Essay: On the Satire of Cycling
(2017) Sometimes the closest exit may be located behind you.
Forward thinking people often look to the horizon and think, “That’s where I need to go.” How often do people do a 180 and consider the possibilities? This idea takes so much practice, even flight attendants remind travelers to consider going the opposite direction as a safe escape.
Back in college I had a roommate who was struggling with antiperspirant. It wasn’t doing the trick for him. He went and got a prescription with the hopes the perspiration would dissipate. It did not. At this point I suggested he simply try deodorant. His body was trying to sweat; plugging up the pores was not making his day any easier. He went the opposite direction and seemed to be happy. It was an epiphany that has stuck with me until this day.
For years cyclists have been fighting a losing battle with the mainstream media regarding the cleanliness of its participants. Just when headway seems to be made, another scandal is reported and critics simply say, “See? Why should we ever think cycling will be clean?” It’s a fair point. Defendants of cycling will then restart the process of doubling down and insisting the sport is clean, biting their nails in hopes a scandal doesn’t develop just long enough for critics to have moved on to something else. I hardly need to rifle through the list of scandals to prove my point. At some point someone has to ask, “Is it worth it trying to prove cycling is clean?”
Consider the fact that the 1977 movie Slap Shot was initially intended to humiliate hockey players. The goal was to make them look like the bottom feeders of society by mimicking hockey games as circuses within a circus. Clearly the plan backfired and now NBC Sports showcases Slap Shot prior to the start of each season. Talk about giving the makers of the movie the ultimate face wash. Laugh harder than they do.
With Adam Samberg’s farcical movie, Tour de Pharmacy due out on July 8th on HBO, I think the cycling culture should embrace it. Humor is just the thing to flip the conversation about cycling. I will no longer feel obligated to respond that cycling has more testing than any other sport. And if a person snickers when I say I ride and race bikes as a hobby, I’ll take great pleasure in reciting a movie line back to them. I think it’s much the same way hockey players learned how to listen to the National Anthem with a referee chirping in his ear.
It could be easy to dismiss this satirical effort, as something that could damage cycling’s new clean image. But really, how far from busted is cycling’s image to the layperson? There’s something to be said in the fact that Lance Armstrong, the most pursued athlete for PEDs, who was cleaned out financially by his admission, has still found a way to make money off of his fizzled cycling career. (It’s a fact that I stated immediately he would find a way to remain viable to make money off of his admission.) This movie could be a good start to riders assisting themselves before assisting others during trying times. Perhaps going backwards a few steps is more advantageous than constantly trying to ram a stubborn concept through.
I’ll still be rigid about one thing though: Going down a mountain will always be more enjoyable than going up. Straight home is where I need to go.