A French Kiss-Off
By Norman Chad
Monday, July 5, 2004; Page D02
Who could possibly root against Lance Armstrong in his bid for a record sixth Tour de France championship? Well, all of France -- and maybe his ex-wife. And, trust me, folks, if you are cycling against an entire nation and one angry woman, you're racing uphill all the way.
The French are unhappy that an American might become the Tour's all-time winner. Then again, the French are unhappy with Americans in general.
Armstrong is accused of using banned performance-enhancing drugs in a new French-language book by David Walsh and Pierre Ballester titled, "L.A. Confidential: The Secrets of Lance Armstrong."
In the book, a former Armstrong assistant, Emma O'Reilly, claims he once asked her to get rid of used syringes and to give him makeup to conceal needle marks on his right arm. This is not definitive proof of doping; I've asked my assistant to do the same thing after watching "I, Max" on Fox Sports Net.
For years now, the French have tailed Armstrong, hoping a bad blood sample would fall out of his fanny pack. Alas, Armstrong never has failed a drug test.
Anyway, this mirrors the overall French disposition toward America. As everyone knows, there are four traditional areas in which the French have problems with Americans:
1. We hosed Napoleon on the Louisiana Purchase.
2. When we go to France, we insist that everyone there speak English.
3. We went to war in Iraq when they thought we should stay home and concentrate on doing what we do best, which is creating really bad reality TV and really good fantasy football camps.
4. What we've done to the croissant.
(Frankly, they have a good argument on this last point, for there is a repeated pattern of culinary malfeasance on our part. France gave us the croissant, we turned it onto the Croissandwich. Italy gave us spaghetti, we turned it in SpaghettiOs. Germany gave us lager, we turned it into Pabst Blue Ribbon.)
Actually, I must admit some allegiance to the French point of view. Heck, French film is better, French wine is better, French bread is better. In fact, culturally speaking, our only real advantage over them is 7-Eleven -- you simply won't find the convenience of a microwaved burrito anywhere in the south of France. Furthermore, is there a language more beautiful than French? In French, the spoken word sounds so much more soothing.
Typical French: "C'est la poule qui chante qui a fait l'oeuf."
Typical English: "Yo, Adrian!"
© 2004 The Washington Post Company