Fairytales, cover-ups and sporting fantasy
I don’t cycle. I haven’t ridden a bike this millennium. I look terrible in tight, fluoro coloured lycra. I’ve never shaved my legs – my razor would never forgive me.
I hate waking up before dawn, and I prefer my morning coffee with a bacon and egg roll, not sweating like a bank robber after a 75km ride.
Heck, I’ve never actually owned my own bike.
All that said, I am completely, totally and utterly obsessed with the Tour de France and, in particular, the Lance Armstrong doping story.
I was never an Armstrong devotee and I was a fan of Le Tour prior to his rise to prominence. Despite not being a cycling aficionado I was drawn into the history and tradition of the sport, the team versus individual dynamic, and the fact it’s the most physically gruelling test in sport.
The Armstrong narrative just made the Tour all the more extraordinary. Young, brash Texan rising up the world cycling ranks is diagnosed with cancer. He fights back to beat the disease, and even more miraculously, returns to the sport and ‘wins’ seven consecutive tours.
He puts cycling on the map in the US, raises hundreds of millions of dollars for cancer research and awareness, sues anyone who so much as raises as eyebrow over his stunning results, and pisses off all of France.
What’s not to like?
Ever since the release of the USADA Reasoned Decision in October 2012, I have been enthralled with the Lance Armstrong doping story. It is simply fascinating. This wasn’t just about a guy getting a competitive edge, this was Michael Corleone taking on the other New York families.
I immediately purchased ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ and ‘The Secret Race’. I couldn’t put either of them down. And then I re-read ‘It’s Not About the Bike’ and WOW – incredible in retrospect. It’s like reading the New Testament after it’s revealed that Jesus of Nazareth was a local con-artist.
Most recently I was glued to the Lance versus Oprah interview, which got me thinking about the biggest cover-ups in sport. With that in mind, here are my top five sporting fairy tales:
5. Back to the future
It’s the year 2120, and tennis in the United States is totally decimated. There are no juniors interested in the sport, they haven’t had a Grand Slam champion in over 100 years, and Nick Bollettieri’s tan is starting to fade.
In an act of desperation, officials commission a cyborg to return to the 1990s in the hope it will win multiple Slams, breaking an array of records and cementing tennis as the USA’s sport of the future. The cyborg is affectionately known as ‘Pistol Pete’.
Catching wind of their cunning scheme, European counterparts, using neutral Switzerland as their base, send back a more advanced cyborg – ‘Roger’ – scheduled to arrive as Pete’s batteries begin to fail.
Roger proceeds to crush Pete’s records and set a new benchmark for tennis excellence. US tennis never recovers.
4. Happy birthday to you
LeBron James is without doubt the best basketball player on the planet. His combination of size, quickness, athleticism, durability and basketball IQ is unparalleled. He was a phenomenon in high school, dominating his contemporaries and making the transition to the pros seamlessly.
In years to come it will be uncovered that Nike, having forecaste the steady decline of Jordan, the adultery of Tiger, and the doping of Armstrong, planted a 25 year old LeBron in high school to generate the next sporting superstar.
3. Messing with your mind
Back to the tennis, and after watching yet another round of Eastern European mind meltdowns in the women’s draw, I am convinced that 50 years from now someone will discover documents that expose the biggest doping scandal since the Lance Armstrong era.
Former KGB doctors administered human growth hormone to thousands of female Slavic children in the 1990s, without realizing the serious side-effect of pre traumatic stress disorder (total mental capitulation in the face of the slightest amount of pressure).
The net result of this human experimentation is the most frustrating and boring era in the history of women’s tennis.
2. It’s all in the family
The Mortimer family name is ingrained in Bulldog folklore. Brothers Steve, Chris and Peter are synonymous with the club’s most successful and dominant period in the 1980s. In 2009, seed of the Mortimer loin Daniel trotted out for hated rivals Parramatta.
Little Daniel debuted mid-season with the Eels languishing mid table, but a strong run of form saw them finish in eighth position and qualify for the grand final. Mortimer contributed 10 tries from 16 matches, and the Blue and Gold Army were ecstatic.
Not only did we have the hottest young half in the country, we stuck it to the Doggies who couldn’t believe ‘Morts’ turned his back on their club. The following season Daniel was exposed as an overpaid, undersized and limited rugby league player and languished in the reserves while eating up the club’s salary cap.
At the 2012 Mortimer family Christmas party, father Peter gave Daniel a big pat on the back. His uncles raised their glasses and toasted the latest in the Mortimer line to stuff up the Eels.
1. Did that really happen?
Remember the last day of the 2011/12 English Premier League season, when Manchester City were 30 seconds away from sending their club into an irreparable tailspin, only for Kun Aguero to score with the final kick of the game, thus denying cross town rivals United another championship?
That never happened.