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July 08, 2005

If this is July, these must be the clueless sportswriter days

SI.com - Bill Syken: Where are Armstrong's memorable moments?

So I shouldn't let it bother me; it happens every year. But somehow, the charge of the clueless sportswriters always snares me.

This one is comparing Michael Jordan and Lance Armstrong, which, for an American audience, is not a bad thing. Unfortunately, he then goes on to suggest Jordan is greater (a defensible position) because Armstrong doesn't deliver television-friendly moments (a totally indefensible position).

This paragraph pretty much sums it up:

I tried to watch the last stage of last year's Tour, in search of such a moment. But of course by that last stage Lance had the race well in hand. The only tension that remained was whether he would accidentally hit a TV truck as he cruised the last mile.

Because I'd rather light a candle than curse Syken's dimness, a few "memorable moments" for consideration:

1993: Armstrong wins world championships. At 21, he's the youngest world champion ever. He wins in a dominating solo break.

1995: Armstrong's Stage 18 win dedicated to Fabio Casartelli. Casartelli had died a few days earlier descending the Col de Portet d'Aspet.

2001: "The Bluff" and "The Look". Even USA Today knows about these.

2003: Armstrong goes offroad to avoid Joseba Beloki's harrowing Stage 9 crash.

2003: That damn musette bag. Armstrong recovers from a fall to win stage, Tour

2004: L'Alpe d'Huez. Armstrong scorches the time trial up Alpe d'Huez.

2005: See ya. Armstrong passes Ullrich in the Stage 1 time trial.

Add your favorites in the comments.

Thanks to Josh at hyku for the link.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 8, 2005 | Permalink

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Comments

Obviously getting pulled down by a musette, then his foot slipping out of a damaged pedal, then he promptly torches everyone is the most incredible thing I have seen in sports.

Oh and did Jordan have 85%-90% of the continent he played on praying for him to fail???

Nothing Michael Jordan did is even in Lance's category. The popularity contest is irrelevant.

Posted by: Jason O. at Jul 8, 2005 5:38:28 PM

Remember the 'big' issue last year was that there was no good coverage of Lance crossing the finish line on the final stage?

All the local TV sports guys were upset since they couldn't show the footage of Lance 'winning' the race.

Posted by: Josh Hallett at Jul 8, 2005 6:23:25 PM

Wow - amazing that Syken is gracious enough to acknowledge (at least implicitly) that cyclists are "athletes." Remember the infamous article a couple years back by the Boston Globe's resident idiot Ron Borges? (Who also freelances for MSNBC.) For those not familiar with it - the original article seems to have magically disappeared from MSNBC's archives in the years since - perhaps one of our readers has a saved copy they'd be kind enough to provide? - but here's a link to a well-done response letter that captures the gist of it:

http://www.lukereport.com/letters/armstrong.htm

Posted by: EWM at Jul 8, 2005 6:24:08 PM

Anyone who thinks that Lance Armstrong hasn't delivered memorable moments simply hasn't been watching. After all, what American athlete in the history of sports has ever had an entire network practically devoted to covering only him alone (the "Only Lance Network")??

Posted by: Nancy Toby at Jul 8, 2005 7:02:51 PM

His going off road when Beloki bit it and the musette bag recovery are the two most memorable moments for me. The off road maneuver was my favorite because of the total unexpected improvisation and how it played out -- showed incredible skill and ability to adapt instantaneously and very creatively. The musette bag comeback showed sheer force of will and power, and motivation.

Posted by: Chris at Jul 8, 2005 8:36:34 PM

What about Lance overtaking Kloden at the line last year (Stage 17), well after Phil Liggett had called the stage for the German? Surely the catch was quick enough for the us attention span deficient Americans.

Posted by: Skippy at Jul 8, 2005 8:50:21 PM

Why waste time on this kind of stuff? We know that if an American isn't in contention next year, 90% of the people watching now, won't be . This writer is the standard Nascar American sports fan. But come on. Admit it. We like it this way. If it was the most popular sport in America we'd all be miserable. We like the anonymity, elitism, individualism this sports represents for us.

