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Tour de France Recap, Week 1 Friday, July 11, 2008

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Posted 11 July 2008 - 12:52 PM

Tour de France Recap, Week 1
It's not about the bike(s).

After a solid week of racing concluded this morning I am reflecting on the first week of the Tour this year. As some of you may know I am a huge fan of the Tour de France. It's such an amazing time each year to wake up at 7:00AM to watch a sporting event. It's unusual at first to be watching a sporting event with your morning coffee and breakfast rather than in the evening with beer and Buffalo wings. Not that I ever really engage in the latter, but I have seen it done on TV. Oh, My Boys!

The Tour is televised in America on Versus, a television channel I wish that I never had to watch. Unfortunately for me it happens to be the exclusive network for the only two sports that I watch: Cycling and NHL Hockey. Yeah, I'm the one who watches those sports. So for three weeks every summer and a few nights a week during the fall, winter, and spring, I tune into Versus. For the remaining 92% of the year not occupied by either of those sports it is generally playing bass fishing, bull riding, deer hunting or some other sport that involves torturing or murdering animals. Also it plays WEC Wreckage which features humans torturing and murdering themselves which is a little more appropriate, I suppose.

A few years back Versus made the decision to add Al Trautwig into its mix of Tour de France commentators. Originally (well, originally for me) the lineup was much simpler: Phil Ligget, the wise old sage of bicycle riding who often refers to "the suitcase of courage"; Paul Sherwen, who is Phil's younger experienced former rider with great color commentary; and Bob Roll who is a madman that has frantic hand gestures and sometimes rides a bicycle in the nude and offers a much more twisted color commentary to counter the relative sanity of Paul Sherwen. At first, I was no fan of Al Trautwig. In fact I decided to start calling him Al Basshat, which at the time I thought was an extremely clever and cutting commentary on the lack of respect I had for the man and his function on the team combined with a brilliant twist on the phonetic breakdown of his last name. Eventually Trautwig grew on me during the Tour de France and as a commentator for the New York Rangers. So it was that I stripped him of my mark of shame and refrained from calling him Al Basshat, a testament to the respect he had earned with me.

This year I was surprised to see a newcomer to the Versus group: Craig Hummer. Hummer, for one reason or another, was brought in to replace Trautwig. Apart from having a very silly name, Hummer does not lend a heck of a lot to the group. His chief responsibility apart from moderating a group that really doesn't need any moderation, seems to be calling Bob Roll "Bobke" about a hundred times per telecast. Sometimes he calls him "Bobke" twice in the same sentence. There is never a time when he is speaking to Bob Roll where he does not throw in a "Bobke" at some point just in case the viewers were confused about who he was addressing or what the asinine nickname was that he insisted on calling him.

Versus spends a tremendous amount of time appealing to the dumbest portion of the American sports audience (that's quite a statement). I'm not terribly afraid of any of them seeing this and getting offended because I'd be willing to bet the vast majority of the people watching Versus's non Cycling coverage cannot read. Everything on the channel is about how awesome and macho men are and how painful all the sports they show are. Cycling does not have a great reputation as being badass. That's not to say that falling off a bicycle at 38 miles per hour, or climbing up the Alps, or riding over 2,000 miles through France is not difficult and grueling. It's just that they don't wear boots or cowboy hats when they're doing it. Instead they wear tight spandex and that makes macho men feel very uncomfortable.

Like all sporting events on television, commercials are high in quantity but low in quality and variety. Therefore you get very familiar with about a half dozen commercials played in heavy rotation. Last year we suffered through 648 viewings of the blue Scotch painters' tape commercial. This year here's the crop we're looking at:

1.) Macho, Macho Men



This is an extension of the incredibly lame website designed to "Take Back The Tour": http://www.takebackthetour.com/

All the text from the site is found on the commercial. The purpose is twofold: 1.) fool people into believing that cycling is SUPER HARDCORE and 2.) stick it to all the boneheads who were doping last year and make it clear that the cyclists involved this year are not going to stand for it! Not anymore! Especially since most of them are former dopers! Did we mention how hardcore cycling is?

Every interview with every rider and every team manager this year is about how awesome they are at making sure no one is doping. Boy is it going to be embarrassing when people start getting kicked out of the race this year!

2.) Brand New Start



This commercial is pretty meaningful (if you know who any of those people actually are, if you don't it's just confusing) and actually quite moving the first time you see it. Then you see it 65 more times before the end of the day's stage and you grow to hate it intensely. When I record shows on TiVo I sometimes forget to fast forward through the commercials. Every time I hear this guitar and vocal combination it sends a signal straight to my brain and my hand unconsciously snaps at the TiVo remote to hit the skip button. Luckily this is the one minute long version and the one that actually airs is only thirty seconds.

I'll grant you that all the guys in this commercial are disgraced former riders but somehow this still seems disrespectful to them to basically highlight how they're all dopers.

I'm also struck at how much the song reminds me of This is Our Country from that pickup truck commercial. I always expect this commercial to end with the line, "This is Our Country" which wouldn't make any sense but would either make you want to buy a Chevy (or Ford?) or just make you remember how much you dislike the music of John Mellencamp. Or is it just me?

