People used to ask me directly to promote their stuff. “Could you do a story about …” they would say.
“Sure,” I’d say. Then they’d tell me the topic with their slant on how they wanted me to publicize it and puff it up and I’d go home, sit down on the computer, and do the exact opposite.
It’s not that I was trying to be mean, it’s that I am, like Herr Settembrini in Thomas Mann’s “Der Zauberberg,” a contrarian. If you tell me to go to the front I will slink to be back and shirk. If you tell me to sit in and wait I will dash to the fore and shove all the timber in the fire in the first five minutes of the race. “Go up!” and I’ll go down. “Go down!” and I’ll go up. Etc.
Being perverse in this way meets very basic dictates of evolution. I once read a study, or perhaps I just imagined it, about how if you left a certain kind of trout in a tank he would eventually try to jump out of it. That never ended well for the trout in the experiment because outside the tank was dry ground.
“Why did the trout always try to jump out?” the researchers wondered as they penned another grant application for $5 million dollars. The answer seemed to be that in the wild, a trout stuck in a river pool could only escape by jumping out. There was a chance he’d jump onto dry rocks or dry land, but as often as not he’d flop onto a rock, flop some more, and flop his way back into a neighboring rivulet and then swim happily on his way to spawn more trout babies.
Contrarianism is this way. It will often land you in hot water in the artificial world of marketing and blogging, but in reality, flopping out of the tank into parts unknown is the only way anything good has ever happened or been invented. A committee didn’t invent the light bulb.
Bike racing at the professional level in the USA simply doesn’t exist, if by “professional” you mean “steady job and steady paycheck that you can live on.” If you are a pro racer in America you are living with your parents or girlfriend-boyfriend or slumming on a couch. There’s no way you can make ends meet racing your bike unless the ends are very, very, very, very close together. Which they never are.
So this weekend, March 18-19, there’s the first iteration in the modern era of a US pro track racing series. It’s being held at the Carson/Home Depot/Velo Center/Velodrome and it’s going to showcase some of the country’s best track racers in a race series. Details here.
Whether or not this will work is a very open question because it depends on people caring about something that no one in America has cared about for a hundred years: Bicycles going around in circles on a track. There are all kinds of explanations as to why no one cares, but my favorite is this: People grow up watching pass-ball on TV and watching their parents go apeshit over pass-ball and listening to hours and hours of blather about pass-ball and so they, too like pass-ball. People don’t grow up watching track racing on TV (or curling or badminton or ping-pong or toenail shaving) and they don’t grow up watching their parents go apeshit over track racing and listening to hours and hours of blather about track racing and so they, do, don’t give a crap about track racing.
You certainly can’t fault the mechanics of the sport. Racers speeding by inches from your face dressed in colorful underwear as they sprint for money and glory while bumping and gliding and occasionally falling off their bicycles in thrilling smashemups is about 10 billion times more exciting than watching grown men standing on Astroturf chewing tobacco waiting hours for someone with a stick to whack a tiny ball.
Nor can you fault the sport’s complexity. Unlike stick-ball and pass-ball, which require advanced degrees to even begin to understand what’s happening, bike racing is simple. Fastest guy pretty much always wins. Sure there are points and stuff to clog your brain from time to time, but after a few beers who cares anyway? Keep your eyes glued on your favorite colorful underwear and watch ’em go.
And this is the main point. At a velodrome like the one in Carson you can hang out with friends, have a drink and a bite, and watch some pretty thrilling stuff, and at $25 a ticket it’s slightly cheaper than the $123.40 average ticket price for watching the New York Giants lose another game of pass-ball while drinking a $15.00 cup of beer and eating a $9.00 hot dog and paying $30.00 to park your cage.
I plan on going to the races this Saturday and hope you do, too. We can watch these guys and gals flop out of the tank together.
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