I’m always annoyed when people write things they have no knowledge of and make certain conclusions. Skip Bayless does this today at ESPN.com. He argues that Lance Armstrong, who won his 7th Tour de France, is not all that great. He’s making a case that Armstrong’s not the best all-around athelete ever (which, just to start, I’d agree with), and that he’s not the “greatest performer” (which is… well, that’s so subjective as to be meaningless) but his actual points are so bizarre and ill-informed they defy belief.
“And he doesn’t qualify for greatest performer because his sport doesn’t have the equivalent of last-second shots or throws or catches, of two-outs-in-the-ninth swings or of final-hole putts. The pressure through 21 Tour stages is constant, but rarely if ever acute.”
It’s true that bike racing is much longer, but to say that it’s not acute… what? Just for Lance, the attacks and the counter-attacks, the constant attempts to isolate and break him in the mountains — were those such a cakewalk?
But is he a greater clutch performer than Jordan or Ali or Montana or Nicklaus? When has Armstrong ever been tested under huge-moment fire the way those greats were? No, he doesn’t belong in the same argument with them.
Has Bayless seriously not watched the last seven Tours? I mean really, I’ve seen Lance do things under incredible pressure that I didn’t think were possible. It’s worn, but he is the Jordan of bike racing, a rider who faced with a climb or a time trial or fierce attacks rises above his competition and tears them up.
In dismissing the reflexes required to ride like Armstrong, Bayless writes
Yes, some hand-eye and body control are required to steer a bike at high speeds through traffic or crashes or around curves.
I don’t even know what to say here. “Yes, some speed is needed to win the Olympic gold medal in the 100-yard sprint.” “Yes, champion decathletes have to be somewhat strong.”
Yet Armstrong hasn’t had to battle the quality or depth of competition in his sport that baseball, basketball or football greats have risen above in theirs.
Uh, unlike baseball or football, bicycling’s a worldwide sport. The greatest champions — even the guys to win the Tour de France — come from all over the world. The depth of competition is far, far greater than either of those.
How can he not know that?
And within endurance sports, Armstrong has this advantage over, say, marathon runners. He’s riding a perfect piece of equipment that virtually assures he will have a perfectly efficient “stride,” even when he’s exhausted. His bicycle also keeps his joints from absorbing the shock the pavement inflicts on distance runners.
First, no, it doesn’t. Bicyclists have crappy technique. And… I don’t know if Bayless is riding cruisers with shocks or something, but the bikes people race transmit a huge amount of the shock and bumps of the roads to the rider… and over twenty-plus stages of massive distance.
But he is not the greatest all-around athlete or clutch performer. That’s no knock on him and no attempt to rain on his reign. That’s just honest perspective.
The conclusion’s not so bad, all things considered, but it’s not “just honest perspective”. It’s ridiculous ignorance on public display.