King Kaufman’s Sports Daily

The last words on the Tour de France: Mea culpa! Plus: Readers weigh in with more great sports movies.


I get a lot of e-mail, and whenever I write about Lance Armstrong and the Tour de France I get a lot more of it. Earlier this year I got angry letters from cycle racing fans when I wrote that Armstrong is not the athlete Serena Williams is. In spite of the heartfelt arguments on Armstrong’s behalf I remain quite happy with that assessment. This week I’ve gotten another big pile of e-mail from many of the same folks angry over my column calling the Tour de France antithetical to American values.

And this time the Lycra set is dead right. I messed up.

I don’t mean the Tour de France is not antithetical to American values. In fact, several people who wrote in argued that the values I described — basically, win at all costs and sportsmanship is for after the game — are not typically American, and then in the same paragraph said how happy they were not to be typical Americans, since they don’t have those values. Hey, which is it? (On the other hand, one reader wrote, “Holy shit! You’ve summed up American foreign and economic policy as well. Bravo!”)

What I mean is that almost everyone who wrote in pointed out why it was that Jan Ullrich and Lance Armstrong didn’t race each other in the two flat sprints last Thursday and Friday, that it was a strategic move on both of their parts, rather than a “truce,” as I’d described it.

“By not attacking every single day Jan Ullrich is not being polite. He’s being smart,” wrote one representative reader. “Because of the kind of rider he is, it doesn’t make any sense for him to tire himself out on certain stages, because he has literally no chance of making up any time on Armstrong. By saving his energy for Saturday’s time trial he gives himself the best chance of taking the race.”

Here’s the thing: I knew that. I was trying, and really, really failing, to portray the thoughts of what I’ll call a typical American sports fan in that passage. Readers missed that subtle point because they’re not mind readers, and also because they probably couldn’t imagine I’d be doing anything so dumb. I’m sure the cycle crowd won’t believe me that I know a little something about strategy in the Tour de France, and that’s fine. It’s infinitely more embarrassing to me to be guilty of terrible writing than to be ignorant of the finer points of bicycle racing.

Many also argued that the leaders waiting for a fallen contender was not “courtliness” but self-preservation, since what goes around comes around, as Armstrong is fond of saying. Next race, you might be the one who hits the deck or has a mechanical problem, and you’ll want the leaders to wait for you.

I’ll take my chances. Next race may never come. Again, I think that’s a characteristically American attitude.

A few had another explanation for the leaders waiting for the fallen Armstrong: “Ullrich waited for Armstrong not because he was being ‘courtly,’” wrote one, “but because he really wanted to compete against Armstrong. He didn’t want to just run the course and accept the default victory.”

I’m pretty comfortable with the term “courtliness” to describe that. An equivalent in American sports would be a football receiver waiting for a defensive back who’s slipped and fallen, or a base runner stopping at third because an outfielder has injured himself diving for a ball. It’s not going to happen.

My 2003 Christmas present for all fans of Armstrong, the Tour de France, bicycles and yellow jerseys: I will not mention any of it again before 2004.

- – - – - – - – - – - -

More mail: Sports flix [PERMALINK]

Readers had many good alternative suggestions for Wednesday’s Sports Daily film festival. Here are a few, with my comments:

“Breaking Away” (1979): This was the movie my friend was talking about when she first used the term “jumping over fences movie” in my presence. It’s nice, though. Ditto “Chariots of Fire” (1981), though that one’s really pretty sappy.

“Fear Strikes Out” (1957): Anthony Perkins as baseball player Jimmy Piersall, who came back from a mental breakdown. This just missed the list. I think it’s kind of pedestrian, really. Perkins is good doing that psycho thing, but I think he was way miscast — Piersall was a two-fisted, square-jawed tough guy, not a mousy nervous sort like Perkins. And the whole thing kind of comes across as a TV movie before the age of TV movies. Passable, but “Somebody Up There Likes Me” has more goofy charm in the biopic category.

“A League of Their Own” (1987): A fairly early cut from the program. Not a bad movie at all, with nice performances and some snappy writing. But in the last reel it becomes a standard buddy picture, sports division. There’s a real interesting story to be told about that women’s pro baseball league — did you know they actually played softball in the first few years? — but it didn’t really get told here. I guess that’s OK, but the real problem was that the movie got all soft at the end. More Jon Lovitz wisecracking and Tom Hanks being disgusting, and less Geena Davis and Lori Petty hugging. That woulda been good.

“North Dallas Forty” (1979): I’ve never been able to appreciate this football flick the way so many others of my acquaintance seem to. It seems like my kind of movie, a look at the dirty underbelly of professional sports. It’s just always struck me as kind of not very good. I find myself bored silly.

“Personal Best” (1982): One reader called it “a semi-honest, enlightening look into amateur sports when such a thing actually existed at some level.” Plus: naked fit bodies and lesbianism. I saw it a long time ago. Maybe I was too young to appreciate it, but all I remember is that it was really long and involved a lot of slow motion.

“Phar Lap” (1983): I’ve never seen this one about a real-life horse that can be fairly described as Australia’s Seabiscuit. It’s sort of been on my list to see for 20 years, without ever having risen anywhere near the top of my list, if you know what I mean. One reader called it “the movie ‘Seabiscuit’ should have been.”

“Pat and Mike” (1952): Tracy and Hepburn. She’s a golfer. Great screwball stuff with dialogue that snaps like a rubber band. “Not much meat on her, but what’s there is cherce.” I just forgot about it.

- – - – - – - – - – - -

  • Bookmark to get the new Kaufman column every day.
  • Send an e-mail to King Kaufman.
  • To receive the Sports Daily Newsletter, send an e-mail to

  • More Related Stories

    Featured Slide Shows

    • Share on Twitter
    • Share on Facebook
    • 1 of 14
    • Close
    • Fullscreen
    • Thumbnails

      13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

      Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

      One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

      13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

      Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

      In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

      13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

      Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

      Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

      13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

      Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

      We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

      13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

      Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

      On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

      13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

      Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

      Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

      13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

      Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

      The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

      13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

      Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

      Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

      13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

      Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

      While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

      13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

      Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

      As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

      13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

      Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

      Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

      13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

      Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

      Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

      13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

      Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

      There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

    • Recent Slide Shows



    Comment Preview

    Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

    You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>