Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Why Bowl Alone When You Can Ride with Jackasses Like Yourself?

American social life these days is as atrophied as Michael Rasmussen's chest. So Robert Putnam says. Our grandparents went to picnics and joined Rotary and Elks clubs; we sit at home and do things like write blogs and watch the complete Giro on the TV, usually by ourself. (Mind you, I didn't. Then again, don't ask me how I can recount with exquisite detail every glorious moment from this year's edition, all 21 stages of it.)

Putnam doesn't really care that we're all so lonely (he's got his Harvard professorship and his ivy league professor fight club), except it's vexing to him. Our isolation has caused us, collectively, to become a-holes. That is, people now have no regard for their fellow citizen. We do things like unscrew the tops on ketchup bottles so that it causes guys like Putnam to soil the crotch of their newly pressed tweeds. Quite vexing indeed.

In cycling parlance, we've become a nation of wheelsuckers (see my brother's post).

How to stem the rising tide of lonely people perfectly comfortable with living life one dick-move to the next?

Our local cycling organization, MABRA, is hardly an acceptable substitution for the Elks Club. We don't help little girls get polio braces, nor do we host fish fries. We're not a charitable organization, unless you count us as both givers and receivers of the charity.

And yet, a little praise of MABRA is in order.

I played organized soccer for a few years. I played in basketball leagues in Chicago in Hoops the Gym (i.e., the gym where Jordan used to play in the summer). I ran. I did triathlons. I bowled. I golfed. None of these activities required a community. None was organized. No one tracked the results of my performance and put it up on a webpage along with the top pros. There was no organization.

It is absolutely astonishing to me that the USAC results page exists.

And MABRA exists.

And bikereg.

We enjoy a sport that has unparalleled organization. Furthermore, it has inspired some sense of community, at least in a limited sense. Without such a community, any arguments about whether it's wrong to wheelsuck in a break wouldn't exist. Whether we agree upon the right way to ride a bike, we can at least agree that there is a right way to ride a bike around each other. That, in itself, is a sign that we don't have to resort to fight clubs to expunge our inner jackass.


qualia said...

Great post. Loved it.

Greg said...

i get that feeling too a lot, usually when I drink.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to the computer world. If you were racing back in the 80's, there wasn't all this stuff. There weren't any blogs, and God help you if you tried to ask about something called a rank. About the only thing I was interested in was qualifying for nationals by doing well at districts. TT bikes were a rarity, and about the only thing my cyclo-computer told me was distance, speed, average speed, and accumulated distance, and that was in the late 80's. Carbon fiber had just come out and nobody had it. Talking to other people on other teams outside of the actual race never happened.

Sometimes, I wonder if life wasn't a lot better without the computer and the internet.

FYI - USCF just changed its ranking system. Last year, one of my teammates was ranked #1 half way through the season and he had only done a single race. This year, the ranking seems to make a little more sense.