Greetings from Vail, Colorado, where the world’s elite bicycle racers are engaged in a time trial from the Village to the top of the Pass. And you don’t care.
But so many do.
European sports are invading America. With football challenged by head injuries and baseball the land of drug-addled stars the passive life of the USA is on decline, at least in sports, now it’s all about participating.
If Michelle Obama really wanted to eradicate obesity in America she’d take kids to a bike race or an extreme sports competition, because once you attend the excitement inspires you to participate. Furthermore, the echo boomers are all about participation, that’s the essence of extreme sports, it’s about the camaraderie as opposed to the victory. You don’t want to sit in the stands, you want to play!
Live long enough and you see the landscape change.
Used to be you were limited to the information provided on the scoreboard, people went to the game and listened to the radio. But the first thing you do when you go to an event today is download the app, with more facts and figures than any one person can digest. Always free, the app is your guide, technology rules.
And the more data you have, the greater your understanding.
They said apps were going to be a profit center, turned out they were just helpers to something bigger. And that something bigger usually grows over time.
There was a bike race in Colorado in the seventies. It was too early. The public wasn’t fatigued by mainstream sports, and baby boomers were all about winning, and if there wasn’t a famous name, they weren’t interested.
But then ESPN blasted the Tour de France to American homes. Lance Armstrong won. And people started to pay attention.
In football/soccer, TV came last. One can argue that “Bend It Like Beckham” got the mania started in America, that’s the power of art. And pair that with celebrity, Mr. Beckham himself, and suddenly kids would rather play soccer than Little League and there’s actual traction with the MLS.
And add in a dash of Title IX, which got the women participating. Soccer was boosted by the incredible US women’s teams. And women riders populate the bike paths too.
And yet the focus is still on the old sports. But how many people do you see throwing a ball? Drive up PCH on a Saturday and you’ll be wowed by the endless peloton, a miles-long line of bike riders of all shapes and sizes.
And the USA Pro Cycling Championship works because of its difficulty. The climbs. The altitude. This is not for pussies.
And active Coloradans are drawn to the zenith of a sport so many participate in.
And there are sponsors and payments and it all adds to the circus of stimulation. You feel like you’re where it’s happening, at this intersection of sports and commerce.
But don’t confuse this with art.
Sports are about the body. Art is about the mind.
In other words, how many famous athletes have made it as musicians? And vice versa? These are two different skills. And their melding together by entrepreneurs has been to the detriment of music. A rider is an almost inert item, a musician is not. If a rider is plastered with the patches of his sponsor, it’s evidence of his ability to turn his skill and devotion into cash, if the artist does so it evidences the fact that he’s sold out.
Why is it that Neil Young and the Eagles refuse to take money from corporations yet every youngster is eager to? Don’t tell me it’s because there’s less money in it, or that times have changed, I’ll just say they’re different people. Just like baseball players and bicycle riders are different people. The artists of yore stood outside the game, today’s are deeply in it, to their and their audience’s detriment.
So you wonder why sports eclipse art.
It’s because of the interior goals.
The people making music today are wholly different from those who were successful doing so in the classic rock era. The stars of yore were misfits going down the only avenue that could fulfill them and get them laid. They were beaten up in school, if they didn’t drop out completely. Today’s musicians are members of the club, who want the adulation and riches of sports stars.
But we’ve established that they’re completely different types.
So the end result is when you go to the show and you see the plastering of advertisements it detracts from the experience, it turns the event into pure commerce as opposed to a religious experience.
And when you go to the bike race you feel like you’re at the advent of something new and exciting and that the sponsorships demonstrate the entire enterprise is on the way up and you’re in on the ground floor.
Oh what a crazy world we live in.
P.S. The participation culture has invaded music too. With new technological tools more people are making music. The fact that they expect it to be successful is a head-scratcher, since they would never expect to top the podium at the sporting event, especially without years of training, peppered with loss as well as victory.