By Sal Ruibal
I’m writing this before Lance Armstrong appears on the Oprah Winfrey confessional show. I’ll watch the show, but will not write about it again in this blog. I spent more than a decade reporting about Lance while at USA Today. I’ve done two ESPN Radio interviews this week and a dozen or more Facebook entries and Tweets about Lance. Lance. Lance. Lance.
Whatever is said on the show, it is not about the sport that I love. My time and my little chunk of the internet is too valuable to waste on this farce. And your time, too. We should be on our bikes, in the cold Virginia rain, having a merry old time cranking the pedals and shooting snot-rockets at the squirrels.
We should be spending time riding with our kids instead of wasting it on Facebook looking for the latest snark posting or bilious comment about people or countries we don’t really know. This is how great cultures decline. Bread and circuses. Action heroes. Military exploits. Conspicuous consumption. TV specials. Star confessionals.
There’s nothing special about TV. TV can’t give you the experience of breathing the chill air of an Oregon forest in a mountain bike ride with a bunch of locals. It can’t simulate the heartbreak of letting your team down in a 24-hour race. TV never changed a flat for a friend or put a hard push in the small of your back in the last lap of an office park crit.
All this cable-channel brouhaha is about is money. Oprah money, Lance money, Discovery money, UCI money, money, money, money. You can buy a bike for tens of thousands of dollars, but it’ll never ride as great as the one your Dad bought your for Christmas when you were 12.
I know I’ll never have a bike that meant as much to me as the Schwinn my grandmother Maria Timotea Esquivel Ruibal bought me for my 14th birthday. She was a pioneer woman who wasted nothing and wanted nothing. She picked up coins she saw on the street and saved them in big gallon jugs in her basement. She hauled out a bunch of those jugs to Alkire’s Bike Shop and bought me my first bike that wasn’t a hand-me-down.
What you saw on TV last night and what you’ll see again tonight is just a mirage, an image of a world that is projected on our hopes and dreams. Wake up!
The bicycle is one of the greatest inventions of the human race. It is almost perfect in its utility and ease of operation. It can take you just about anywhere — even Hell — if that’s the road you choose.