King Kaufman’s Sports Daily

In the U.S., the Tour de France (it's a big bike race) has not survived the end of Lance. Plus: T.O. shocker -- he's misunderstood!

Topics:

So, watching the Tour de France much?

The Tour de France. No, France.

It’s a bike race. Remember? Over the past seven years, bicycle racing fans have told me, we Americans had come to love the Tour de France because of Lance Armstrong. He’d sold us on the event and on the sport.

I kept saying that what Lance Armstrong sold us on was Lance Armstrong. If he’d been a Greco-Roman wrestler, it would have been Greco-Roman wrestling, not the Tour de France, that became the signature broadcast for the cable network OLN, which hockey fans and almost nobody else know will soon be renamed Versus.

As soon as Armstrong retired, which he did after winning his seventh straight tour last year, I figured the Tour de France would go back to being one of those nice little niche events in this country, the kind of thing most of us are vaguely aware of and maybe a little interested in, but don’t really follow. Kind of like the running of the bulls or those European song competitions.

I wanted to be wrong as I snorted milk through my nose in derisive laughter at the suggestion — made to me by roughly one person per day during the last few Tours de France via e-mails that dismissed me and anyone else who didn’t love the Tour as fat, lazy, knuckle-draggers — that the event’s popularity would outlive Armstrong, that he’d changed the landscape.

That actually would have been nice. I think it’s cool when a sport noses its way into the picture in this country, even if the sport doesn’t do much for me. I’ve enjoyed how, at least during the last two World Cups and especially this recent one, soccer has finally become a part of the American consciousness in something like the way it has been predicted to do since the ’70s. Good for arena football for carving out its small but notable share of the market. Rock on, ultimate fighting.

But alas the Tour de France, and bicycle racing in general, seem to have faded a bit since Armstrong’s retirement. A clue that this was coming might have been gleaned from Americans’ cheeky habit of calling it the Tour de Lance during his run.

This is going to come as a surprise to most of you, but the Tour de France has been going on since July 2. It ends Sunday.

By faded a bit I mean ratings are down about 50 percent this year, and buzz is down by like infinity times infinity plus three.



Seriously, if you’re not a cycle-racing fan, don’t have a cycle-racing fan as a significant other, roommate or child, and are not a member in good standing of the Dave Stohler Marching and Chowder Society, have you heard a single word about the 2006 Tour de France?

Have there been regular updates on the Tour’s progress on the network news shows, as was common in the Armstrong era? Is “SportsCenter” treating the Tour as a big sporting event to rival the baseball regular season or NFL preseason speculation? Anyone mentioning it at parties? On the bus? Anything?

You don’t have to answer. This is a rhetorical conversation.

Americans, speaking generally and with plenty of exceptions, don’t care about the Tour de France, or about bicycle racing, because it doesn’t speak to us, doesn’t make sense to us in the way that the sports we care about do. That says nothing bad about either Americans or the Tour de France. It’s just a bad match.

We do like dominant champions, especially if they’re American. We like them better if they’re reasonably humble and well-spoken in front of the cameras.

We like them better than that if they’ve made a comeback from something, anything, but cancer is probably better than anything else they could come back from. And we like them even better than that if they become ardent spokespeople in the fight against whatever it is they came back from, especially if that’s a disease, especially cancer.

So we liked the hell out of Lance Armstrong, and we’d have watched him play badminton if that’s what it was he happened to do. And then when he retired we’d have promptly stopped caring about badminton, leaving OLN, soon to be Versus, your Official Badminton Network, holding the bag, if not the shuttlecock. Just as we’ve done with the Tour de France.

Now, about the 2006 Tour de France:

Hey! Come back here!

- – - – - – - – - – - -

Terrell Owens: I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way [PERMALINK]

Terrell Owens is talking again, telling Bryant Gumbel in an HBO interview that he’s misunderstood because the media portrays him as a selfish person, which of course he isn’t.

In a transcript from the episode of “Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel” scheduled to debut Tuesday night, Owens says he doesn’t think members of the media are conspiring against him, necessarily, but just using him to get readers and ratings.

Others get similar treatment, he says, but “I feel like I have been one of the main guys who’ve been vilified.”

Gumbel asks him why that might be. “That’s the million-dollar question,” he answers. “Why me?”

