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Tour de France

I don't know why listening to the Tour de France broadcasts on the radio makes me happy, but it does. Maybe it's because a lot of the music between reports is fresh and different to me. A lot of it stinks, but we don't hear a lot of French music the rest of the year. You never know when you may hear something that's really good, or takes you back to that French vacation in 1984. Or maybe it's because Radio Tour de France being on the air means that it's summer, a fact of which we've had scant evidence otherwise around these parts.
Most likely, though, it's because the Tour de France is a sports event that actually matters. I mean, football, even when played well, is just an entertaining game. Tennis is fun to play but I don't find contemporary tennis interesting to watch. The Tour de France, though, is a gladiatorial gruelfest in which the strongest of the strong suffer, and occasionally die. It's one of the hardest tests of the human body and mind, especially when the caravan enters the Alps or the Pyrennees.

When they do, I will spend less time listening and more time watching it on TV, because that's when the epic suffering starts. I think my enjoyment of this, sick though it may be, is related to Dsquared's observation that he likes sports like snooker and darts because at the highest level, where the players can safely be assumed to be evenly matched, watching it amounts to watching

...over the course of a couple of hours, the complete psychological destruction of a human being. Which, in all honesty, probably means that Pinker the Thinker might have had a point in coming up with an evolutionary pop-psychology explanation of the putting green. This also fits as a psychological explanation of what I like about boring sports, because it fits an out-of-sample data point; the only exciting and physical sport I like is boxing, a sport which is also entirely about the destruction of one human being by another for the entertainment of third parties. This would rather tend to have the conclusion that I'm not a very nice person, but that information has always been free for the asking.

Cycling's like that: all Tour cyclists are made of the best stuff that genetics and training can create, so the match is decided as much by who is the most devious, calculating bastard (Armstrong) and who can deal the hardest psychological blows to Jan Ulrich the major contenders (also Armstrong). But in addition to that, you can see the athletes broken down physically as well. It's the best of darts and boxing combined!

In fact, the only sports event I enjoy more is one that requires long spells of Arctic frost to take place at all. The Frysian Eleven Cities Tour, a skating marathon on natural ice covering the canals of the province of Frysia, is another one that separates the men from the boys, then the supermen from the men, then the ultra-supermen from the mere supermen. That's one I stay at home to watch.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on July 5, 2004 4:41 PM.

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