Amid the admittedly appropriate attention given to Lance Armstrong as an inspirational hero—at least until the result is Regis in Lycra—another trend has been largely ignored: the emergence of the United States as a legitimate power in the European-dominated sport of cycling. Indeed it wasn’t until 1981 that an American rider, Jonathan Boyer, even competed in the race. But over the last 15 years, two American riders—Armstrong and three-time champ Greg LeMond—won the Tour five times. Over that period, only Spain, with Miguel Indurain‘s five victories and a single win by Pedro Delgado, can boast of more than one Tour winner. And with his win on Sunday, Armstrong joins LeMond among only seven riders in the last 40 years who were able to defend their title.
Additionally, while LeMond captured the maillot jaune while riding for French-and Dutch-based teams, with only the odd countryman in tow, Armstrong was the leader of a largely American squad that was generally considered to be the strongest in this year’s race. Five of the nine riders on the U.S. Postal Service Team—makes you suddenly want to send something Express Mail, doesn’t it?—were American. Indeed, one of Armstrong’s domestiques, Frankie Andreau (beautifully profiled in The New York Times by the incomparable Samuel Abt), holds the distinction of pedaling more kilometers through the French countryside than any other American, quietly completing his ninth tour in nine tries.
The Boston Red Sox may be underachieving in the A.L. East, but at least they can still deliver a pasting to independent film producers. Just ask Lorie Conway, a Boston TV producer who says her new film, Fabulous Fenway, has been locked out of the local TV market by Sox fears of stirring up affection for a park they’re looking to put to the wrecking ball.
Conway approached the club last year about filming at Fenway, and was soundly rebuffed. She also contacted Major League Baseball for archival footage. “We wanted to give MLB their $8000 a minute [baseball’s outrageously high fee; $1000 a minute is more typical], but they wouldn’t sell it to us,” she recalls. “They said, and I remember this, ‘We don’t want independents like you producing it.’ ”
Still Conway soldiered on, filming interviews with fans outside the park and such Boston heroes (and villains) as Bill Lee, Ted Williams, Billy Conigliaro, and Bucky Fucking Dent. The 48-minute film was all set to air on ABC-affiliate WCVB, where Conway had previously worked for 12 years, when she was told station GM Paul LaCamera had pulled the air date. His explanation, according to Conway: “Until the ballpark financing is in place, nothing should air.”
The Red Sox say Conway was denied filming permission at Fenway because her request came too close to last year’s playoffs; team spokesman Dick Bresciani adds that they were concerned about “factual inaccuracies” in Conway’s film, though he doesn’t remember specifics. Dena Panto of MLB Productions says, “I know what I told [Conway], but I’m not at liberty to discuss that with you. I don’t know that we feel right now we can respond to this. She can say what she needs to say, and you can print that.” LaCamera did not return Jockbeat‘s phone calls.
Conway insists Fabulous Fenway is a commemoration, not a debate over the merits of a new stadium. But the film does serve as a reminder that those putting their fannies in the seats may have different priorities than the team. “The fans’ fear is that this will become like so many ballparks in America, catering to the corporate client,” says Conway. “The fans want a place—it sounds so simple—to take their kids to watch baseball. And they don’t want to spend half their paycheck to do that.”
Bonds Acts Up
If you watched SportsCenter a couple weeks ago, you may have noticed that the Giants and Rangers were wearing big iron-on patches of a red ribbon on their jerseys during their game that day at Pac-Bell Park. As Dan Patrick dutifully explained, this is because it was Until There’s a Cure Day, the Giants’ annual fundraiser for AIDS research and treatment. But keen-eyed observers of the game’s highlights may have noticed that one Giants player wasn’t wearing the red-ribbon patch: Barry Bonds.
Bonds, of course, has built something of a reputation for being an asshole, and it’s not hard to envision him being the kind of guy who might have a problem with wearing the patch. But according to Giants media relations director Jim Moorehead, this was not the case. “Wearing the patch was optional, but every player, including Barry, was wearing it during the pregame ceremony,” says Moorehead. “Once the game started, though, several players—Barry was one, Shawn Estes was another—found the patch kind of stiff and uncomfortable, and they thought it might impede their movements. So they just peeled their patches off. But Barry’s got no problem with this promotion—he’s always embraced it.” Jockbeat takes Moorehead at his word, but it’s hard not to be skeptical when Bonds is involved; would anyone really be surprised if he discarded the patch because he thought it clashed with his earring?
Going to Xtremes
Illustrating its dedication to football and not scripted “sports entertainment,” the World Wrestling Federation named its first head coach for its forthcoming Xtreme Football League. In Chicago, it’ll be Hall of Famer Dick Butkus at the helm. Other than running the online Dick Butkus Football Network, what has the former Chicago Bear been up to recently? Playing the role of Coach Mike Katowinski on NBC’s Saturday morning teeny-bopper Hang Time. The WWF’s partner in the XFL? NBC.
Contributors: Allen St. John, Neil Demause, Paul Lukas, Howard Z. Unger
Sports Editor: Miles D. Seligman