In the interest of Franco-American relations -- not to mention I'm a little tired of the guy and his rock-star girlfriend -- Lance Armstrong ought to do the right thing in the final week of the Tour de France:
Take a dive.
You heard me right.
Put on the brakes. Fall off his bike. Get eaten by mountain lions. Anything to stop his unrelenting, sustained excellence that's fueling more anti-Americanism around the globe. If nothing else, he should just let the kid from "Breaking Away" win it for once.
(Interruption No. 1: By the way, I don't mind a little cycling on TV, but you can see the Tour de France on the Outdoor Life Network more than you can see Burt Reynolds at the Burt Reynolds Museum. Plus, every time you turn on OLN, you get that "Merle Haggard 40 #1 Hits" commercial and -- I'll be honest with you -- "Okie From Muskogee" just has never grown on me.)
Every year since 1999, Armstrong makes it through a couple thousand miles faster than anyone. Well, it's not Armstrong -- it's the bike. Heck, Wilbur Post could've ridden Secretariat to victory in the Belmont; Armstrong just has the better Schwinn, or whatever $5,500 two-wheeler he's put on his Visa card.
(Interruption No. 2: Many debate where Armstrong's six straight Tour de France titles rank as an athletic achievement. It's quite a feat but, sadly, I lean toward Charles Barkley's five-word dismissal of it, "Anybody can ride a bike." Indeed, what are we talking about here, skill-wise? It's not like Armstrong's trying to hit a 95-mph fastball or betting a quarter-million on a 10-8 off-suit.)
Nobody can catch Armstrong. This week he'll go from Mourenx to Pau, from Albi to Mende, from Issoire to Le Puy-en-Velay, and he'll wear the yellow jersey at every stop.
(Interruption No. 3: I like the idea of the leader wearing a yellow jersey. They should have that in real life. For instance, I think Bernie Ebbers would've been easier to spot lining his pockets with WorldCom money if he were wearing a yellow jersey.)
He's unbelievable in the mountains. Do you remember how difficult it was to go up one hilly street when you were a kid? Armstrong blows through the Pyrenees like Paris Hilton goes through Bloomingdale's. He's the best ever.
(Interruption No. 4: Can we have a moment for Greg LeMond? He's a three-time winner of the Tour de France, but he's faded into obscurity. A three-time winner! If there were no Lance Armstrong, this guy would be America's greatest cyclist. Instead, he gets all the respect of the best shortstop in Vermont.)
Armstrong has gone over there and won the Tour de France six straight times. Folks, that's like Gerard Depardieu coming over here and winning the Daytona 500 six straight times.
Let's face it, Uncle Sam isn't showing up on France's AOL Buddy List any time soon. They're in a bad mood anyway -- Paris just lost its bid to host the Summer Olympics and, frankly, the new Beaujolais isn't quite up to snuff.
So when Armstrong hits town with Sheryl Crow riding sidesaddle, I don't expect Jacques Chirac to throw him a state dinner.
Besides, Armstrong won't speak much French, he hangs out with Robin Williams instead of Jerry Lewis and he probably orders cheeseburgers on the Champs-Elysees.
Not that the French haven't tried to thwart Armstrong. He's been drug-tested more than a lab rat at NIH; they have enough of his blood for back orders through Labor Day. Next thing you know, Le Monde will hire Bob Woodward to tail Armstrong for a week.
And can't anybody at least help the French? What, Jan Ullrich of Germany can't step up? Ullrich's been tracking Armstrong longer than Wile E. Coyote's been chasing the Road Runner. Geez. Pedal faster!
Ultimately, Armstrong will make that ceremonial ride Sunday as the Tour de France winner for a seventh consecutive year, and the rest of the world won't care much for another show of U.S. dominance.
Plus, Tiger Woods is not helping the situation at all, either.
Ask The Slouch
Q. You're wrong about online poker. What, did you lose your $50 stake one night? (Jim Markbreit; Effingham, Ill.)
A. Online poker is to the Internet what E! is to cable television. Twenty years ago, we all heard about the promise of cable (quality programming and more choices); what we get is televised gossip, talk-show shout fests and "Punk'd." The Internet was going to be a democratizing information tool, yet if you had to invest in a single online element, it would be either pornography or gambling. Welcome to America.
Q. Why are there no women in the Tour de France? (Rick Bigus; Colorado Springs)
A. None of the Tour-sanctioned bicycles has a girls' bar.
Q. I just read where Bill Belichick decided against bringing back his wife for another year of marriage. Do you think she was causing him salary cap issues? (Jeff Ammerman; Lewistown, Pa.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
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