, Qatar has been ruled by the al-Thani family since the mid-1800s and has since transformed itself from a poor British protectorate noted mainly for pearling into an independent state with significant oil and natural gas revenues.
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Qatari economy was crippled by a continuous siphoning off of petroleum revenues by the Emir, who had ruled the country since 1972. His son, the current Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, overthrew him in a bloodless coup in 1995. In 2001, Qatar resolved its longstanding border disputes with both Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
Since 1995, Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani has ruled Qatar, seizing control of the country from his father Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani while the latter vacationed in Switzerland. Under Emir Hamad, Qatar has experienced a notable amount of sociopolitical liberalization, including the endorsement of women’s suffrage or right to vote, drafting a new constitution, and the launch of Al Jazeera, a leading English and Arabic news source which operates a website and satellite television news channel.
The International Monetary Fund states that Qatar has the highest GDP per capita in the world, followed by Liechtenstein. The World Factbook ranks Qatar at second, following Liechtenstein.
Qatar served as the headquarters and one of the main launching sites of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Government and Politics
Qatar has an emirate government type, based on Islamic and civil law codes. It is a discretionary system of law controlled by the Amir, although civil codes are being implemented. Islamic law dominates family and personal matters; the country has not accepted compulsory International Court of Justice jurisdiction.
Qatar is sometimes referred to as the Saudi Arabia of natural gas. Qataris’ wealth and standard of living compare well with those of Western European states. With no income tax, Qatar, along with Bahrain, is one of the countries with the lowest tax rates in the world.
Qatar has the highest per-capita carbon dioxide emissions, at 55.5 metric tons per person in 2005. This is almost double the next highest per-capita emitting country, Kuwait at 30.7 metric tons (2005) and three times that of the United States.
Qatar has had the highest per-capita carbon dioxide emissions for the past 18 years. These emissions are largely due to high rates of energy use include natural gas processing, water desalination and electricity production. Between 1995 and 2011 the electricity generating capacity of Qatar will have increased to six times the previous level. The fact that Qataris do not have to pay for either their water or electricity supplies is thought to contribute to their high rate of energy use. Despite being a desert state they are also one of the highest consumers of water per capita per day, using around 400 litres.
The Qatari peninsula juts 100 miles (161 km) north into the Persian Gulf from Saudi Arabia and is slightly smaller than the state of Massachusetts, USA. Much of the country consists of a low, barren plain, covered with sand.
The highest point in Qatar is Qurayn Abu al Bawl at 103 metres (340 ft) in the Jebel Dukhan.
Expatriates form the majority of Qatar’s residents, and the petrochemical industry has attracted people from all around the world. Most of the expatriates come from South Asia and from non-oil-rich Arab states. Because a large percentage of the expatriates are male, Qatar has a heavily skewed sex ratio, with 3.46 males per female.
In July 2007, the country had a growing population of approximately 907,229 people, of whom approximately 350,000 were believed to be citizens. Qatari citizens follow the dominant Hanbali branch of Islam practiced in neighboring Saudi Arabia, therefore it is considered the culturally closest Persian Gulf state to Saudi Arabia.
The majority of the estimated 800,000 non-citizens are individuals from South and South East Asian and Arab countries working on temporary employment contracts, in most cases without their accompanying family members. Most foreign workers and their families live near the major employment centers of Doha, Al Khor, Mesaieed, and Dukhan.
When contrasted with other Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, for instance, Qatar has comparatively liberal laws, but is still not as liberal as some other Arab states of the Persian Gulf like UAE or Bahrain. Qatar is a civil law jurisdiction. However, Shari’a or Islamic law is applied to aspects of family law, inheritance and certain criminal acts. Women can legally drive in Qatar and there is a strong emphasis in equality and human rights brought by Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee. Qatar also has the largest fines in the world in terms of traffic violation as per the recent change in 2010.
