Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Tour de France and Whine de Zorn

In general, I like Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune. I usually enjoy his column, even when I don't agree with it.

But he lost me today with his gripe about the Tour de France, especially his apparent annoyance with the media coverage of it.

You just had to go and pick on the one sporting event that actually prompts me to look at Sports section before tossing it into the recycle bin each morning!


He stuck with his argument in a later update responding to his critics.

I mostly agree with Eric's critics on this one, although his responses were interesting. I do realize that the tour isn't going to grab everyone's attention and that's OK. I am somewhat...amused...by the notion that there is too much media coverage overwhelming poor Eric's delicate anti-tour ears. I mean really, Eric's own paper has been running one tour story in the Sports section each day.

Usually on page 9 or so.

I think the Tribune publishes more words about baseball in January than it has about the tour.

Yes, the Outdoor Life Network has gone on tour overdrive, but that is just one cable channel. I haven't seen a thing on network TV.

Eric's biggest complaint is that the race isn't structured as "one big race" but is instead "split up into a bunch of mini-races." Each stage has a winner, and fans "make a big deal" about who wins each stage, even though it is meaningless in the end.

Kind of the way that baseball playoffs are not one big game, but a series of games, and each individual game has a winner, and winning one game is "meaningless" since it doesn't necessarily mean your team will win the World Series. Right?

Eric wants each stage to start with physical time gaps, so if the leader is ten minutes ahead, that rider would get a ten minute head start. Which sounds to me like proposing that game 2 of the World Series begin with the same scores the teams had at the end of game 1.

Sorry for all the baseball analogies here, but really. I don't see the point of Eric's suggestion. He doesn't like the team aspect of it, which is exactly the reason that I enjoy it. The race is a unique combination of individual work and teamwork. Winning the tour requires both an incredible amount of individual ability and the support of a great team. The team leader must have the ability to inspire his teammates to forgo their own glory and work for him. As many have noted, Lance would not have won the tour six times in a row without a terrific team. He knows it; they know it. In today's stage, it was fascinating to watch Lance's former teammate Roberto Heras drop off the back as Lance and Team Discovery accelerated up the mountain. A few years ago, Heras was one of those team members up front, setting the pace for Lance. The man is obviously capable of riding at such a pace, so what happened? I believe one of the commentators made the point that riding the tour as a team leader is entirely different than riding it in support of a team leader.

At any rate, as of right now, the "keep the tour as it is" option on Eric's click poll is winning:
  • 10.9% - Yes, jazz it up. Make it more like one long race. (38 responses)
  • 69.9% - No, it's good the way it is. (244 responses)
  • 19.2% - I don't care a fiddler's fig about the Tour de France (67 responses)

Of course, it is early in the race, so that doesn't mean anything and the final results could change.

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