Posted by: Chad at Jul 8, 2005 9:20:00 PM

Wait. Let me get this straight. The guy tunes into the *last* day of a *three-week* race and expects instant drama?! He skips the time trials and the mountain stages?! Good Lord.

Posted by: JG at Jul 9, 2005 3:08:19 AM

Personally, one of my favorite Lance TV moments is when he was "Overhauled" on a TLC show called Overhaulin'. When he showed up to pick up his "stolen" 1970 Pontiac GTO, he was wearing some low riding long shorts, flip flops and a button down shirt with the bottom buttons undone. It was a windy day and the bottom of his shirt kept coming open. The view was breathtaking. The fact the man has almost no body fat and that views of said body came in peeks as the wind kept puffing at shirttails was shiver inducing.

Plus Lance was off the bike, not in bike gear and not dressed up for an awards show or interview so you got a chance to see him totally casual. (I didn't realize Sheryl Crow was to teeny. Must have a special made guitar.)


http://www.overhaulin.com/show5a.aspx
http://tlc.discovery.com/fansites/overhaulin/episode/season2/episode209/photo.html

Posted by: Devans at Jul 9, 2005 9:46:09 AM

Bill Syken is a myopic moron. There is NO need to justify LA's greatness to anyone, especially a roundball fan.

Posted by: rainmaker at Jul 13, 2005 2:44:26 AM

My husband had a photo from SI of Greg LeMond taped to his wall growing up. He went to France last year to watch Lance win his sixth consecutive Tour. I have never been much of a cycling fan, nor have I understood the basic technicalities of cycling...until this year. And I am hooked, kicking myself for not declaring myself a fan earlier.

That said, pre-2005, even I -- a non-professional sports writer unlike Mr. Syken -- have known Lance Armstrong to deliver one dramatic performance after another, year after year, in every Tour de France win he has chalked up. From his cancer comeback, falls, recoveries, surprise at-the-line victories, tributes to fallen riders, challenging stares and shove-offs...I know this -- partly because of my husband, but mainly because I live in America and I read and watch the news. Syken says Armstrong lacks drama. Lance has moved my grown husband to tears quite possibly more often than any other person or event in his life.

Furthermore, I do believe the Tour de France has only one feed of footage from which every nation must extract to piece together coverage. Surely, if the networks who had their way, they would put an in-helmet camera on Armstrong and his battalion. But such is not the case. Instead, we must rely on footage, commentary and knowledge of the sport to appreciate the intricacies of each stage. And OLN and Bob Roll's antics deliver much drama, I might add.

While Syken has the freedom to print his opinion, it should be grounded on some element of fact. His ignorance about the sport is laughable. As a sports writer-reporter for "Sports Illustrated" (I validated this as fact and his title via SI.com), Syken should at least know the basics of cycling or at least do a little research before launching a rant about the sport's greatest living legend and his performances.

Posted by: Amy at Jul 14, 2005 11:17:57 AM

I'm a runner. I'm just amazed at the cardiovascular fitness the riders of the Tour display.

Trying to decide who's the greatest overall athlete is absurd. Different sports require different skillsets. For all we know, the absolute greatest athlete ever might be in curling! Like we'd ever figure that out!

Being able to pedal at 90% VO2 max for hours, though is incredible. Runners can't do that. Add to that the physical coordination required for cycling, the strategy (ok, some of that's by radio, I admit, but still), and just the sheer force of will, cycling is impressive. And of all the cyclists, there is Armstrong. I think this year looks to be his best. Part of me hates to see him go.

And part of me is glad to have him plan to leave, so that there might be a more interesting contest. I hate myself for saying that, but I also think it's true.

Posted by: Rob at Jul 14, 2005 1:22:56 PM

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