With the Tour de France underway in, uh, France, so begins the time of year when people pretend to actually care about racing bicycles. (Well, that's not entirely true. People also care about bicycle racing if the following elements are in place: copious amounts of alcohol, stunt jumps, and if the bicycles are actually tricycles.) The reason why everyone in America pretends to care about the Tour de France is because of one man: Lance Armstrong. The only problem is that Lance has won the damn thing 136 times and so every year, we need new storylines to focus on. After all, we are Americans and sport for its own sake isn't enough. We need our famous athletes to be caught running whores or discovered eating the adrenal gland of a horse for their story to really land on the general public's radar. And so, with all that in mind, just what will be the particular Lance Armstrong storyline that will captures the nation's heart this year?
- THE MAN BATTLED CANCER
Ah yes, the old standby. Everyone knows that Lance battled nut cancer which quickly turned into brain cancer which somehow turned into a miraculous recovery. It's an inspirational story and if there is one thing this country loves even more than winning, it's an inspirational story. Of course, you still actually have to win. Otherwise, you're just a loser with one testicle.
ODDS THAT THIS IS THE STORY: 5-1. Yes, it's inspirational, but it's also been done so many times before that it won't be treated as the main storyline unless there's nothing else going on.
- IS THIS THE LAST RIDE OF LANCE ARMSTRONG?
Just like his NFL counterpart, Brett Favre, every year people wonder if this will be the last time that Lance Armstrong furiously pedals up the Alps while dogs and jackasses in clown suits and stilts occasionally get in the way. (Seriously, every year there's at least one accident because some drunk stumbles into the road or a dog gets off his leash. It's ridiculous.) But, just like with Brett, no one actually believes Lance Armstrong anymore. Even if he says he's retiring, he'll probably just show up next year anyway, parachuting out of a plane onto his bicycle at the starting line.
ODDS THAT THIS IS THE STORY: 3-1. People will focus on this just because they think they have to.
- IS HE DOPED UP?
Every time Lance Armstrong gets on a bike, people start whispering that he's on steroids or human growth hormone or has robot legs and a secret nitrous tank tucked away under his seat. There have been whispers about Lance Armstrong seemingly since his first race, back in 1941, when he was accused by the Nazis of having snorted the bones of a Jewish Golem for extra strength.
ODDS THAT THIS IS THE STORY: 2-1. Someone, at some point, will come out saying they have proof that Lance has secret gorilla DNA or that he is under the spell of a witch or some such ridiculous nonsense. It will happen.
- WHY DO THE FRENCH HATE HIM?
It seems like every year, the French grow more and more desperate for Lance to just get the hell out. This is not surprising given that he is an American and that he has conquered their race like a . . .(Never mind. I already used a Nazi joke.)
ODDS THAT THIS IS THE STORY: 7-1. It would have to be a pretty boring Tour if this became the story. Then again, it is bicycle racing.
WHO'S LANCE SLEEPING WITH?
Ah, the old standby, the one story that allows Americans to focus on Lance Armstrong without actually having to focus on the thing that made him famous in the first place. We don't give a damn about a dude riding a bike, but we do give a damn when there is the possibility that he could be banging the holy hell out of some random hot actress or, if we're feeling really adventurous, playing the naked bongos with bromance partner Matthew McConaughey.
ODDS THAT THIS IS THE STORY: 2-1. At some point, people will get sick of Lance Armstrong: Bike Rider and will start focusing on Lance Armstrong: Man Whore. He may be able to ride a bike with the best of them, but people will always be more interested in who Lance Armstrong is riding. It's just the way it is.