It’s Not About the Bike

Best I could manage: a TV still of Richard Carapaz (in green) accepting condolences from Primoz Roglic, winner of the Vuelta a Espana.

After two and a half months of near-solid bike racing, the delayed grand tour season has come to an end, which perhaps ought to be sad, but feels rather like a relief. It’s a lot of hours taken up by spectating, and while I enjoy it, two-plus months consecutively is too much of a good thing.

A Slovenian named Primoz Roglic (in Old WordPress I could put the proper inflections over the Z and C — in New, Not-Really Improved WordPress I have no idea how to go about that) figured prominently in the tours of France and Spain. In France Mr. Roglic held the overall lead until the last day of racing, when he was beaten by a fellow countryman.

At the finish line he sat for a moment in exhausted defeat, then got to his feet and went over to his rival, giving him a heartfelt congratulatory hug. It was an impressive display of sportsmanship.

In Spain, the situation almost duplicated itself, as his closest rival, an Ecuadoran this time, pulled away in the very last few kilometers. Mr. Roglic gave chase and managed to keep the gap at less than his margin of victory, holding on to win by a matter of seconds after riding all around northern Spain, thousands of kilometers, for 17 days.

Mr. Roglich came across the uphill finish line, checked his time, and then went over to his rival and offered a consolatory pat on the back that seemed just as heartfelt. He was every bit as gracious in victory as he had been in defeat, and it felt good to watch both moments.

As is often true, sports provides us with good life lessons, and here is one: if you can’t win graciously, you’re probably not going to lose with dignity.

Following this weekend’s statistical reality that Americans will have a new president come January, we got to see grace and a whole load of crap. If you had to guess, which candidate do you suppose supplied the grace?

You know, I was prepared to share with you the humor I have found in the last few days, with an appalling yet completely inept unwillingness to accept the carefully-tabulated results. The press conference in the parking lot next to adult entertainment on the way to the prison; the percolating rumors that very few believe in the legal challenges they themselves are mounting — this is all because a sad, pathetic loser can’t handle losing; the warning that before you donate to the legal challenge fund, be aware that most of your money is going to campaign debt incurred by a very stable business jenius; that campaign manager #655 incurred some of this debt by buying himself an entire fleet of cars and lavish offices before self-immolating in a drunken suicidal mess that involved accusations of domestic violence; a fall-out with the network of choice . . . this field is amply fertilized, and there is plenty to plow up.

But then I read something, and after thinking it over, I realize that every story I am reading and exacting joy from only amplifies the oxygen this loser craves. There is no such thing as bad press, goes the old axiom, just so long as there is press. It is time to move on.

The story I read that changed my thinking was part of an ongoing series offered by the Washington Post called “Voices From the Pandemic.” The same writer crafts first-person accounts from an assortment of people. I don’t know if these folks call up the Post and volunteer, or get sought out, but it’s a broad spectrum of heart-breaking tales.

The one I read last night was from a 75-year-old cancer survivor who would like to be retired, except that he’s one of only three doctors in a rural county in South Dakota whose story starts, “Election Day is over, and guess what? The virus is still here. It didn’t just go away like the president said. We’re not rounding any corners.”

Half of the people his clinic tests are turning up positive for covid. One out of every 20 county residents has gotten sick in the last month, and Jerauld County has the highest death rate in the United States. That rate is personal for Dr. Tom Dean, who lost both his parents in the recent outbreak at the nursing home, where he felt particularly helpless because he is at risk and was unable to go into a facility where two-thirds of the staff also got sick, mostly leaving the residents to try to care for themselves.

A descendant of three generations of South Dakota settlers, Dr. Dean not only understands but lives the independent spirit of his state. But this has not stopped him from writing weekly articles for the local newspaper, encouraging virus mitigation efforts that continue to fall on deaf ears (I suppose blind eyes, since it’s something people read).

Late in his story, when he’s talking about his parents’ long lives and 76 years together, he tells about how they got married during World War II, and had to wait until they collected enough sugar rations to make a wedding cake.

“They loved telling that story,” he said. “Everybody was sacrificing for the war. It was a national effort. They were proud of it. The country had bigger problems, and their wedding cake could wait.”

Dr. Dean wants to know how we can get back to that quaint notion of self-sacrifice for a greater good. Here is my answer to him: we need to take the air of out the country’s biggest bag of wind. He does not deserve a platform to air false grievances — and you may have heard, Neil Cavuto of Fox did just that yesterday, breaking away from a press conference after one minute because it was nothing but unsubstantiated innuendo.

One presidential candidate — the winning candidate — extended a gracious pat on the back in victory, telling the supporters who backed the lost cause that he understood how they felt, since he’d lost a couple of times before.

The other candidate? Well, here’s the advice a friend found on the internet: “Live your life in such a way that the entire planet doesn’t dance in the streets when you lose your job.” There are many other, better, more pressing, issues to focus on than someone who was sure the system was rigged when he won, and who never figured it out from there. We should all move on, starting right now.

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