Periodically, we talk about missing pro racing. It’s not that I don’t pay attention anymore. I just don’t pay nearly as much attention as I once did. And before any of you read that as some moral judgement on pro racers and/or the UCI, let me just say that that’s not it.
Pro cycling and its travails actually helped me understand on a deep level what watching sports is about. I once thought that I cared most deeply for the racing, the tactics, and the battles out on the road. Later I realized that was only partially true.
I also thought that being a cyclist was part of appreciating pro cycling, and that turned out not to be true either. The reason, I think, overlaps both with why I’m not mad at pro cycling and why the intricacies of the sport are only partly what interested me in the first place.
Simply put, sports are entertainment. They’re not wholly different from movies or books or theater. We think they are because they look a bit different, but the formatting isn’t important. What I find compelling in sports is what I find compelling in other media, that is character and plot.
Basically, what put me off of pro cycling was the disintegration of a coherent plot. The narrators all got so unreliable that I couldn’t see what was really happening and I didn’t know which characters I liked and which I didn’t. Of course, there was a moral component of that, but the morality was an overlay to the story, a way of understanding the plot. Once I stopped understanding the morality, the plot fell apart.
Incidentally, this view of sport as entertainment is, for me, at the core of disagreement with those who say women’s racing, or sport in general, isn’t compelling. Once I know the characters and understand the plot dynamic, I enjoy women’s racing every bit as much as men’s.
Anyway, what’s left to me is the scenery and topography, the places the races call home, and the terrain that created the drama by forcing the characters into action.
This week’s Group Ride asks a few questions. First, am I totally off base? I could believe that’s true. Second, what race, if you were racing, do you think you would enjoy the most? Which would you do best in? Third, if you’ve given up watching, do you see yourself coming back to it in the future?
Image: Wikimedia Commons