Monday, July 25, 2011

Americans Need Not Apply

So the 2011 Tour de France is in the books. This was a particularly notable Tour that struck me on several levels, as it did many, as seen here.

First, was the brutality. Early stages of the Tour this year were marred with skin melting, bone breaking, muscle tearing crashes. We started with 198 riders (22 teams with 9 riders each) and we saw 31 riders crash out, withdraw, or get dropped, leaving 167 remaining. Certainly more than in years past, and ones that I hope are not repeated in the future.

Second, was the incredible leaders and lead changes. Notably, Thor Hushovd, who held the yellow jersey for 7 days, Thomas Voeckler, a Frenchman, who held the yellow jersey for an incredible 10 days, the one-two punch of Andy and Frank Schleck in the Alps that gave Andy yellow for a stage, and the winner of the 2011 Tour de France, Cadel Evans of Team BMC.

Lastly, was what I would call the "American Invasion" of the Tour. In this Tour there were 4 USA teams, BMC, HTC, Garmin-Cervelo, and Radio Shack. Now, it is certainly an accomplishment in itself to be on a TdF team, to start, and even to finish the Tour. But, to win the Tour, or one of its coveted jerseys is the ultimate. Of the 6 jerseys to win, a USA team won HALF of them (Individual: Cadel Evans - BMC, Sprint Points: Mark Cavendish - HTC, Team: Garmin-Cervelo). Radio Shack survived with only 5 riders finishing in what I would call the gutsiest performance of the Tour. Maybe the TdF planning committee will consider adding an intestine colored jersey in 2012. Maybe not.

I bring this up, as many have thought, and some still do, that cycling is a "European sport", meaning, only Europeans are contenders in the sport. Sound familiar? Any other sports that you can think have similar bias?

Well one would think that after a performance the USA had this year in the TdF it would dispel such thoughts. Just as one would have though after the USA WC team in 1994 it would have dispelled such thoughts for USA soccer. Further still, after the appointment of David Socha to two World Cups one would think USA refereeing would have some acceptance in the world's ranks. This was followed by several appointments years after as well.

No to all. It would seem that if you have an accent (other than a US one) you instantly know about cycling, soccer, and art.

One notable exception is women's soccer as both the competing teams, and referees, rightly deserve the respect they have earned as serious competitors and officials in the sport. Women's cycling however is in its infancy in the US.


I don't have a clue. Maybe it's because we have created so many other sports and the rest of the world lags in those. Baseball, grid iron football, and basketball come to mind immediately. Maybe because it's because the US is generally not liked around the world and it is a viable opportunity to "rub our nose in it." Maybe it is because we are truly not good enough to compete on the world's stage yet ... an excuse that I personally don't buy and one objectively that is dwindling as a reason.

Maybe it is because we don't have a strong professional league in MLS as compared to others around the world, or THE game has not been accepted here. Maybe it is poor support at FIFA by the Americans. After all, we could have reasonably had a referee or two (Jair?) at the 2010 WC, yet we seemed to get no help from Esse Baharmast in making that happen. We will see how Brian Hall can help us in his role with CONCACAF.

Maybe it is a "Hopelessly American" attitude that suggests things like an intestine colored jersey in the most prestigious cycling tour on the planet.

I am just speculating as like I said, I don't know why there is such a clear bias.

One thing I do know is ... there is regardless of how well we do.

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