Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen: a very close relationship.

Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen: a very close relationship.

Re the Tour de France, Merle Baggard writes:

OK, glad it’s over. Please get back to more important subjects.

Merle likes to push my buttons, but I take his point. I do want to make just one more note before moving on, though.

The one thing that seemed to get people really emotionally involved this year was only tangentially related to the race itself. This was what has become known as the “falling out” incident involving longtime Tour commentators Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen.

When I first started watching the Tour I wondered if Phil and Paul were a couple, because they sit way too close together and finish each other’s sentences. But it turns out they both are married with families; what goes on late at night in French hotel rooms after a few glasses of wine, I won’t ask and would prefer not to be told.

In any case, you can tell from the body language alone that Phil and Paul have a deep and abiding affection for each other. This was why it was very disturbing to see them have a public spat prompted by Alberto Contador’s debatable move on Stage 15. It got kind of personal, with Paul – a middling but determined professional cyclist who started seven Tours and finished five – playing the “you never rode the Tour” card on Phil, which is the kind of jab that ends friendships.

I got more comments about this incident than about anything else that happened in the Tour (which is, OK, two; but I’m extrapolating from that based on what I’ve read and heard). It just goes to show you the power television has over us. Watch enough hours of Le Tour, and you start to feel like Phil and Paul are your uncles (or maybe your uncle and his special friend). You’re supposed to be able to count on them being friendly and upbeat all the time, and when that doesn’t happen, it bothers you.

As far as I can tell, they made up pretty quickly, but it was a big enough deal that it was the first thing Phil mentioned when asked what he will remember from this Tour. What will I remember? Probably only what I’ve written down, which is pretty much how things work anymore. Now onto more important subjects.