Monday, March 14, 2011

More on panache, with special guest Cadel Evans

My last post was about panache, and I maybe went a little overboard in saying today's peleton lacks panache.

Tennis had McEnroe.

We have Cadel Evans.

Cyclists cannot talk to spectators; unlike John McEnroe, they can't even complain. But they can make up for this barrier of silence, as all great athletes do, with the most visceral language around: the language of the body.

Who doesn't remember Jordan's exact posture when he hit the shot against Cleveland, his shrug after sinking countless three pointers against Portland, being hugged by Pippen after his miraculous rise-from-the-sickbed perforamnce against Utah? Just try scoring a touchdown and NOT celebrating without thinking of Barry Sanders.

Nobody could not celebrate like Barry could. He do backflips through all 25 defensivement and a few of his own teammates (it was the Lions), and you'd be jumping up and down and high fiving your mom, and you'd be waiting for him to cap it off with a spike, or a dunk over the goalpost, and he'd just stop, flip the ball to the ref, and head to the sidelines. One time he bent down, and you thought he was going to do the end zone prayer, but he was just tying his shoe.

That was Barry, and that was panache.

Thank goodness we in cycling have Cadel Evans, who, in the great tradition of Barry Sanders, chooses to express his particular strain of panache by sort of not celebrating, although he's not as good at not celebrating as Barry was.

We get a kiss kind of half-heartedly blown, one that doesn't require the extension of the kiss blowing hand; sort of a kiss wipe.

Yesterday's stage win in Tirreno-Adriatico gave us what Sam has called a hit off "the bong of victory"; this he accompanied with what looked like an imaginary rhetorical flourish of the kind that a Elizabethan lady may have made with her kerchief, perchance her squire departed unto sea.

To celebrate his astonishing win on the Strade Bianchi in last year's Giro, a hugely impressive bit of riding, Cadel lifted approximately all ten fingers to roughly chest height and gave us an inspiring deep exhalation that left his lips flapping for a moment.

Cadel expressed his exhuberance in an emphatic win over Contador in last year's Fleche Wallone by pointing somewhere about ten feet in the air in front of him and taking an even bigger hit on the bong of victory.

When he won the World Championship with an awe-inspiring one-man attack, Cadel expressed satsifaction with his God-like victory by nearly raising his right hand up to eye level, and pointing a limp thumb towards the heavens. His lips seem to form the words, "yes, thank you, I am good, it's true I like Enya and look forward to rocking out to Orinoco Flow after all the whatnot here."

 isn't just what you do, it's also what you don't do.

Take Brownie. He doesn't come right out and say, "I pattern my aesthetics after a 14-year old Canadian boy." He's not raising his hands as he crosses the finish line of sartorial and cosmatological Bieber mimological triumph; he knows understatement can be the most profound kind of panache around. Also a little goofy. But it's growing on me.

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