Jul 25, 2005

foot and mouth disease

More great reporting from Sports Illustrated here on Lance Armstrong. Where do they get these guys? I can't decide if he is trying to be contrarian on purpose or he's just stupid. I remember reading this magazine when I was in high school and think it was dumb then. It's clearly not improved.
But forgive me if I don't leap aboard the P.C. bandwagon and anoint him the greatest all-around athlete and greatest athletic performer ever. I'd just be selling out so the legion of Lance lovers would love me, too. My mission, as I see it, isn't to tell you what you want to hear.
I'm fine with this. To label Lance or anyone the greatest all-around athlete is a stupid exercise anyway. But I don't understand why thinking Lance may be a contender delivers you a free ticket aboard the P.C. Express. It's clear at this point the guys got a axe to grind. If he didn't he would have similar articles about people like Carl Lewis who excelled in sports that on the surface appear to be pure mechanical ability sports (short distance sprints, long jump). And if he didn't he would mention people like Sachin Tendulkar or Donald Bradman as some of the greatest athletes ever. But he doesn't. He mentions the same old great American athletes. That's probably his beef. He just doesn't like the sport just like he probably doesn't like cricket or 100m dashes.
Armstrong doesn't qualify as the greatest all-around athlete because cycling doesn't test enough athletic talent or skill.
I see this comment a lot. It's clear he doesn't understand the sport. What I would love is for these guys to descend a mountain behind any Tour rider who is coasting. The Tour rider is only allowed to coast down the mountain. Hell let this guy pedal if he wants to. There is no way in hell he'll be anywhere in the vicinity of where the Tour rider's time at the bottom. I did this once. Behind an amateur. I thought I was going to die. But even if he does, how much athletic talent or skill should be tested? How does one quantify that? It's just a stupid comment.
And he doesn't qualify for greatest performer because his sport doesn't have the equivalent of last-second shots or throws or catches, of two-outs-in-the-ninth swings or of final-hole putts.
Such a strange comment. What the hell does a clutch moment have to do with sports or athleticism?
But is he a greater clutch performer than Jordan or Ali or Montana or Nicklaus? When has Armstrong ever been tested under huge-moment fire the way those greats were? No, he doesn't belong in the same argument with them.
I will be a lot of money he didn't watch any of the stages on any of the Tours.
Similarly, how can you debate Armstrong's place among great all-around athletes when cycling calls upon such a narrow range of ability? Does Armstrong's sport demand hand-eye coordination or full-body athleticism the way ball sports do? No. Armstrong is the first to admit he's no good at ball sports.
No we get to it. It's that damn ball sport argument again. If it's not a ball sport it's not a sport. There's no way to argue against this. It's like me saying It's not great mathematics if it's not calculus. Algebra? Pffff. Who says?
So if you want the greatest all-around athletes -- combining the widest array of talent and skill at the highest levels -- choose your favorite from this list: Jim Thorpe, Jackie Robinson, Wilt Chamberlain, Mickey Mantle, Jim Brown, Bjorn Borg, Wayne Gretzky, Bo Jackson, John Elway and Deion Sanders.
Okay so I was wrong. He did include Canada in there. He is multi-national in this exercise. But then again he probably thinks that is the 51st state.
While just about every kid in America rides a bike at some age, how many dedicate themselves to winning the Tour de France? Not many. Far more want to be baseball, basketball or football players. Competitive cycling is more popular among kids in other countries, but not in this one.
There's that American thing again. Why does the greatest athlete have to be from America?
So by all means, savor the real-life fairy tale of the little man who thought he could.
Why did he call him little if not to belittle what he's done? Wild.
But please don't condemn me as one of the "cynics and skeptics" Armstrong referred to in the first speech the Tour has ever allowed on the victory podium.
Oh so that's why he's pissed. It's because of what Armstrong said. A little touchy dude? Let's sum up. In order to be the "greatest all-around athlete and greatest athletic performer ever" you need to be American or Canadian and play multiple ball sports. I'm glad he's cleared that up for me. Once again I'll be considering that subscription to SI that I have contemplated every year since 1985. Ahh...no.

