Do you remember Brian Bosworth?
He was a collegiate football star when I was a student. He played for OU, got busted for doping, got kicked off the team for being an asshole, and signed one of the biggest rookie contracts in NFL history.
He went on to flop.
Post-flop I remember reading a story about some coach or other of some team or other talking about The Boz. The story went like this: The Boz had just joined the team and this coach dude took him into a room and sat him down. The Boz was The Bored.
The coach put on a 5-minute highlight reel of the best linebacker hits of all time perpetrated by the greatest linebackers of all time. The Boz could barely stay awake. “When the film finished, he got up and left, and didn’t say anything. That’s when I knew he’d never make it in the NFL.”
“Because if you’re gonna make it as a linebacker in the NFL that highlight reel would have sent you into a frothing frenzy of excitement. You’d have gotten three minutes in before jumping up and tearing off the door. I ran that reel for every new linebacker we ever had. Nobody who didn’t go nuts ever made it.”
The Boz didn’t have it. He was just another poser, a faker, an overblown, over-rated media creature who, when the reality of the NFL hit him like a piano, crumpled and folded and became a C-list actor and then a Malibu real estate agent.
I thought about The Boz yesterday commuting to Long Beach. The night before I’d watched A Sunday in Hell. At 55, I’m pretty sure that I won’t be in the UCI Pro Tour next year.
But the energy and excitement and thrill I’d gotten from watching the war between Moser, Merckx, Devlaeminck, Demeyer, Kuiper, Godefroot, Raas, Maertens, and the giants of Paris-Roubaix had me pedaling like an insane person. I made it on my fat-tire commuter bike with backpack from the top of PV to the traffic circle in Long Beach in 40 minutes.
All I could think about were the herculean efforts of those riders, the slow shots of the strangling peloton as it churned through the dust clouds on the ragged cobbles, the screaming fans, the pain tattooed on the riders’ faces as they mashed giant gears on steel bikes, helmetless, propelling themselves through the fury of a monument en route to the velodrome in Roubaix.
This, you know, is inspiration. It cuts through the fashion, the gear, the matchy-matchy outfits, the data and the posing. It gets right to the heart of what ought to excite you if you race a bicycle. And we need this, desperately. We need it on the bike and we need it off. We need those pictures of real people reaching for the limits of what’s possible, because if you’re not a faker or a Bosworth, those are the images that will stoke the fire inside you and make you relish the obstacles ahead.
Wanna go good?
Ride yer fuggin’ bike. And watch A Sunday in Hell first.
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