Giro d'Italia is about to begin. I've actually never sat down to watch this event. Bicycle racing is hard to find on television in the US. Especially when it's not the Tour de France. But that's no excuse if one is a true cycling aficionado. But I'm not. No, I'm pretty much scrub-tier when it comes to competitive cycling enthusiasm.
Q: If I don't follow the teams, athletes and drama, then why watch it?
A: It's therapeutic.
The drone of the announcers. The wonderful scenery. The fancy bikes. All in motion. Like watching a gentle river flowing through a broad valley. Am I some new-age target market for the event organizers? One that will aggravate the purists? Maybe and definitely. But don't worry, I'm not demanding much from any of you. I just want to zone out for 2-3 hours at a time. It's almost like watching public radio. You can tune it out, tune back in, and occasionally exciting things will happen.
Heaven forbid the organizers dress up the sport in an attempt to draw the attention of other yokels like me. Sure, they throw some stats and maps in every now and then, but it's nowhere near the level of pointing arrows, picture in picture, invisible-hand-circling-things, and leaderboard graphics that NASCAR has. And yet, cycling fans are just about as bad as NASCAR fans.
Observe the similarities:
Both like to park RVs along the course, be it in the infield of the oval circuit or along the route.
Both are harboring high blood-alcohol content.
Both have televisions tuned to the event's TV broadcast so as to remain entertained when the racers are not passing by.
Both have fat spectators (though we might assume NASCAR carries this turkey-leg torch).
Of course, there are a few differences:
Spectators can't get in the way of NASCAR drivers, so long as they're in a car on the race course, unless one hurls an empty big gulp container all the way to turn 3.
NASCAR spectators don't pee in the bushes. Not that they wouldn't if they could. But stadiums typically have designated restrooms.
NASCAR spectators spend most of their time seated (unless getting up to refill their big gulp or go pee).
NASCAR spectators get to see the racers whiz by approximately 200 times. A cycling spectator might get to see them twice if they run to the uphill side of a switchback.
I'll stop there.
So maybe dressing up the sport would work really well? With such similarities between their respective fans, I could see it happening. At the very least, this sort of mentality has pushed NASCAR to its current level of popularity.
Granted, I will take a cycling event over a NASCAR event any day of the year. I can safely say I hate NASCAR without feeling guilty (I'm a bit of a redneck) or dishonest. A cycling event, if attended in person, offers a much more wholesome experience. You're not necessarily sitting on your ass the entire time. The air is cleaner by comparison, save for a few clean-diesel emissions from team cars. And you get to feel smug as hell because it's a prestigious cycling event.
But for me? I'm sitting in front of my computer screen, being fat and lazy. I'm just as bad as someone watching NASCAR on television.