Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tour de Couch's memories of sport + Week 2 TDF – the beauty/not so beautiful

The strongest memory I have of crying about sport comes from my childhood. Passion for it too.

I remember the tears falling when Terry Lamb decapitated Ellery Hanley (Canterbury – dog/new tricks?) and Balmain lost the Grand Final. Or was it the year after when Balmain farewelled a retiring Wayne Pearce with a loss to the Raiders? It was all such a loser like blur.

I loved playing too. I was a bit above average at everything I tried, and I tried everything. I was also a better than average tennis player. But I remember a match where people on the sidelines were making comments about some of my poor shot choices in a doubles match with my best friend; they couldn’t believe I lost it…for her. I stopped playing competitive sport after that (other than s*its and giggles touch footy at uni etc), and for my last two years at high school where sport wasn’t compulsory and we could choose ‘recreation’, I ‘played’ ten pin bowling every Wednesday sports afternoon with friends – we’d play for an hour and shopped the rest of the time.

But then I studied Sports Management at university. I think I had visions of being a sports journalist. I learnt quite a lot about not just the business and the science of sport, but also the sociology and history of it. After this came work in the Australian sporting industry.

For some, it made no difference, for me, sport lost its glow. I realised it’s not some mystical/mythical phenomenon and that a bunch of people like me, or even worse - not like me and who do things I wouldn’t, play it and watch it. It’s not above society – it reflects it. Like society, like you, like me, it can be horrible. It has never been a pure pastime devoid of commercialism and it has always been a tool for governments to distract and motivate the populace. It doesn’t have the power to change society or people – it can’t (but rather people are willing to change/want change anyway, sport is just a vehicle).

You’re probably thinking, der. But don’t forget I was a little sports nut…from the country.

Sure, I still got a little blood flow when watching the Brumbies at their best. And while living in London, was patriotic at the right times - especially in the face of some racist colleagues. But other than that….nothing. (My Dad was mortified when he learnt I didn’t follow rugby league anymore). I was somewhat in a state of rebellion against the spectacle of sport.

But I remember a July night in 2005 in an insomniac coma I stumbled on the SBS coverage of Le Tour. I don’t know what it was but it got under my skin and I haven’t been able to get rid of that feeling since. Unashamedly – I loved the view. It brought back my best memory of being overseas – the time I spent in the south of France. But then a few days into my first tour, I was hooked on other things – the teamwork, the tactics, the sacrifice of some (because that is what they’re paid to do) and the toughness. I learnt what cycling is all about and I imbibed it all in big gulps.

It made me cry again too. In 2007 when Rogers crashed out of the Tour, I saw him cry as he got into the team car and he realised it was all over. I was a mess. And this week, Heinrich brought me to tears.

So of course I had to marry these feelings with my new perspective on sport. My own maturity and the Tour with its microcosm-y ways helped me see that I guess sport too can reflect our beauty.

Of course, I still don’t really like rugby league (not because of the scandals, I just think it’s boring and only liked it because my Dad did) and sports other than cycling can sometimes make me cry (Roger Federer the FIRST time he lost it….woah).

Some of the beauty: Tour de France - Week 2

1. Heinrich, Heinrich, Heinrich
2. Contador: his own “look” at Armstrong and Schleck, THAT kick and then the podium punch in the air and smile – up yours and your mind games, I’m the strongest
3. Armstrong: considering his age and the absence, awesome performance on Verbiers
4. Sorenson’s win
5. Enjoying Armstrong’s look after he crossed the line, the stare that seemed to stay, I got pwned.
6. Ivanov’s move
7. People using the tour as a way to express their pride in their culture

Some of the not so beautiful:
  1. spectators getting too close on the climb and being tools (air gun)
  2. spectator dying
  3. tantrums/comments of Hincapie supporters etc (Garmin riders got shellacking from people) whether Matt White was lying or not about why they did it – did Garmin know Astana wanted him in yellow and it was their way of saying – up yours, you can’t control everything? I’m probably reading it wrong)
  4. People’s tool-like comments on forums.
  5. Armstrong’s comments after Contador’s win. Yeah, he said he’d take a step back but not without a song and dance. His comment about having seven at home could be construed as humble, but couldn’t it also be saying “This guy’s good, but I won seven…remember? Don’t forget me..guys…”
  6. Armstrong’s performance – yeah, I’m a contradiction. While it was awesome, and I rate it, there was about 5-10% cringe about Kloden looking like his zimmer frame.

1 comment:

  1. Me again. Insightful comment,agree with most, esp the emotional side of things(that crash of mick's still haunts me and I find it hard to talk about to this day)....have been mulling over the Armstrong thing though: yes, gutsy to do it all again so well, at 37, after the break, BUT why couldn't he quit while ahead? Because he's a yank with a massive ego that just couldn't let go, and certainly wasn't back just to help Berty, so now he's got egg all over his face and I have no sympathy....he just isn't a team player. I feel better now, thanks.