The country has undergone a period of liberalization and modernisation during the reign of the current Emir, Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, who came to power in 1995. The laws of Qatar tolerate alcohol to a certain extent. However, the few bars and nightclubs in Qatar operate only in expensive hotels and clubs, much like in the UAE. Also like in the UAE, Muslims are banned from drinking alcohol. Expatriate residents in Qatar are eligible to receive liquor permits permitting them to purchase alcohol for personal use through Qatar Distribution Company, the only importer and retailer for alcohol in Qatar. Under Qatar’s Sharia, alcohol is illegal in public.
In common with other Persian Gulf Arab countries, sponsorship laws exist in Qatar. These laws have been widely described as akin to modern-day slavery. The Sponsorship system (Kafeel or Kafala) exists throughout the GCC and means that a worker (not a tourist) may not enter the country without having a kafeel, cannot leave without the kafeel’s permission (an Exit Permit must first be awarded by the sponsor, or kafeel), and the sponsor has the right to ban the employee from entering Qatar within 2–5 years of his first departure. Many sponsors do not allow the transfer of one employee to another sponsor.
Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) is the premier non-profit health care provider in Doha, Qatar. Established by the Emiri decree in 1979, HMC manages four highly specialised hospitals: Hamad General Hospital, Rumailah Hospital, Women’s Hospital, Psychiatric Hospital and the Primary Health Care Centres. These hospitals are quite sophisticated by the standards of the region, with most hosting advanced fMRI and other scanning machines. Most of them have many patients affected by Down syndrome and other mental illness caused by the high rate of cousin marriage in the country.
Qatar is a destination country for men and women from South and Southeast Asia who migrate willingly, but are subsequently trafficked into involuntary servitude as domestic workers and laborers, and, to a lesser extent, commercial sexual exploitation; the most common offence was forcing workers to accept worse contract terms than those under which they were recruited; other conditions include bonded labor, withholding of pay, restrictions on movement, arbitrary detention, and physical, mental, and sexual abuse.
According to the Trafficking in Persons Report by the US State Department, men and women who are lured into Qatar by promises of high wages are often forced into underpaid labor. The report states that Qatari laws against forced labour are rarely enforced and that labour laws often result in the detention of victims in deportation centres, pending the completion of legal proceedings. The report places Qatar at tier 3, as one of the countries that neither satisfies the minimum standards nor demonstrates significant efforts to come into compliance.
The government maintains that it is setting the benchmark when it comes to human rights and treatment of labourers.
Institute for Economics and Peace
Global Peace Index
16 out of 144
United Nations Development Programme
Human Development Index
33 out of 182
Corruption Perceptions Index
22 out of 180
World Economic Forum
Global Competitiveness Report
22 out of 133
Oman is an Arab country in southwest Asia on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula. It borders the United Arab Emirates on the northwest, Saudi Arabia on the west and Yemen on the southwest.
The Dhofar Rebellion was launched in the province of Dhofar against the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman and Britain from 1962 to 1975. As the radical-leaning rebellion threatened to overthrow the Sultan’s rule in Dhofar and produced disorder in other parts of Oman, Sultan Said bin Taimur was deposed by his son Qaboos bin Said, who introduced major social reforms to deprive the rebellion of popular support and modernised the state’s administration. The rebellion ended with the intervention of Iranian Imperial ground forces and major offensives by the expanded Sultan of Oman’s Armed Forces.
Chief of state and government is the hereditary sultān, Qaboos bin Said Al Said who appoints a cabinet called the “Diwans” to assist him. In the early 1990s, the sultan instituted an elected advisory council, the Majlis ash-Shura, though few Omanis were eligible to vote. Universal suffrage for those over 21 was instituted on 4 October 2003. Over 190,000 people (74% of those registered) voted to elect the 84 seats. Two women were elected to seats.
The country today has three women ministers Rawiyah bint Saud al Busaidiyah – Minister of Higher Education, Sharifa bint Khalfan al Yahya’eyah – Minister of Social Development and Rajiha bint Abdulamir bin Ali al Lawati – Minister of Tourism. There are no legal political parties nor, at present, any active opposition movement. As more and more young Omanis return from education abroad, it seems likely that the traditional, tribal-based political system will have to be adjusted. A State Consultative Council, established in 1981, consisted of 55 appointed representatives of government, the private sector, and regional interests.
