I realized this morning as I was watching those ever-present adds on OLN for their replay of the first season of Surivor that the attraction of The Tour is very much like the draw that has made those “reality shows” such a hit.
You have an enduring cast of characters, faced with daunting challenges and the need for both cooperation and competition. You get to know them over the three weeks of the tour, not so much their human personalities as their cycling ones – the plucky Rasmussen, unassuming in his polkadot jersey, alone in the bunch defending his own unexpected success; the mercurial Vinokourov, at once flying up the mountain and collapsing in a self-inflected heap; the regal Armstrong, the man they love to hate; the darling sidekick Georgie, cute and impish and unexpectedly alone atop a treeless mountain this morning in the Pyrenees, the wristband for his old late chum Fabio adorning his arm; the relentless and ultimately tragic Jan, the winning loser, the magnificent talent for naught; the jack Mennonite Floyd, one of the many former friends of Lance with whom the peleton is littered.
I don’t watch NASCAR, but I’m told it has much the same appeal – the same drivers out every Sunday, week after week, shifting alliances and story lines and characters, real and imagined, actual and creations of the storytellers in the media who help it along. Reality TV soap opera.