Thursday, August 30, 2012
Phil Liggett has been called "The Voice of Cycling" for what seems like an eternity. I concur for several reasons. First, his understated enthusiasm blended perfectly with a sport that, unless you're a fan, is as exiting to watch on TV as a bloated politician's prostrate exam. Second, he was pretty much all we had. David Duffield, who was put out to pasture some years ago, was horrid in ways that have yet to manifest themselves in any other profession. Now we have David Harmon and Sean Kelly on Eurosport, who though not prone to going off on tangents unrelated to the action they're commentating on that made Duffield a legend, they still suck. Thankfully some of us who speak Spanish have the cats over on the channel from Spain, who are not only enthusiastic and knowledgeable, they don't grate the ears like these two.
Liggett is the man I identify most with professional cycling. His work with the World Cycling Productions company brought these obscure European races right to the doorsteps of cycling fans in the Western Hemisphere, and for that we must be eternally grateful. They started out with VHS tapes, some of which I still have because many of those earleir races weren't transferred to DVD. I collected them all, and Liggett commentated on every single one, eventually joined by the insufferable Paul Sherwen. One could deal with Sherwen's inanity knowing Phil was holding it down for the most part, despite the fact that he mispronounced names and got dates wrong all the time. Liggett showed admiration and respect to riders who did well without the obsequiousness that made it impossible to listen to him during the Armstrong years. After 1999, I decided enough was enough and lost interest in the Tour, while my passion for watching other races waned considerably to the point where I hardly know who is out there racing.
Cycling became boring for other reasons-it became overly-regimented, with idiotic rules about time trial frames and bike weights that stunted the creativity of manufacturers of racing bikes. Through it all there was Phil, Paul and the too-stupid-to-live Bob Roll fighting over who would slobber all over Lance Armstrong's testicle the hardest. During this time the racing suffered immensely on all fronts. Bike design became more and more homogeneous to the point where all top-end frames are of one material (carbon), and are made in one of three factories in Asia utilizing the same three molds (small/medium, extra-medium, and too-big-for-an-extra-medium/too-small-for-a-large, a size many manufacturers don't even make).
Liggett with (left to right) Paul Sherwen and Bob Roll.
Liggett decided that, with age catching up to him, he might as well whore himself wholeheartedly while the going was good. The number of speaking engagements increased while the fees for said engagements went up. Because of his affiliation with Armstrong, he was more in demand than ever. Liggett even got to catch some of the Armstrong VIP vapors with free rides in the ol' private jet, which is now on sale along with his house in Austin, Texas. (I must admit the house is beautiful and tastefully appointed, but Armstrong, being the cornball that he is, wasn't the one who decorated it so he gets no style points).
There comes a point in a man's life where diginity and self-respect go flying out the window when a trunkload of cash is on offer. All one has to do is compromise one's dignity and become a groupie. I always thought the groupie mentality was the sole recourse of idiotic teenage girls. When I first watched clips of screaming bitches falling all over themselves whenever Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley or the Beatles appeared, I thought it was something in the psychological makeup of women that made them lose their minds over some jackass they'll never get close to in a million years. But apparently men suffer from this, too, and it is all the more egregious. It is such a violation of the "Man Code" that anyone found guilty of partaking should do a stint on Devil's Island if it ever re-opens.
The three Stooges of pro cycling, Phil, Paul and Bob, don't care. They take to their task with unmitigated glee, as if we should all be jealous that they get to suck Armstrong' cock on television and we don't. How utterly emasculating. But whores always come up cheap in the end. They are in direct opposition to those who garner friendships with unquestioned loyalty through years of mutual trust. They are paid to take it up the ass, and they let everyone know they love it.
But this time Liggett has gone too far. In his latest interview, he donned his tin hat and sat looking into the stars for an alien spaceship to drop Bigfoot onto his lap. He accused the USADA of paying people huge sums of money to testify they witnessed Armstrong taking PED's. First of all, the USADA is funded by the Federal Government and are operating on a tight budget as it is. Where in the world would they get money to pay people off? Ah, but it gets worse. Here is but a snippet of his vomitorious bile-
“I met a chap who worked with Armstrong on Saturday in Boulder, Colorado. He told me that he has a visit two years ago….there were agents from a particular agency. They said ‘will you tell us that Lance Armstrong took EPO, and we can assure you that you will never want for money again?’ He told them in words I can’t put on radio what to do with that,” he claimed. “They said, ‘I think we are talking to the wrong man,’ and walked away.”
He then went on to suggest that USADA’s witnesses, who are thought to include current and former riders and who testified under oath, may have deliberately lied.“I believe these ten witnesses, who have all admitted apparently to seeing Lance take drugs or selling drugs or passing them on, and they themselves taking drugs…the reason they are witnesses is that they have either been paid or they have been given a deal that they will never be touched as far as suspensions go,” he said. “As this case has gone on so long, the vast majority of them are already retired. It is a filthy business, lets put it that way.”
As for the USADA, here's what he has to say about them and their investigation-
“Why is USADA, which is a nefarious local drugs agency in the United States, so intent?” he said.
A nefarious local drugs agency...check this motherfucker out. I guess he got Travis Tygart confused with "Fat Pat" McQuaid of the UCI. Here is the USADA's response-
Contacted by VeloNation about Liggett’s claims, USADA issued a response. “It is blatantly false information from someone who has never had the courtesy to contact USADA for truthful and accurate information,” said its spokesperson Annie Skinner.
What the fuck happened to this guy? Has he gone insane? Apparently so. His iconic voice will forever be ingrained in the hearts and minds of cycling-mad North Americans who remember the good ol' days of the
1980's-late 1990's, when professional cyclists were true characters. Now we are stuck with uber-specialists who save themselves for one specific race all season while all other races, beautiful in their own right, are relegated to either training sessions for the Tour de France or desperate attempts at snagging a contract for next season.
Very few races on the calendar are raced in their own right for the simple prestige of winning said race. This is sad. The only reason we are having such an amazing spectacle at this year's Vuelta a España is Alberto Contador was banned for the first six months of this year and has come back just in time to challenge for the overall. But that's life. Some things change, and not always for the better. Thankfully I have those races from back in the day to remind me when cycling was enjoyable to watch, and Phil Liggett's commentary was a big reason those races will never be tiresome to watch. Unfortunately for many of us, Liggett has decided to take a political stance on the biggest sporting fraud this side of the East German Olympic doping program in the 1970's, and he has never been so wrong in his life.
I can only assume he won't be reading Tyler Hamilton's book, whose release date has been moved up to September 5th of 2012, coinciding with Pat McQuaid's birthday. I'm sure it will make a nice gift for that corpulent, flatulent drunkard. But Liggett should get a copy also. I'm sure he'll appreciate the irony of reading all about his hero and how much he had to dope to win his beloved Tour de France.