The cycling season, much like me after another night of so-so sleep, takes a long time to get going. There are the inherent false starts at first, followed the by the actual start of the day/season. This leaves time for an awful lot of speculation, rumination and close examination about topics that would get absolutely no attention from cycling fans or the press mid-season. I'm referring to things like lie detector tests, Cavendish asking about the fidelity of a journalist's wife, and Armstrong interviews, or his weird cameos in music videos (4:10 into the video).
Wait, who am I kidding, those stories would absolutely get the same amount of attention in the cycling world, even during the queen stage of the Tour de France, or as riders are entering the Arenberg Forest in the middle of Paris-Roubaix.
And in that sense, I guess the cycling media is no different from any other type of media out there. Everyone gets distracted by shiny objects.
And while I object to the tone and quality of much of the cycling media out there, I also have to say that on a grander scale (and in seeming contradiction), I don't totally mind much of it. In fact, I think none of us should. See, I can object or have an opinion about some/all of these and other stories. I can laugh about them, but at the end I think it's healthier if all of us come to terms with the relative triviality of cycling, both as an activity you engage in, and one that you follow when others are doing it. And that we see both the existence of these stories, and the obvious clamoring that exists for them.
Believe me, I'm both aware and highly interested in the deeper social underpinnings that sport can present, but I have to admit that at times, cycling is also at times a lighthearted diversion for me. This is true, even as magazines tell me the stories of countless people who have cured themselves of every serious mental ailment possible by simply riding a bike. I just think for most of us, it's better if we keep things in perspective, and if we come to terms (and admit) that cycling is often a holistic past time. It gives us something to do, something to think about. It gives us people to cheer for as well as villains, and the TMZ-level gossip that comes with them, all wrapped up into one. And by that definition (badly written as it is), what we have on our hands here is a nice past time, at least for those of us who don't ride professionally and don't make our livings from it. And there's nothing wrong with that. This all reminds me of Susan Sontag's Notes On Camp, or better yet, the reexamination of that text by Mark Booth in his book Camp, in which he says, that camp (as an aesthetic sensibility) is to:
"present oneself as being committed to the marginal with a commitment greater than the marginal merits."
And while it's inaccurate to place cycling strictly within the realm of camp (though there are some humorous points to be made there, certainly), Booth's point about the discrepancy between the subject and the attention paid to it is a sobering one to take in. And that, in turn, could lead to greater enjoyment of something that most of us first learned about during our youth. A time when the plurality and complexity of life (both inside and outside of sport) had not been made apparent to us. It's not a matter of ignoring the complex, but rather of understanding that it all fits into a greater whole. One that is supposed to be thoroughly enjoyable. The good, the bad, the silly, we take it in, and we participate because we want to, and because it should bring us joy. And I think we often loose sight of that.