Sports columnists Ron Borges, in his wondrous
MSNBC column today, posits
that Lance Armstrong is not a great athlete, and may not really be an athlete at
all. All Lance does, he says, is ride a bike.
Here's our first clue that Ron might not know what he is talking about:
"Does the ability to sit on a skinny bicycle seat for hours on end and pump your
legs like a madman make you a great athlete or merely a guy who does better
without training wheels than most people?" Yes, Ron, it does. Of course, to be
fair, you would also have to add in another few facts (can you say "research"),
- Armstrong's resting heart rate: 32-34 (Just average for an athlete, Ron)
- Time trial pedal rpms: 95-100 (Ron, that's about one and a half
pedal turns per second)
- Climbing rpms: 80-85 (That's about one and a third per second)
- Length of this year's Tour de France: 2073 miles in 23 days (Yeah, but
there are two rest days in there, and Lance has only won three of these so
Still not convinced? Okay, how about this one? Ron says: "That a man can race
around France on a bicycle and live to tell about it is a noble feat, although
I'd think more of it if he actually was (should be "were" Ron) using his feet."
Gee Ron, what part of your body goes on that bike thingy - what's it
called? Oh yeah, the pedal.
Ron also says that Lance's abilities just don't measure up to other sports
stars. No argument that Ron has named some stellar athletes in his feckless
comparison, but I have my doubts whether any that he mention could pedal from
Los Angeles to around Cleveland, one hundred miles a day straight through,
trying to beat almost 200 other finely trained peers doing the same thing.
Ron also conjectures whether Lance could do as well "if someone was playing
defense." (Ron, you really ought to brush up on your use of the subjunctive.)
Well, let's put this in terms you can understand. In football and baseball, you
must play against one other team, in one game that lasts, oh, a couple of hours.
Basketball, same. In tennis, one other player. Not so in cycle racing - there
are twenty other teams you defend against, nine team members each, every day for
three weeks, six hours to seven hours per day, pumping your legs up and down as
you put it, in the least amount of time. Defense?
We'll just pass on your nasty little remark about how an unannounced doping
test might spoil a win for Lance, okay? That's obviously just pedal envy.
Instead, let's move on to your idea of what makes the greatest athlete:
"...strength, speed, agility, hand-eye coordination, mental toughness and the
ability to make your body do things that defy description."
Well, how about we look at today's Tour stage, from Aime to Cluses (a measly
88 miles), with downhill speeds surpassing 60 miles per hour (that's on a skinny
bike, Ron) with 10,700 feet of climbing mountains (that's pumping your legs up
and down in the Alps, Ron). Oh yes, and the riders completed it in about six
hours. Making the body do things that defy description? Asked and answered.
At least you do pull yourself out of it long enough to say that if Lance wins
his fourth Tour de France, it "is deserving of praise and recognition." But if
you think that cycle racing is a fringe sport that a few media people are trying to
jam down your throat, or about which "most of the sporting world could care
less," then I have a little advice: First, visit Europe. Then either go back to
sports school, or be prepared to jump out of the way. It's here, buddy, and you
need to get good at reporting it. I suggest you get started now.
Research thanks to letour.fr and lancearmstrong.com.
Note: I'm guessing MSNBC Sports got soundly spanked today, as they have now
published a "counterpoint"
article by another contributor, pointedly trying to soften the noxious
ramblings of the first. They also wrote to Armstrong's organization to make sure
they knew about it. Read it for yourself - if you are still an MSNBC Sports
reader, that is - but beware of the wolf in sheep's clothing.
Whether you love him or hate him, Lance Armstrong rates more credit than
providing "some sweet background noise every July;" little things like the his
Lance Armstrong Foundation's Ride for the Roses Weekend or say, the
worldwide attention he brings professional racing. This article also tells
us "we don't care" about Lance or the USPS team, and how we will cheer "not a
lot, but a little" next July when he shows up again... Nice try.