It’s a question I’ve turned over many a time in my head. To an American, it seems like a gimme for lunks in shoulder pads. American football players are universally acknowledged as big, dumb sacks of meat, while most cyclists this side of the pond are skinny, smooth-legged oddballs with the means to buy three-thousand trinkets toys on an almost yearly basis.
But upon closer scrutiny, the question is not so obvious. After all, every NFL player has to enroll in something that is at least nominally a higher education; two-time Tour de France winner Laurent Fignon was known as “the Professor” because he had round glasses, and – unlike most of the peloton – briefly went to college.
Furthermore, many pro football players go on to notable secondary careers in acting, car sales, and politics. While there’s no shortage of talk about the political futures of a certain Texan, most cyclists seem to have a way of living out their non-sporting years broke and miserable.
While quirky figures like Bob Roll and Dave Zabriskie carry air of scramble-headed genius about them, you’ve really got to wonder about David Clinger’s disappearing/reappearing facial tattoo, and Frank Vandenbroucke’s disappearing/reappearing, well, sanity. Sure, football players do weird stuff, too, but when you go to a stripclub with $81,000 of your cash in a garbage bag, you’ve got be ready to lay down the law.
But the most damning evidence against the smartness of cyclists is this: in the entire history of the NFL, I can only think of a single touchdown lost because someone celebrated a few seconds too soon. Granted it was in the Super Bowl, but still – cycling’s best racers continue to lose entire events by putting their arms up before they cross the line. How smart can you be if you toss away the wins you’re being paid millions of dollars to get?
Forget drugs. This is what makes me fear for the future of the sport.