day 300 – Cycling

Warning: Please read the following with tongue in cheek.

We are going through a stage.  We have now watched or are in the middle of watching four bicycle races since July and the 100th Tour de France, which obviously had the strange magic of hooking us (never mind outfitting me with a new bike and helmet).

We just watched the German, Andre Greipel win the 93rd year of Tour de Brussels in Belgium.  Last month we watched some of the 9th Tour de Utah then lost interest.  The scenery was so so and the reporting was lousy.  We are in the middle of watching the 72nd Vuelta de Espana  (tour de Spain).  We just watched stage 14 or day 14 of 21 grueling days.  We are also simultaneously watching the first ever Tour de Alberta for Canada’s Pro Cycling Fest.  It started in Edmonton and ends in Calgary over the course of six days.

Here are my observations:

  1. It makes a difference whom the newscasters are and what they know or more importantly, what they don’t know or tell you.

I was enchanted, amused and educated by the Tour de France sportscasters from England, especially since one of them had emigrated and lived in France for years.  He knew his French history, geography, historical landmarks and language.  We learned and felt like we had toured France with the cyclists.  Crazy costumed fan explanations, small village anecdotes, personal profile interviews and previous records reviewed were all part of our indoctrination into the world of cycling.  Retired professional Tour de France cyclists or aficionados reported the coverage.  Imagine our disdain and frowning disappointment when we watched other, less successful conversations between sportscasters whom had less experience and international exposure.

The Americans reporting on the Vuelta have no concept of Spain’s culture, language or history.  Helicopter shots of medieval fortresses and aqueducts are wasted without commentary.  Seacoasts, rivers and lakes get no mention.   The best technical questions via tweets get answered well and even interestingly but neither one of the sportscaster team has taken an interest in Spanish anything.  I am also not amused that they tend to highlight individual racers rather than team efforts.  It says something about the American competitive not the European or even Professional Cycling cooperative slant.  It is displayed arrogantly via their summaries.  The most interesting chat was a video montage of riders explaining and ridiculing the question of “how do you urinate while in the race?”

In my opinion, the Utahan announcers cared mostly about stale statistics.  That cycling race didn’t last long on our DVR series recording.  And, you can only see so much red rock and need to move on.

The Canadians are fascinated with their own vistas and being in the Professional Cycling World for the first time in Alberta.  They are still ironing out glitches.  For example, describing yesterday’s race but showing the rugged Badlands or… interviewing the winner but displaying a view of a farm with silos.  Even so, their enthusiasm, their pronunciation like in the word aboouut, the occasional French I pick up and their clean looking skies and cities keep my interest.  Eh?

Belgium’s national sport is cycling so it is no surprise that their coverage is extraordinary in panorama and outstanding in knowledge.  Brussels’ horizon is a clean, treed, green and modern spanning cosmopolitan enclave. Everyone speaks English of course (with adorable accents) but they also speak to every other International station interviewing them in their respective language, seldom using an interpreter, underscoring the fact that Europeans openly welcome multiple language learning. It belies the American belief that we have such a great educational system.  In fact, it fortifies the notion that learning three- four languages at a young age improves knowledge of the classics, the culture and history of other nations making the European system a finer, more inclusive and exploratory one.  It also makes you excel in your own native tongue and breaks open barriers in your brain that make learning the mathematics, music, arts and sciences easier and with more “out of the box” thinking.  Cognitive skills are enhanced the greater amount of languages you are exposed to as a child.  This is a proven fact and one that I can attest to since I was a bilingual child and a language teacher as well as a natural language acquisition professional educator.

Cycling is a sport I don’t participate in but one I enjoy watching for the interpretations, the eruption of adrenaline at the finish lines and for the background loveliness all the while traveling in the comfort of my home sitting right next to the love of my life.

What I know and have re – validated by obsessing over cycling this summer is that:

Anytime you discover the world beyond yourself you unearth realms within.  The more open you are to understanding other cultures, the clearer your own upbringing becomes.

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