3.) Armor All Commercial with Some guy!



Every so often Versus reminds you that you are traveling in uncharted waters. I don't own a pickup truck and I'd hazard a guess that I never will. I'll also hazard a guess that I don't know who the hell that guy is in this commercial. Everyone in this commercial is in awe of this guy so I'm going to guess he is famous. He's famous to people who would be watching Versus and to these yokels in the commercial so I'm going to assume he's achieved his fame by either wrestling antelope or racing some sort of vehicle (my money's on a tractor). I guess it doesn't matter because I am a horrible self-loathing hippie-type who lives in New York City and will most likely not need Armor All any time soon. And if I do move to an area which requires me to have a car I will use my past level of eagerness to attend to general automotive maintenance to assume I won't need Amor All then either.

4.) Saab Repetition



Question: What's worse than seeing a commercial ten times in an hour? Answer: Seeing a commercial that repeats itself three times, ten times in an hour! This is by far my least favorite commercial in the group. Last year (to the day actually) I wrote this article about how much I hated Saab's Born from Jets ad campaign. If I knew then what I know now I would have kept my big mouth shut and let them continue on with that line of ads. Saab, squeezes all of the fun out of the sponge of life. Saab, squeezes all of the fun out of the sponge of life. Saab, squeezes all of the fun out of the sponge of life.

5.) Video Professor (How to Buy and Sell on eBay)



This is advertised as a brand new product. I discovered eBay from my dad's friend in 1997 and I put anything about computers that I discovered over a decade ago from a baby boomer well out of the classification "New". Video Professor has been around forever, hawking his CD-ROMs to poor unfortunate people sad enough to spend money to learn from this guy. That being said I feel really bad for the Video Professor. My heart aches every time I see his commercial and hear him at the very end as he whimpers, "Try my product." If I send him a check for $10 do you think that would help? I really don't want to try his product, but I want to support him nonetheless.

Maybe I should put a PayPal donation button on my site for Video Professor. Poor guy.
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Posted 11 July 2008 - 01:12 PM

Good article, crazy about the Saab year-ago-to-the-day coincidence, Tony Stewart is a NASCAR driver, says the Wikipedia. I like the look of him, I gotta say. Tallish fat guys with dark hair always seem awesome to me. And also: The Tour de France started?
"I've come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass. And I'm all out of bubble gum."
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nooooo
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Posted 11 July 2008 - 07:17 PM

I've heard about Saab's add, which is bizarre because the official car of the tour is Skoda...

Manuel Beltran is already in trouble, which is bad for Liquigas.
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Posted 12 July 2008 - 07:24 AM

I'd like to see some Skoda ads. I see it written on every racer's backside but we don't get Skoda ads here. It's likely because I don't think there are any Skoda cars here in the US. Not that I've ever seen.

Manuel Beltran? Liquigas? What commercials are they from? wink.gif
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Posted 12 July 2008 - 07:34 AM

Ahhh, the coverage of the Tour just started here at 8:30AM EST. Just saw about Beltran. I called it in my article yesterday!!! Woo hoo!

Except now they're calling him "Tricky Beltran," constantly as if they'd never called him anything else. I've never heard him being called Tricky before today. What with the revisionist history?

We've always been at war with Tricky Beltran.
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Posted 12 July 2008 - 08:59 AM

Hey chefelf, try this link, but only during the action...
mms://ulswmod003.bcst.uls.yahoo.com/slot016?StreamID=42339832&pl_auth=b64a59543684ff38cf7d809706d8166&ht=30&b=dnsd

It's live eurosport feed, and versus always tries to shut it down because they are paying for US and Canada ditribution rights and don't want competiton. The Eurtosport commentary is not better, just different, and almost no commercials. All the commentators sit right next to each other at the finish and they all listen to the same race radio and get the same video feed. They share a lot of info, Phil lLigget was talking to Sean Kelly a couple of days ago about Paul Sherwin's racing days and their respective finish times up Super Besse when they used to race together. Liggett and Sherwin also do commentary for ITV4 in the UK.

Beltran has been called Tricky for many years, but I don't know why.

Skoda commercials show the peloton from the air, and then you suddenly realize that the group have reorganized themselves to look like a side view of a car driving along. It takes a few viewings to realize that it is a car actually.


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Posted 12 July 2008 - 09:06 AM

Ahh, thanks for the link! That is some good commentary.

Now they EXCLUSIVELY call Beltran "Tricky" and nothing else!
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Posted 12 July 2008 - 02:35 PM

I just watched that "Brand New Start" clip in your youtube link. What crap. They include Pantani and Riis, (that's going back a few years) but of course don't mention their own commentator Frankie Andreu (now retired of course, but Ullrich is retired too, and Pantani is dead). The biggest pussyfooting revision that they have done is to edit out David Millar from the montage that they show on the Versus TV commercial, just because he is on a US sponsored team.

Take back the tour, or don't take back the tour, but don't pick and choose your scapegoats for political reasons. That's the exact hypocrasy Versus is pretending to protest against.

Here is another video to end on a lighter note

http://www.youtube.c...h?v=xExO0O_ZNog

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