A couple of my friends have approached me recently, asking what I make of “this Lance mess.”
I usually reply with, “Well, Arthur’s a sap, but I don’t care how cute Gwen is, you can’t back-stab your bestie like that.”
Yeah, I don’t have a lot of friends.
And while my reply might seem to carry a hint of smart-aleckery, in truth I mean it as a poignant, thoughtful social commentary that lying, cheating Lances go back at least as far as Arthurian times.
In truth, however, I’m worried about the fallout from this century’s Lance malfeasance.
I’m speaking, of course, about former cyclist Lance Armstrong, who appeared on a talk show recently — I believe it was Maury, or perhaps Judge Judy — and admitted to cheating on his taxes, or somesuch. I didn’t really see it, nor did I have any interest in it.
I have about as much interest in professional bike racing as I have skill in it, which is to say, slightly less than none. I recall one year I tuned into several stages of the Tour de France and was rather impressed with the pretty scenery and lovely fans and that funny fat guy who dresses up like a pitchfork-wielding devil and chases cyclists up nearly vertical ascents, but you can only see so many shots of cows in sunflower fields and funny fat guys in devil suits before you feel compelled to surf on over to Maury and his latest episode of, “I’m my baby’s daddy and grandfather. And uncle. And sister.”
Throw in the fact that you have to go back to something like 1492 before you can find a Tour champion who hasn’t had to vacate his championship because of some performance enhancement of some sort, and, well, it becomes wearisome.
Which brings us to the Lance Effect.
Back when Armstrong was pumping his body full of illegal, dangerous drugs to get an unfair advantage over all the other illegally doped-up cyclists in the pro ranks — sorry; I mean, back when he was winning his seven Tour titles — interest in cycling surged nationally. Something like .00000125 percent of the population had heard of him, and at least half that many people admitted to having seen a bike at one point in their lives. This huge surge was referred to as the Lance Effect.
Now that his name has been dragged through the heaps of discarded needles and stadiums have been stripping that name — or that of his cancer-fighting charity, Livestrong — off their marquees and folks have been burning their yellow Livestrong bracelets, and cycling again is being relegated to the fringe (just kidding; it’s never been anywhere but), there’s a new Lance Effect that worries me.
I’m referring, of course, to the insipid way noncyclists — usually upset motorists, or folks hanging out on their front porches — liked to bellow catchy phrases like, “Way to go Lance!” or “Pedal faster, Lance!” or, my personal favorite, “Get out of the #&%ing road, Lance!” at cyclists who bear no resemblance to his Lanceness.
My fear is, what clever sobriquet will take Lance’s place in the noncyclist bellower’s vernacular?
I’d have to guess the second-most-famous American cyclist after Sir Dopesalot would have to be … Pee-wee Herman, who pedaled his way though a movie in search of his beloved stolen bike. Then he got busted in real life for, ahem, indiscretions with himself in an adult theater, and the charm of the childlike actor lost its luster.
But that movie was eons ago, and I’m afraid there’s a whole generation of bike bellowers who have no idea who Pee-wee was.
I guess those who feel the need to address us will have to resort to the tried and true. After Lance, the most popular nicknames for cyclists include various and sundry bodily orifices, several variations — the gerund, and a laundry list of prefixes and suffixes — of the root word for what happens when a man and a woman love each other very, very much, and, for some reason, questions about sexual preferences.
Or maybe they’ll fall back to the first — and, now that Youknowwho has been wiped off the rolls, last — American winner of the Tour.
Maybe next time out I can look forward to hearing, “Get out of the $*%ing road, Greg.”