Sportswriting from the New Yorker & The Armstrong Lie

As part of my reading escapade series, I’ve taken myself through the essays in The Only Game in Town: Sportswriting from the New Yorker, which is a collection that spans almost a hundred years of sportswriting (and features some very funny cartoons). There are a number of stories about early 20th century athletes and sport cultures (ie. boxing, baseball, tennis), some personal essays about sports (my favourite being Haruki Murakami‘s essay about running), and a few contemporary profiles of athletes (Michelle Kwan, Shaquille O’Neal, Tiger Woods, and Lance Armstrong).

The essay about Lance Armstrong, written in 2002 and well before the allegations of doping were proved true, is a piece that idolizes Armstrong. It is self-indulgent and a bit superficial, which raises the question: “Why did Armstrong have this effect on people?”.

As someone who doesn’t follow cycling races of any kind, I am naive about the level of training and skill needed to compete in grueling races like Le Tour de France, which is high-profile and well-respected; and I was curious about the continued impact of doping on the sport. So I watched The Armstrong Lie, to get a sense of the issue, the Tour, its community of cyclists, and Armstrong.

It’s a very good film, well-researched, and thoughtfully critical. By the end of it, I felt like I had only heard a fraction of the story regarding doping, money, celebrity, power, cycling, and Armstrong.