Omani law does not provide the right of union formation. The law forbids a strike for any reason. Collective bargaining is not permitted, however there exist labour-management committees in firms with more than 50 workers. These committees are not authorized to discuss conditions of employment, including hours and wages.
The minimum working age is 13, but this provision is not enforced against the employment of children in family businesses or on family farms. The minimum wage for non-professional workers was $260 per month in 2002. However, many classes of workers (domestic servants, farmers, government employees) are not required to receive the minimum wage and the government is not consistent in its enforcement of the minimum wage law.
Institute for Economics and Peace
Global Peace Index
21 out of 144
United Nations Development Programme
Human Development Index
56 out of 182
Corruption Perceptions Index
39 out of 180
World Economic Forum
Global Competitiveness Report
41 out of 133
Even though it is somewhat disconcerting to research these friends of ASO, there are obviously many other countries that are far less appealing than Qatar and Oman if you’re looking to develop your sport. Or pad your bank account.
So there you have it. Just a nice little background story for the last few weeks of professional bike racing. It’s always good to know some history…unless you’re getting paid to ignore it. D’oh.
Or is it Doha?
Posted by CaliRado Cyclist
By Jeremy Arnold
Perhaps the culprit is old age. It may also be a result of the economy. There is no question that Winter is at least partly to blame, and the sad end of Jersey Shore on MTV is certainly a factor. Whatever the combination of reasons, I’ve been a bit depressed lately.
The Super Bowl was a nice distraction, and I was happy for New Orleans but the viewing experience ended up being bittersweet. The commercials almost ruined it for me. My expectations were pretty low to begin with (since I do not particularly enjoy talking babies or snack and beverage-related humor) but I was especially bummed out when Joe Montana somehow ended up on a Sketchers ad for those ridiculous-looking clubfoot sneakers. It was so bad that he didn’t even show his face and only did a voice-over with his name on the screen but still. This is not something that the best quarterback of all time should have been doing. The 49ers would never have won four Super Bowls with a Sketchers-wearing QB, and you can be sure that Ronnie Lott would rather cut his whole arm off than do a commercial like that.
It was also somewhat odd to see Lance Armstrong and various other people acting like Lance Armstrong in a Michelob Ultra commercial. I didn’t mind the stunt-doubles and uber-extremeness of drinking low-calorie beer but I think that they officially killed any hope of coolness by using that freaking “Woo Hoo” song by Blur (Google “Woo Hoo Song”). That song actually makes me angry at this point. But strangely, it also makes me want to consume some crappy light beer while watching stupid movies starring Denise Richards and Drew Barrymore. Seriously though, that song came out in 1997…can we get some tunes from this century on the extreme playlist?
Oh wait, I just remembered that the Halftime Show featured a band of 65 year old dudes, so…maybe 13 years isn’t that bad.
Anyway, it’s not like I’m sitting in a dark room listening to Cure records or anything but I have been a bit gloomy lately, and am trying to locate the positive mojo that usually influences my demeanor. The problem is that the world is often a horribly depressing place, and it is sometimes quite difficult to remove oneself from the soul-crushing weight of reality on display in places like Haiti, the UCI, Iraq and Massachusetts.
But the problem is not really reality. Reality and I have always had a somewhat contentious relationship anyway (I did grow up in Marin and Boulder…) so its influence on my mental state is debatable at best. Like many Americans, I will always have to shield myself from reality in order to avoid oppressive feelings of guilt for being so obscenely, ridiculously lucky. Again, reality is not the problem.
The problem is that my relationship with professional athletics – the primary tool with which I have historically detached myself from reality – has been damaged to the point that I am now having trouble separating the sanctity of sports from the nasty truths of human nature and life on planet Earth. There is no escape anymore.
The sports world is largely entertainment, but it is so much more. Professional athletics allow us a rare glimpse at a world which acknowledges concrete rules of play, with exceptionally qualified performers operating in a constantly shifting and unpredictable environment. Sure, there are always people who circumvent the rules but more than most, it is a world that overwhelmingly rewards those who deserve it.
