20 years of progress

Here’s a measure of progress in the last 20 years: when Greg LeMond won the 1989 World Championship (in an amazing finish), we had to grovel for token TV coverage and scraps of news buried on page 10 of the sports section. 20 years later, on a rainy Sunday morning, I sat and drank coffee and watched the race LIVE via the Internet (http://www.universalsports.com).

Also in 1989 — the year LeMond won his 2nd Tour de France — I remember going out at lunch to pick up the New York Times to get Samuel Abt’s reports on the race. That was as good as it got back then. I never imagined we would ever be able to actually WATCH it, other than on condensed, tape-delay summary shows.

Pretty amazing when you sit back and consider the explosion in information availability and connectivity. We’re getting close to the point where we take it for granted. What, no Worlds streamed live on the Internet? We’d be PO’d. We just expect that now.

And that Worlds race in 1989? Yeah, you can find and watch the finish: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJSgzHTRg38. It’s an awesome finish, too. As good as the 2009 race was, this was better. No one really thought LeMond would win, and he came out of nowhere on the final climb, covered the attacks on the run to the finish, then won the sprint against no less than Sean Kelly. I don’t recall seeing a more exciting finish.

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “20 years of progress

  1. Jim

    I used to drive up near Erie, Pa and take a small portable TV. The local CBS station (Channel 8 back then) didn’t think cycling was important enough to carry. Anyway, I would get there and watch a small black and white screen for 1 1/2 hours hoping for some coverage. Back then, you never knew what they would decide to broadcast.
    I remember walking to the library, on my breaks from work, to read the Abt column every day. He was good but this is better.
    I guess I am amazed at how, when I found out the coverage was live this morning, I simply sent out an email to everyone that might be interested. Really hard to believe how things have advanced.

  2. Brian

    Well here’s one of the downsides to the information availability explosion: how often do you have the pleasure of reading good now writing from someone such as Abt?

  3. Cyril

    For the record, the local CBS affiliate at the time, WJW, began broadcasting the Tour in 1987.

    The biggest difference between now and then is that the integrity of the sport has been badly compromised. Thus, while there is much greater/more instantaneous access to racing information, it’s much less worth paying attention to.

    • Brian

      I probably still have some old VHS recordings of those shows, buried in a box somewhere.

      Personally I don’t think there is a whole lot of difference between “then” vs. “now”. It’s more sophisticated now, but the underlying mentality is the same. What I think is really different now is how the media plays it.

  4. Cyril

    If doping is the ‘it’ you refer to as being more sophisticated, I agree, and that, plus its greater effectiveness, have made it far more pervasive and compromising.

    On the surface, the action may seem the same, but the quality of the competition, the relevance and meaning it once held, have largely been lost, at least from the professional segment of the sport.

    • Brian

      Actually I think the overall level of competition is deeper and more even now than say in the 70’s and 80’s. A lot of that is just due to improvement in training methods (like most other sports). So for me that aspect is always compelling and is always relevant.

      I sense that that along with the advances in training, came ‘advances’ in doping. In some ways they are 2 sides of the same coin.

  5. Cyril

    P.S. Don’t dig around for your tapes. See

    LeMond vs. Hinault, John Tesch in the soundtrack and vintage Phil Ligett narration

    • Brian

      cool … thanks. John Tesch: the butt of many jokes, but those were cool broadcasts.

      • Jim

        I saw John Tesh a couple of years ago at the Mentor Arts Center. A very entertaining performance. There again, I liked his music back then too.

        On the other hand, I didn’t care for Liggett then and, IMO, he has gone backward. Don’t freak, just my opinion.

        Regarding doping, it has always been my belief that it was occurring back then also. We were just to naive to know what was going on. Countless examples abound.

  6. Cyril

    Of course there was doping back then, and even before (that’s documented fact, not just a personal belief), but the available drugs were neither effective nor widespread enough to compromise the sport to the degree that EPO has; overall results for something like the Tour were still valid.

    Like Tesh or not, the marriage of his music and the video were stunning at the time (’88 may be the best example). Something like this

    is arguably better, but it rings so hollow now that we know it was such a fraud. About the only meaning it has is as tragedy.

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