4 comments:

Chupathingy said...

Chooky,
I'm with you on this one. Bayless' shtick, as best as I can discern, is to "stand up for what you believe even though it's unpopular." His other act of lunacy was to say that Rafael Palmeiro doesn't deserve to be in the Hall of Fame because he was only "very good" for his whole career. What he doesn't mention in that particular argument is that, if that's the qualification, then 75% of the members of the Hall don't deserve to be there.

I do appreciate how you dissected his arguments, though.

The one thing that's frustrating about it, though, is that the most reasonable arguments come up short in the face of irrationality.

Nevertheless, I'll be sending him feedback in the hopes that the next time he wants to say what's unpopular, he at least back it up with, uh, logic, I guess.

On a completely unrelated note, I have to say that I was a bit disappointed that Lance took the bait and spoke (although I can't really fault him for that) and that his speech was so focused on him (going into sponsors and whatnot). I get the feeling it was impromptu, so he probably went straight into interview mode. It would have satisfied me more (and since I am the most important person in this equation, I clearly should be catered to) if his focus had been on what next year has to provide. Something to the effect of, "France, thank you for making the Tour what it is. As I look at the two men standing next to me, I know that the future of thet Tour is as bright as it has ever been." That would have been sweet.

Instead, I look to you to provide that inspiration. Thanks Chooky.

Chupathingy said...

Incidentally, I wasted some time writing in feedback as such:

http://chookyfuzzbang.blogspot.com/

I feel that I have been open-minded in reading your views, but you are getting to the point of senility and it's hard to see the logic in your arguments. At this point, it seems like you sit down at your computer and say, "What's the common viewpoint? Okay, I'm going to argue against THAT today."

I don't mind that you suggest that Lance is not one of the greatest athletes ever, even though I disagree. It's the manner in which you make your arguments that belies your senility and ignorance. This statement typifies where you are falling short:
"This calls for some objective perspective on his place in the athletic pantheon.
...
Armstrong doesn't qualify as the greatest all-around athlete because cycling doesn't test enough athletic talent or skill. And he doesn't qualify for greatest performer because his sport doesn't have the equivalent of last-second shots or throws or catches, of two-outs-in-the-ninth swings or of final-hole putts. The pressure through 21 Tour stages is constant, but rarely if ever acute."

You claim that this is objective, but there it is all subjective. You are basing your statement on subjective measures.

First, why are Jordan's skills in greater quantity than Armstrong? Jordan can manipulate a basketball, jump and can run 94 feet. That seems pretty specialized to me. It is pretty clear from his efforts on the baseball field that those skills didn't translate to any other sport. So why does Jordan get a pass and Armstrong does not?

Secondly, why does a sport need to have "last-second shots" or "two-outs-in-the-ninth swings" in order for someone to qualify as a great performer? Seeing Lance isolated by his rivals and seeing him step up to the challenge without the help of his teammates was easily one of the greatest performances you'll ever see. It was pure strength, endurance and desire that propelled him to stay with his opponents. And not to put too fine a point on it, but it was that tremendous performance that caused his rivals to concede the victory.

It's useless for you to argue these individual points. I've already assumed that we will disagree on that.

What I would like to see is that, in the future, either provide some support in your "objective" arguments, or simply state that your opinions are yours and there is no objectivity in them at all. It will give your more impressionable readers a better perspective on the content that they are reading in that they can recognize that it's not gospel, but rather one man's opinion. Thanks.

Chupathingy said...

In case that wasn't clear, the feedback was to Bayless, not to you.

Chookster said...

Thanks for the last comment. I started reading and I was wondering what the hell I wrote to instigate such a response :). Good writeup btw. I agree. His approach is too ad hoc. If he wants to do this useless exercise then he should start with what he thinks are the right metrics to judge someone on and then apply some data. And expand his horizons beyond the US shores and probably expand beyond just the men. If it was based on popular vote I'm sure some Chinese or Indian (Tendulkar) sportsman/woman would win. Even in the US you might get a popular vote winner of Sorenson due to a female vote. Let me know if he responds.