What makes sports even better is that we have access to highly quantifiable statistics of performance that confirm the value of professional worth and success. There are very few cases of nepotism in sports and no one simply inherits a career as an athlete. Regardless of circumstance, the sporting world does not tolerate notions of entitlement. Unless you are a football coach (which seems to be the only profession that appreciates Bush-level name recognition) there are very few opportunities to coast on the efforts of your relatives or the relative size of their bank accounts.
For the most part, this is a great phenomenon but it can lead to some potential problems with how we, as a culture, view professional athletes as human beings. For example, just because some guy from a tough neighborhood can catch footballs exceptionally well and endorse a line of shoes does not mean that he is necessarily an excellent person off the field. But for some reason, our culture often views world-class athletes as better human beings, not just better physical specimens. Perhaps this is why we are so often disappointed by them.
In reality, the gift of supreme athletic prowess is arguably more random and unfair than any inheritance or trust fund could ever be. Physical superiority in sports is far more rare and discriminating than any Good Old Boys Network or family business could ever be. After all, you can’t buy things like coordination, size and speed.
All of these factors have likely contributed to my appreciation for cycling, a sport in which physical gifts and family finances are important but often trumped by determination, effort and sheer force of will. All things considered, bike racing favors those who have experienced adversity and possess the character to fight through suffering, not those who were conveniently born taller or wealthier than most.
I learned early on that professional athletes and other celebrities are really just normal, flawed people who happen to have benefitted from a rare combination of luck and talent. There is no doubt that most of them are very good at what they do, and probably work very hard at certain times, but I have never been under the illusion that they are somehow better or happier than most of the more anonymous people I have met in my life. It seems that the only real difference lies in the fact that normal people don’t have a vicious pack of reporters and pundits destroying them in the national media whenever they happen to get in trouble. Such is the price of fame in 2010.
The problem is that until recently, I have been able to remove the cold reality of normal life and human nature from my blind appreciation of professional sports. I used to be able to forget that my favorite baseball players were probably on steroids or that many of the players on my favorite football team were most likely not the kind of guys I would want my little sister to go on a date with. I knew these things from the start but at least I could suspend my criticism long enough to escape into the excitement of the competition for a few hours.
I fear that I no longer have this luxury anymore, as professional sports continue to become just another tabloid media-covered minefield. Thankfully, I still believe that professional cycling has one of the highest ratios of “good guys” to “bad guys” but it’s been a long time since I thought everyone who could ride a bike fast was a decent person. With that said, I think I’d be pretty cool with my little sister dating a bike racer, especially considering my prior hope that she would hook up with a professional golfer. Yeah…not so keen on the golf guys anymore.
In an effort to maintain this depressing theme, as well as the portrayal of cyclists as a pretty decent group of people to root for, please find the following 2009/2010 sports stories that have broken down the wall between the joy of entertainment and cruelty of life below. I have tried to limit these to one sentence because this stuff should not really be news to anyone at this point.
Football - Chris Henry died after falling off the back of a pick-up truck being driven by his wife, with whom he was arguing at the time of the accident.
Basketball – Gilbert Arenas was convicted of felony gun possession charges after displaying three firearms in the Washington Wizards locker room, then verbally challenging Javaris Crittenden, with whom he had gotten into an argument over gambling debts.
Baseball – Mark McGwire finally admitted to using performance enhancing drugs during his career, including the year that he broke the homerun records of Babe Ruth and Roger Maris.
Tennis – Serena Williams was fined a record $83,500 for verbally assaulting a line official at the U.S. Open who later claimed that she feared for her life.
Soccer – John Terry, captain of the English national team, has been accused of having an affair with the wife of a former friend and teammate.
Golf – Tiger Woods got caught with his pants on the ground many, many times.
Hockey – I can’t think of many scandalous hockey stories right now but I’m pretty sure there are toothless maniacs getting into trouble somewhere.
Yeesh. There are obviously many more examples of scandalous behavior among many other athletes in many other sports but again, this should not be a surprise to anyone. At least John Edwards and Charlie Sheen don’t play sports for a living. Woo Hoo!
Posted by CaliRado Cyclist