We set ourselves up for disappointment when we idolize sports figures, and if not disappointment, then certainly uncertainty, history bearing out so many tales of villainy, even when an athlete’s achievements are singular. For me, this extends also to products, symbols within sport of both times and the characters who animated them.
My first heartbreak was the Vision Gator skate deck, the original, in black-and white. The first time I saw it, the design tickled something deep in my teenaged brain. I needed it. Forget the fact that my mother refused to allow me to skate (“You’ll break your arm.”). Of course, the board’s pro inspiration, Gator Rogowski, turned out to be a rapist and murderer. This is not the deck you want hanging on your wall.
Fast forward a few years, and I find myself lucky enough to be in Mexico for the 1986 World Cup. For those of you not fully schooled in football history, this tournament represented more or less the coronation of Diego Armando Maradona as the best player in the world at the time, and in many minds the equal or better of Pele. The official ball of that tournament was the Adidas Azteca, a ball I held, bounced furtively on my knee, and then decided I couldn’t afford. Maradona, football genius though he may be, turned himself into a philandering, coke addict, squandering much of his talent and most of his better years in the game.
This all brings us to cycling (stifles guffaw). Few sports afford quite the moral hazard (pun intended) our beloved does, and the ’90s were a great time to fetishize bad guys. I was never a great fan of the Lance Treks. The Ulrich Pinarellos on the other hand (see above) were something to behold. I also really like Ulrich’s dumb, large earring, and his slow, churning pedal stroke. Of course, Jan hardly shows his face in Germany anymore and refuses to talk about the shortcuts he took to the podium, but, well, that’s alright. The bikes looked great.
This week’s Group Ride asks, what bikes and/or equipment did you pine for, but had second thoughts based on its sponsorship associations? Keep it to cycling. Or don’t. This should be fun.