24 July 2006

American flyer

I think I became cynical at a young age, watching American Flyers over and over again. The hard-ass 7-Eleven rider crosses the line and gets accosted by a reporter, who asks him if he's proud that two Americans beat a (Soviet) Olympic champion. To which he replies:
"I'm not riding for America, lady. I tried that once. ... and I got beat by opinions"
That's sort of how I feel right now about the Tour de France. I'm excited that Floyd won, and I'm excited that the U.S. has produced another Tour champion. But to listen to the sportscaster on Channel 9 this morning, or the lady at work who just accosted me in the hallway, you would think that Floyd won by riding faster than 150 French cyclists.

That's how the popular media is portraying it: Floyd beat the French. Never mind that his team is Swiss, his bike is Swiss, and he only rides with two other "Americans" -- and one of them is Canadian! (And neither rode the Tour.) For some reason, this is some sort of big deal that an "American" beat the French in their race.

I look at it another way: the best guy won. Sure it's great that he's from Pennsylvania by way of California. Yeah, it's kind of neat he has a Chicago-area connection. But I respect more that he rode out of his mind on Thursday to haul himself back into contention than I do that he's an "American." I'd respect anyone who did that, regardless of the accident of his birthplace, and would be just as excited for that rider as I am for Floyd.

(Well, mostly. If Robbie McEwen were ever in the fluke circumstance of donning the Yellow Jersey in Paris, I would not be excited at all.)

And I hate to tell ASO and Jean-Marie LeBlanc, but they already know the truth: The Tour is no longer a French race. Hasn't been for nearly two decades. That's like saying the just-finished World Cup was a German soccer tournament. The Tour is bigger than one person, bigger than the sport, bigger, even, than the country that hosts it. So bravo, Floyd, congratulations. You deserve all the accolades and Champagne you can get. But I have to ask -- did you do it for America?



David Johnsen said...

The same thing happened on the Touring e-mail list this weekend, except the person went a step further and insulted the French people for always surrendering and not supporting our war against Iraq. Others jumped all over him for the political commentary, but I'm proud to say that I single-handedly turned it into a discussion of why French pro cycling isn't what it used to be (of course, it was still off-topic for that list).

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