Us and the Giro

As you may have heard, the Giro d'Italia, one of the biggest races in cycling, is going on right now. Again, it's time for me to wonder why Americans don't care too much about cycling and Europeans do. Some thoughts:

I. Because Europeans ride bikes more in their daily life, the idea of competitive cycling is more interesting to them. This makes great sense, but most Americans don't play baseball or football in their daily lives and these sports are still popular here, so there must be at least two ways for a sport to get popular, and it seems like the second path should be available for cycling.

II. Cycling was already firmly established in Europe before advances in transportation and communication could get Americans hooked, both as competitors and as spectators. Again, this doesn't rule out cycling's becoming popular here, but this must be part of the explanation.

III. Related to II, the lack of American competitors makes Americans less likely to care about the sport. Lance Armstrong recently gave a lot of people an in on the sport, but he's just one guy.

And don't say it's boring. Tennis is boring. Golf is boring.

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I don’t know but another

I don’t know but another difference is the way Americans like NASCAR and Indianapolis 500 type automobile racing where the contestants go around in circles while Europeans have always preferred Formula I racing which is done on the streets and roads, a much more exciting event, in my opinion.
Perhaps it has to do with the vast openness of land area of America vs. Europe.

Cycling and Americans

Actually, Americans were quite hooked on cycling in '97. Well, 1897 that is. Seems that a bunch of them, in fact, started clubs to encourage the building of nice streets so we wouldn't be so beholden to railroads 'n' trusts 'n' sich. Then the fascination petered out, cars became popular, and we live in the subsidized mess we now call a "modern" transportation system.

I think the other part of this is that Americans don't really get the teamwork involved in cycling. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but individualism is killing the NBA and NFL, so the teamwork in team cycling is way too subtle and/or nuanced for the average American. To see why, just watch the Sunday morning wrap-ups on CBS/NBC/ABC in which they try to cover 5 days of racing in a half hour. They'll pick out a solo breakaway or a leader and follow him exclusive of all the inter-team intrigue.

Not So Strange

I'd hesitate to say individuality is killing the NFL, as every player's responsibility is still coordinated along with his teammates' roles on every single play. I don't know enough about the NBA to comment.

NASCAR has some interesting cultural things going for it. From an Austrian perspective, shouldn't we all dig it because it evolved directly from running booze and circumventing the government's restriction of the free market? Even though the sport, at least as far as television viewership, has exploded nationally as of recent, the vast majority of the races are still held in the South and the sport is dialed in to the regional culture, due in large part to its origins, in a way that no other form of racing could be. If Europeans were building bizarre looking race cars to run moonshine in Florida, instead of locals modifying regular cars to outrun the police if need be, then I'm sure we'd see a larger audience for Indy racing in the States (or if running moonshine could have been successfully carried out on bicycle?).

I'm sure the team aspect of cycling adds some strategy to the mix, I've seen a few races on television, and have had friends that ride competatively point out what interesting twists were taking place, but the sport failed to generate any interest for me.

Odd that tennis was thrown into this conversation as it doesn't have anywhere near the viewership of NASCAR or golf. Golf's viewership seems pretty easily explained, especially by its demographic. Golf is one of the few sports you can play into very old age (pretty much as long as you're able to walk). That people would tune in to watch the only sport many of them are still involved with seems reasonable.

Personally, I have a hard time watching any type of racing, tennis, or golf. Without franchises tied into localities, it seems that jumping the bandwagon is an expectation instead of an annoyance. I feel a great deal of pitty for Pittsburgh Pirates fans (and respect for those who continue to stick with the team for better and most often worse). Those loyal to the club haven't smelled a wiff of success since 1992, and haven't contended for anything during that period save for 1997 in which they were in the hunt for the NL Central crown despite having a losing record. That's 15 years of losing, from a once proud franchise.

Good cyclists, drivers, golfers and tennis players come and go, but since you have no logical ties to anyone in particular (save for maybe a cyclist from your home country in an international bike race) you can always just pick someone that is successful. Doesn't seem like there are the equivalent of Roayls fans in golf of NASCAR.

Maybe because Europe is broken up into smaller countries, and certain countries only have a small number of Formula One drivers, that this local sports loyalty still holds up? If I'm from Estonia, and there are one or two Formula One drivers from my entire country, then my entire country has some logical reason to root for one or two drivers? Then multiply this by however many countries there are in Europe?

I'd be interested to see how popularity for cycling changes from country to country in Europe.

Also, I think inter-country sports rivalry is a lot stronger in Europe. Does anyone honestly care if the US Olympic basketball team loses in international competition? Not a thousandth as much as people here care if the Spurs beat the Suns.

Our sports developed prior to advances in transportation that would make regular competition with those an ocean away feasable on a regular basis. Our rivalries, just like Europes, developed within our own continent, but because the physical size of the United States and Canada dwarfs that of the countries in Europe, our sporting life is somehow less international or diverse?

If each of the 50 states was a soverign nation, then we'd be just as intertaional with respect to our sports rivalries as Europe.