Angry on the bike, bitter off the bike

This image doesn't have a lot to do with today's post, but this person's pioneering spirit, and his willingness to bring his welding helmet along in case the need for one arises, are both simply inspiring.

Some years ago, I had a job where I interacted with actors, producers, editors and directors on an almost daily basis. The job was not a good one. It was terrible actually. One of the reasons it was terrible was the amount of quiet anger, resentment and bitterness that permeated most of those I interacted with. While the productions I worked on were sizable both in scope and budget, they were certainly not Hollywood productions. That was fine with me. But I eventually learned that it was not fine with them. While I had merely stumbled upon this job, and quickly left it, these actors and editors had dreamed about doing this type of work since birth. They had acted in high school plays. They had attended film school, and had begged their parents to pay for acting classes. They had left their small towns in hopes of a life in Hollywood...or at least New York City. They told everyone back home to go to hell, as they left for supposedly greener pastures.

Fast forward a few (or many) years. These people, the ones with the big dreams, now found themselves standing in front of me, and in front of a camera that looked just like one of the fancy ones used Hollywood. But this is was no Hollywood movie. It wasn't even a movie, and we weren't in California. They were angry because they had bigger dreams at one point in their life, and being there was merely proof that things hadn't worked out. Because of this, they constantly talked about those who had "made it". They talked about which one had cheated or f_ucked themselves to the top, or to a mediocre middle in some cases. They looked at those who were one rung above them with anger. They shook their finger in disapproval as someone came on screen on a fourth rate sitcom re-run. That guy on TV didn't deserve what he had. He'd stumbled into the role. He lacked the skills, he didn't have enough love for the art. He didn't deserve it. This type of sentiment was usually communicated plainly, and sometimes with a quiet snarl.

Those who make it in cycling are so pampered, that they have a personal nose-picker at their disposal 24-7

In my experience, most of these low-level actors, editors, and directors always had this bitter edge to them. They were always tough to deal with. They threw tantrums, and their mood swings were worse than any pubescent teen you've ever met. Their reality was not what they wanted, and they were letting everyone around them know it. Much like these Hollywood hopefuls, I had also seen the same types of feelings from aspiring session musicians who I met over the years at drum shops and local music venues. I'm certain many other fields have the same types of attitudes and resentment. Cycling certainly does. While some of you may disagree, I think it's fair to say that some people who ride bikes in a somewhat serious manner have a constant and noticeable edge to them, and its not just their competitive spirit. When I see how angry, sad or bitter many people who ride bikes are, I think about the many actors, producers, editors and directors I dealt with when I had that job. They seem angry while they're riding (not just focused), and they are bitter when they're off the bike. They constantly analyze others, assess who is worthy of what they own, what they have, or what they have been offered or achieved. They question and examine other people's motives and methodologies, even doing quick mental audits of other people's bike-related belongings. This is not true of every cyclist, but certainly of some.

Perhaps there's a certain disillusion at work for some serious cyclists. Doing a weekend ride with relative nobodies, or doing small local races is not what they had in mind when they first started wearing tight shorts. There's a certain resentment and sadness at work, one driven by the same dream to "make it" that I saw in actors. This is compounded by the fact that individuals can (mostly) buy the same equipment that professionals use, while dreaming of being one rung up in fitness or ability. Combine this with the obsession that many have with the way that professionals behave, what they wear, and how they wear those items...and trouble may soon follow. The person looks the part, and honestly feels that he's entitled to be there, wherever "there" may be.

Think about the fact that there's a right way to wear your sunglasses (with the arms going outside the helmet straps) within the context of cycling. This level of detail, to my knowledge, doesn't exist in any other sport. Guys who play pick up basketball several times a week may want to have shoes like a professional's, but ask them how a professional basketball player washes up after a game, what lotions they use before a game, or how they hold a cup while they drink water, and they 'll look at you like you're insane. And rightfully so. Cycling's obsession with professionals and their behavior is highly unusual. For many, this merely ads an element of fun and mystique of the sport. Cycling is fun, so this simply ads another element to it. It's part of the game. But for others, it's downright serious, and it's merely proof of how closely they study and obsess with those who are one (or many) rungs up the ladder. Similarly, they use the same obsessive eye for detail when critiquing those below them in fitness, or below them in obsessiveness for sticking to the (arcane) rules. If they squint hard enough, the line that separates them from professionals or high-level amateurs can at times seem rather thin. At least on the surface. Never mind that the amount of training, talent and commitment it takes to get there is undeniably huge....because if you choose to delude yourself, and squint hard enough, the line can disappear all together. In some cases, and for some individuals, the line really is thin. It's perhaps here that some of the Hollywood-wanna be anger starts to set in, especially if at some point the person had dreams of what they could have (or should have) achieved. Instead they are stuck here. With us.

The dreams of the amateur (competitive) cyclist may not always be as deep seeded as those of a struggling actor, but the anger can be. Clearly this doesn't apply to every cyclist, but it certainly applies to some. Funny how riding a bicycle, which many would equate with child-like fun, can bring up these negative feelings in some. Especially the more committed that they become to the bike.

If you need more of me, and my amazingly insightful prose, remember to read my posts about the Giro in in the Universal Sports website.