It’s a big day today in the world of Major Sports Events in Which Americans Have Only a Tangential Interest. In South Africa they’re playing the last two games of the Copa Mundial quarterfinals, while in Rotterdam they’re warming up for the prologue of the Tour de France.
We finally had some real drama in the Cup yesterday, what with Brazil getting eliminated in the quarters — a national disgrace — and Ghana losing to Uruguay in a heartbreaker of historic proportions. They looked to have the match won when a relentless attack in the closing seconds of added time finally forced a Uruguay handball — only to have previously rock-solid Asamoah Gyan send the penalty shot off the crossbar. Uruguay won the ensuing shootout, and Africa took it on the chin yet again.
Meanwhile, the big storyline in this year’s Tour is two-time defending champion Alberto Contador versus his former teammate, old-timer Lance Armstrong. The smart money is on Contador, who at 27 is only just coming into his own, while Lance at 38 would be the oldest Tour winner by a couple of years (the oldest winner to date, at 36: Firmin “Lucky” Lambot in 1922). But on the other hand, Lance has the better team and is riding with a chip on his shoulder after Contador proved to be less than a team player last year. Lance would dearly love to win what looks likely to be his last big race while teaching the arrogant upstart a lesson, and as a general rule Lance gets what Lance wants.
Even so, it’s hard to imagine Contador, a stupendous climber who’s also become a formidable time-trialist, being beaten. As a man of over, um, 35 myself, I’d be happy to see Lance at least make it interesting. How likely is that? Well, we shall find out soon enough. There’s no particular point to this entry, really; I’m just trying to justify to myself the 6 or 7 hours of this beautiful summer day I may be spending in front of the TV.