|Lucho Herrera, Tour de France 1991 (Photo: Rod MacFadyen, who I interviewed about these pictures last year)|
In a recent conversation I had about sports writing, particularly within the realm of cycling, a well-known essay about Tennis
(Roger Federer's playing in particular) by David Foster Wallace came up. It's one I had read before, after being urged to do so by several people within the course of a month or so. But after this recent conversation, I had to revisit it. Upon doing so, I noticed one passage in particular that I think applies perfectly to cycling, and I share it with you in light of my last post about the changes in cycling, and about attempting to regress to an earlier time. For Wallace, it would appear, the sheer beauty of sport was what drew him in, and kept him engaged.
Beauty is not the goal of competitive sports, but
high-level sports are a prime venue for the expression of human beauty.
The relation is roughly that of courage to war.
The human beauty we’re talking about here is beauty of a particular
type; it might be called kinetic beauty. Its power and appeal are
universal. It has nothing to do with sex or cultural norms. What it
seems to have to do with, really, is human beings’
reconciliation with the fact of having a body.¹
Of course, in men’s sports no one ever talks about beauty or grace
or the body. Men may profess their “love” of sports, but that love must
always be cast and enacted in the symbology of war: elimination vs.
advance, hierarchy of rank and standing, obsessive
statistics, technical analysis, tribal and/or nationalist fervor,
uniforms, mass noise, banners, chest-thumping, face-painting, etc. For
reasons that are not well understood, war’s codes are safer for most of
us than love’s.
¹: There’s a great deal that’s bad about having a body. If this is not
so obviously true that no one needs examples, we can just quickly
mention pain, sores, odors, nausea, aging, gravity, sepsis, clumsiness,
illness, limits — every last schism between our
physical wills and our actual capacities. Can anyone doubt we need help
being reconciled? Crave it? It’s your body that dies, after all.
|Steven Rooks, Tour de France 1991 (Photo: Rod MacFadyen)|
|Laurent Fignon, Tour de France 1991 (Photo: Rod MacFadyen)|