The Tour de France broadcast has become a creature entirely devoted to advertising and commercials. Consider the various definitions of the word ‘commercial’ and see if you agree:
None of those things is bad by nature. Money drives all professional sports. Cycling at the international level is professional in every sense of the word. In fact it behaves rather whorishly as a whole.
The Tour de France is itself is almost a prostitution enterprise, with riders pimped to the world by sponsors that plaster logos all over their kits. This is what pays the salaries of the athletes, who ride to earn precious positions on a squad that competes in an annual race calendar.
Time for our first commercial break.
Some riders are paid quite well while the domestiques earn their living carting food and beverages back and forth to the lead riders by stuffing them down their shirts. In this condition, a rider resembles a beast with nine tits. But it’s how they earn their pay in the Tour de Commercial that is the Tou de France.
The peak of commercial activity in cycling is the Tour de France, which became even further commodified during the Lance Armstrong era. Oh sure, Lance might be accused of being a cheat for using performance-enhancing drugs, but now comes word that the drugs used by cyclists in those days weren’t even effective. In an expose published in the medical journal the Lancet (no pun intended) medical professionals stated,
“The scientists behind the trial, which is published in the Lancet, say athletes are “naive” about the benefits of illicit substances such as EPO, but that myths about their effectiveness go unchallenged in the murky world of doping.“It’s just tragic to lose your career for something that doesn’t work, to lose seven yellow jerseys for a drug that has no effect,” said Jules Heuberger, who led the research at the Centre for Human Drug Research in The Netherlands.
The ‘drugs’ that Armstrong actually injected into the system of cycling consisted of money, money and more money. The Tour grew immensely in popularity thanks to Armstrong’s compelling story of comeback from cancer. His life was saved by drugs that were so poison they could kill a person if applied incorrectly. Yet his career was apparently ended by revelations that he’d used drugs that were supposedly ‘performance-enhancing.’ But they may have had no effect at all. Except, perhaps, as a placebo. How interesting is that?
But first, let’s break for a commercial.
It’s hard to write off the effects of drugs in sports such as cycling and running when it is clear there have been times when PEDs were used to set world records. The world of track and field is considering writing off all records set before 2005. That happens to be the last year that Lance Armstrong won a Tour de France. So there is a weird convergence in all this drug talk. A Washington Post feature shares insight about this potential decision to erase records:
“What we are proposing is revolutionary, not just because most world and European records will have to be replaced but because we want to change the concept of a record and raise the standards for recognition (to) a point where everyone can be confident that everything is fair and above board,” European Athletics Council President Svein Arne Hansen said in a recent meeting.”
We’ll be back after this commercial.
There are some people that claim drugs are really not the problem in sports. People clearly enjoy seeing transcendent performances and don’t really care what drugs or substances athletes use to get there. Certainly the home run derby between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa pumped a lot of interest into Major League baseball. Both were hopped up on steroids, but no one was counting pills while baseballs were flying out of the park. The sound of money clinking into the coffers of MLB was audible no matter where you stood.
The Tour de France relies on similar dramas to attract viewers. If some guy takes off on a climbing stage with a superhuman surge, the announcers leap on the moment because otherwise cycling can be as boring watching paint dry on a remote French country road.
Oooph. Wait. One more commercial.
One wonders how much remorse the Tour directors are experiencing now that the commercially interesting Peter Sagan has been given a Red Card for throwing an elbow at Mark Cavendish. The penalty was harsh given the fact that all sprinters behave like angry children in the last 500 meters of a Tour stage. There is so much riding on victory, even one stage win can keep sponsors hanging on for another year, the drive toward the finish is every bit as raw and manic as it looks.
But that’s not where the ugly efforts to be commercially successful end. Now the Tour de France broadcast is spliced so heavily with commercials it is like watching an NFL game. The formula is likely the same. A certain percentage of commercials drives profitability. So the Tour shows some bike riders, a bunch of view of French Chateaus and insane fans, then cuts to the 97th commercial about an unconventional belt with ratchets that let users tighten their bellies up to a size 48″ waist.
Now that was a commercial.
A few years back there was an amazing commercial for Bacardi Mojitos that was so sweet with its tit-showing and ass-shaking I literally waited for the commercial breaks to see it once again. Sexist as hell, I know. It’s not that I wish all commercials were that misogynistic, but when they’re really good, it’s almost an art form. But alas, most commercials are mundane, predictable and highly repetitive.
Perhaps fans of the Tour should be allowed to cast their votes for their favorite commercials. Then the bad ones could be ‘voted off the show’ just like a Survivor or other Reality Show. There should in fact be some measure or judgement on what we’re forced to watch (or tolerate) while getting our annual dose of French cathedrals and bloody road rash. The French countryside and alpine mountains deserve better than to be spliced together with those awful commercials featuring Shaquille O’Neal for that insurance company The General.
Seriously, the Tour de Commercial deserves much better. Home viewers live through 2100 miles of travel and time to get a glimpse of the Champs Elysees between manic attempts to give viewers one more shot with the ratchet belt and the 48″ waist that goes with it.