In just the past decade we have witnessed an explosion in the range and depth of sports-viewing opportunities for fans here in the United States. The growth of multimedia technology coupled with the increase and variety of its availability and subsequent decrease in price has democratized the options available; no longer is the American sports fan shackled to whatever the networks and a limited range of sports networks are willing to broadcast.From the computers that occupy many a fan’s work desk to the phones which have become an indispensible pocket accessory for a large swath of the populace, we no longer have to wait weeks, days, hours… even minutes to find out how our favorite team has fared. Whether you’ve latched on to your local baseball team or your alma mater halfway across the country or even a soccer club halfway around the globe, the advent of instantaneous information has allowed us to become both more intelligent and more diverse in our spectating choices. Where once a fan like myself would be forced to cling to every international newspaper available in the county library and spotty AM radio broadcasts for a lifeline to that wider world of sports that ESPN and the Wide World of Sports chose to ignore, now all it takes is a wi-fi signal or satellite feed and we have full-season, in-depth digital access — live and on-demand 24/7…
… that is, until you don’t have the access. We are apt to take all this technological advancement for granted until it fritzes out on us. I recently was forced to come to grips with this as soon as I came home from a camping trip this past weekend. Early Sunday afternoon we were approaching Eugene from the south on the I-5 when I decided to snatch my phone from the glove compartment and fire it up to find out who had won the Tour de France earlier that morning. I hit the power button and watched as it went through its first few opening screens. The sequence was going fine until the finale, when it should’ve loaded up the home screen and allowed me access to the digital world for which I’d paid my monthly dues.
And there I’ve been for the rest of the week since, trying vainly to see if the thing would work and now left to wait for a replacement to get sorted. We don’t know what we’ve been missing until it is gone. It reminds me of the bike crash I suffered, oh… over a year and a half now. It’s amazing how life can sort things out in weird ways and prevent things which seem natural from taking place. But a series of twists and turns have prevented me from replacing the rig, dysfunctional since that Chevy van’s bumper made contact with my drivetrain. I can find other ways to get around, one reason why that vehicle keeps getting put lower on the triage scale than our myriad other pressing needs. But in this digital age, as a writer, a do-it-all phone has become a tool too invaluable to go without for this long. Just as our information has sped up, our need to attain it faster and faster exponentially increases as well.
But a Non-Traditional Sports Fan in America is resourceful. Just as I find my ways to get around (there’s a reason we were given legs, after all) so too can I find my ways to keep up to speed on the events going on around the world. I don’t catch it all, but I catch more than a sane man might deign to tackle otherwise. After a lifetime spent seeking the next new thrill to devour on the smorgasbord of sports, it’s too late to stop the gluttony now. So tuck in that napkin, grab the knife and the fork and get ready to gorge. Better yet, set down the cutlery, grab your stein and hoist it high — it’s high time we salute all that this week had to offer as we settle in to the feast…
DIFFERENT YEAR, SAME OUTCOME IN THE END…
Ultimately 2010 yielded the same top two riders at the Tour de France. Alberto Contador, perhaps even more talented than even seven-time champion Lance Armstrong was in his prime, ascended into the ranks of the truly elite with his third maillot jaunein his third straight appearance. (Had his Astana team not been disinvited by race organizers ASO in 2008, Contador likely would have made it four in a row this year — after all, he won both the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España in that 2008 season.)
In a mirror of the blessed year Spain had two years ago, the Iberian giants have once again emerged victorious on multiple fronts. Contador’s victory capped a month that saw Rafael Nadal complete his second French/Wimbledon double and Spain follow their Euro 2008 victory with the nation’s first-ever World Cup in soccer. And at just 27 years old — the same age Armstrong was when he won his first Tour title in 1999 — the Spaniard is just emerging into the prime years of his career.
Of course, in the years to come he’s going to have a hell of a formidable opponent in Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck. The Saxo Bank rider came in second again this year… and the deficit proved even more maddening when one realizes that the 39 seconds which separated the two men in Paris can be explained by the now-infamous chain drop Schleck suffered on the Port de Bales in the Pyrenees just when he was going on the attack. At 25, Schleck is now a two-time winner of the maillot blancgiven to the best young rider at the Tour. He’s getting stronger year after year, and as we saw this year only misfortune separated the two strongest riders in the peloton from one another.
Now thoughts turn to the Vuelta and the upcoming UCI World Championships in September. Who will travel to Spain to race the season’s last grand tour? Who will be the main challengers to take the rainbow stripes this year… and is current world champion Cadel Evans, who will be racing on home soil with the championships in Australia this year, amongst those favorites? Stay tuned over the next few weeks as cycling’s season does anything but wind down following the Tour de France. And if you missed the final weekend of coverage, here are my thoughts on the final four stages:
- STAGE 17 (Pau to Col du Tourmalet) –Today the Tourmalet was the mythbuster that once and for all separated the two real contenders of the 2010 Tour de France from all the pretenders that still had reason to dream about the maillot jaune. Winds and rain whipped at the riders and fog encapsulated the hundreds of thousands of fans clogging the roadside along the legendary Pyrenean mountain pass. It was serving as the final summit finish of the Tour before the road turns toward Paris — the second time it would be summited in this race as a centenary celebration of its first appearance in the route. What did the stage prove, and what did it refute?… READ MORE
- STAGE 18-20 (final weekend wrapup) – And like that, the Tour de France is over once again. It is funny how — when you’re into your third straight week of sleep deprivation after waking up to watch stages live at five in the morning, writing as much as you can for daily coverage and generally thinking about little else besides the sport — a writer can suddenly find himself all too willing to embrace a weekend away right as the race is culminating in its crescendo of catharsis after twenty-two days of questions. I found myself waking up, starting some water heating on the stove to brew some coffee… and wishing I could watch the final stage into Paris. There’s just something about missing that moment of history that can be a little unsettling after investing so much time in following a stage race…. READ MORE