Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Leave Phil Liggett Alone (Again), !@&dammit!

Fine, Phil Liggett said today he thinks the young peloton is clean, and of course, now everyone's piling on him for it and for his years of denial about everyone else. Let's get this straight--!@#$ off! Lookit. Phil is the sweet innocent kid whose sadistic smug bastard of a big brother just told him there's no Santa Claus. (Okay, like ten years ago, but still.) He has heard the words, he has seen the proof, he has seen the fake beard and cheap red suit in his parents' closet, and nonetheless he believes. He is marshalling every bit of evidence in his favor. There are presents under the tree. The milk and cookies left for him have objectively been nibbled at. He has personally sat on his lap at the mall. There are whole Christmas specials about the man. You can send him letters, even e-mail him. NORAD tracks him by satellite every year for Chrissakes--the government wouldn't lie! And whether you like Phil or not, we still need him. He is credulous--yes, he is a flat-out naif. But all arguments (and not all unfair or unreasonable) to the contrary, he is not the, or even really a, problem with this sport. He reminds us, with every breathless broadcast, with every unquestioning cheer, with every visceral memory of a particular local wine and particular local cheese in a particular local bar that calls up a particular stage that he talks about, that the fantastic, however unlikely--and however brief if it is likely--can still occur. That years of relentless dedication can lead to one perfect suspended moment, that eight people with completely different interests and skills and egos and desires can yet unite for a few short hours in a single goal, that physical effort and achievement--so far from those of us who can't bike out of our own driveways without gasping for a water bottle and power bar--can be its own kind of art, that one stupid random millimeter can snap a life's work to pieces in an instant, that the fleeting fragile beauty of this sport, however flawed and worldly and conflicted and dirty and downright mean it can be, is nonetheless something worth cherishing. Otherwise, why do any of us care about any of this? Every dream needs its dreamers--don't blame him, even now, for not being the cleanup crew. We still love you Phil!

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