One of the sports world’s biggest scams is ending this weekend. Some bike race over in France. Like many (if not practically all) Americans, I didn’t give a rat’s ass about this race until some guy from Texas got gonad cancer, beat it, and won the thing. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s when we were supposed to start caring. How do I know? Because until then, nobody showed it on the news, in commercials, or in any other normal means of getting information for the non-bike geek. We were immediately told that this guy is a hero, and we all agreed.
So with him about to wrap up his record seventh straight overall championship, I think we need to set the record straight. To start, I’m about to get real blasphemous to all of you who think Lance is a god. And I won’t apologize for it either. But I am tired of the hero culture we have here. Team sports continue to be degraded into individual accomplishments where one clown gets all the glory for a job that could never have been done without the supporting cast. And people like shoe companies, soft drink companies, cable TV channels, and aspiring domestic delivery services not only perpetuate the problem, they add to it.
So look at the Tour. We have a team of nine riders, with a leader. A captain, if you will. And this team works together to prop up the captain, so he can be the champion and bring them all glory. But it’s a farce. He could never do it on his own, yet we are constantly reminded of how much of a great individual accomplishment it is for one man to win this thing seven straight times. And we’re not even sure he’s the best rider out there. You’ll argue that, I know. But we can’t be sure. Why? Because he is the team’s leader, and the team is set up for him to win. If one of the other team members goes rogue, they’ll either yank him out of the race, or the team will abandon him and he’ll stand no chance. How do I know this? Because the one person who has agrued this with me the most vehemently told me so. If you are on the team, but not the leader, you will not be allowed to win. Sure, you might catch a stage here or there if it is for the benefit of the team, but the overall win is out of the question.
Now why might this be? Well, for one, as we are seeing in this day and age, I’m thinking it’s all about marketing. Who’s George Hincapie? Neither do I. But he rides with Lance’s team and won himself a stage this year. And he won it a full week before Lance got his stage win today. Is Hincapie better? Probably not, but who could tell me? No one. Hincapie isn’t supposed to win because we want our hero to be Lance Armstrong, and he sure as hell has a better story. What’s better than beating cancer and competing on a world class level in sport? Nothing. He’s the most marketable guy on the planet to ever get on a bicycle and ride through France. Ever. So he has to be the guy.
The point of this whole thing is that I have never seen such a blatant disregard for the rest of the team over an individual than I am seeing with Lance Armstrong. Sure, in America, we love our heroes. But nothing should overcome the love we have of the team spirit. Yet, for the casual sports fan who only happens to follow bike racing during the month of July every year, there isn’t even the slightest recognition for the fact that it is not an individual sport. One guy continues to be propped up as an individual champion, but he could never do it alone.