Actually, the million-dollar question for the 32-year-old wide receiver, who wore out his welcome in San Francisco and Philadelphia and figures to do the same in Dallas within two years, is why someone doesn’t persuade him to get treatment for his narcissistic personality disorder, of which more than one physician has e-mailed me over the years to say he exhibits classic symptoms.

And if T.O. doesn’t have narcissistic personality disorder — of course I have no idea — maybe he should ask himself that million-dollar question. Why is it that the media has singled me out?

Is it because he’s the best receiver in the league? Putting aside any argument about whether he is or not, there are other best players at lots of positions in lots of leagues who aren’t singled out for bad treatment.

Is it because he’s black? That’s never not an issue at all, but there are lots of other best players who are black who aren’t singled out for bad treatment.

Is it because he has chosen enemies who are protected pets of the media? Donovan McNabb maybe. But Jeff Garcia? Hugh Douglas?

Barring a personality disorder, the million-dollar question is what it takes for a guy like Owens to at long last say to himself, “Maybe it’s my fault.”

Sometimes the answer to a million-dollar question is a five-cent, Lucy Van Pelt-style diagnosis: You’re a blockhead.

Previous column: Baseball deadline trades, Mariano Rivera

- – - – - – - – - – - -

  • Bookmark http://www.salon.com/sports to get the new Kaufman column every day.
  • Get a Salon Sports RSS feed.
  • Discuss this column and the sports news of the day in Table Talk.
  • To receive the Sports Daily Newsletter, send an e-mail to kingnewsletter@salon.com.

  • More Related Stories

    Featured Slide Shows

    • Share on Twitter
    • Share on Facebook
    • 1 of 17
    • Close
    • Fullscreen
    • Thumbnails
      John Stanmeyer

      Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

      Container City: Shipping containers, indispensable tool of the globalized consumer economy, reflect the skyline in Singapore, one of the world’s busiest ports.

      Lu Guang

      Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

      Man Covering His Mouth: A shepherd by the Yellow River cannot stand the smell, Inner Mongolia, China

      Carolyn Cole/LATimes

      Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

      Angry Crowd: People jostle for food relief distribution following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti

      Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman

      Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

      “Black Friday” Shoppers: Aggressive bargain hunters push through the front doors of the Boise Towne Square mall as they are opened at 1 a.m. Friday, Nov. 24, 2007, Boise, Idaho, USA

      Google Earth/NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO

      Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

      Suburban Sprawl: aerial view of landscape outside Miami, Florida, shows 13 golf courses amongst track homes on the edge of the Everglades.

      Garth Lentz

      Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

      Toxic Landscape: Aerial view of the tar sands region, where mining operations and tailings ponds are so vast they can be seen from outer space; Alberta, Canada

      Cotton Coulson/Keenpress

      Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

      Ice Waterfall: In both the Arctic and Antarctic regions, ice is retreating. Melting water on icecap, North East Land, Svalbard, Norway

      Yann Arthus-Bertrand

      Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

      Satellite Dishes: The rooftops of Aleppo, Syria, one of the world’s oldest cities, are covered with satellite dishes, linking residents to a globalized consumer culture.

      Stephanie Sinclair

      Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

      Child Brides: Tahani, 8, is seen with her husband Majed, 27, and her former classmate Ghada, 8, and her husband in Hajjah, Yemen, July 26, 2010.

      Mike Hedge

      Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

      Megalopolis: Shanghai, China, a sprawling megacity of 24 Million

      Google Earth/ 2014 Digital Globe

      Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

      Big Hole: The Mir Mine in Russia is the world’s largest diamond mine.

      Daniel Dancer

      Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

      Clear-cut: Industrial forestry degrading public lands, Willamette National Forest, Oregon

      Peter Essick

      Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

      Computer Dump: Massive quantities of waste from obsolete computers and other electronics are typically shipped to the developing world for sorting and/or disposal. Photo from Accra, Ghana.

      Daniel Beltra

      Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

      Oil Spill Fire: Aerial view of an oil fire following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Gulf of Mexico

      Ian Wylie

      Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

      Slide 13

      Airplane Contrails: Globalized transportation networks, especially commercial aviation, are a major contributor of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Photo of contrails in the west London sky over the River Thames, London, England.

      R.J. Sangosti/Denver Post

      Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

      Fire: More frequent and more intense wildfires (such as this one in Colorado, USA) are another consequence of a warming planet.

    • Recent Slide Shows

    Comments

    0 Comments

    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>