Monday, July 30, 2007

Only The French

Someone must explain to me why the Tour de France is 20 stages. I watched the 19th stage, a time trial, and at the end of the broadcast the announcers said Alberto Contador (don't ask why he is kissing something from my grandmother's china set) had won the entire race. How is this possible? The guy had nearly lost his 2+ minute lead only moments before but he was declared the winner with one day remaining in the race. Cadel Evans of Australia and Levi Leipheimer of the USA (the guy on the right in the above picture) were within 23 and 31 seconds, respectively. If it weren't for tradition yesterday's 20th stage through Paris had the making of a phenomenal finish. Alas, there was none.

A lot of people have grown disinterested in the Tour de France because Lance Armstrong is no longer riding and everyone that is left makes Barry Bonds seem like an honest person doing it with only God-given ability. That of course bothers me but I can't believe the last day of the race does not matter. I have never seen the NFL skip the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl and declare the score at the end of 3 quarters the final tally. Likewise, I have never been to a baseball game that skipped ahead to the post game celebration after "Take Me Out To The Ballgame." Hell, I can't think of any other sport, or activities that call themselves sports (e.g., fishing, bowling) that don't count the final minutes of action.

It's common to rail on sports whose winners are determined solely by judges but at least ice skaters are given scores that matter on each and every triple salchow, even the last one. The cannonball entry into the water on the last dive does hurt a diver's chance of winning gold. A gold medal winner of the 1,500m race at the Olympics is declared just that after all 1,500m have been completed. No sooner. The idea of clutchness has never entered the lexicon of the Tour de France. The last stage is for champagne and hand-holding. I will never understand but am not the least bit surprised that it's the French that advocate such a finish to a grueling sporting event.

(Photo from Peter DeJong/AP.)

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