OLN has continued to screw with a great formula. I have been watching the Tour de France since the early 80’s. In those early days, it was one half hour of coverage on ESPN about 1AM on a Sunday night that recapped each week of racing. It wasn’t much, but for those few of use who were diehard cycling fans, it was GOLD! It featured Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen doing the commentary with side pieces by Sam Posey. These guys were GODS! They brought this unique sport to light and feed the one or two crazed fans in America.
Fast forward to 1999. OLN secured exclusive rights to the Tour coverage in America and did a damn fine job. It wasn’t live then, but it was same day coverage and it was Phil and Paul back on my television. Talk about a comforting sound… these guys brought the tour to life in a way that no weekly wrapup ever could. We are talking daily coverage up to an hour a day!! I was in Nirvana. CBS held on to the rights to show the only Sunday coverage and it sucked horribly. It was an hour long show with about 3 minutes of racing. The rest was human interest and mindless garbage.
Last year as viewership EXPLODED thanks to Lance, OLN started to tweak things and for my money, started to screw things up. They added Bob Roll and Kirsten Gum last season. Bob and Kirsten stayed in the studio and did the most retarded pieces I have ever seen. Bob is dorky and because he is an ex-rider (he actually rode in the Tour) I can put up with him… but Kirsten Gum is a joke. She is a hot blonde – true… but she knows absolutely ZILCH about cycling. Evertime she tried to make a point about a cyclist it was like fingernails on a chalkboard as it was obvious she knew nothing about the sport, the riders, the tactics, the history or the tour.
This year, they added Al Trautwig. Sure, he is a famous and heralded sportscaster, but despite covering Greg LeMond one season for CBS, he too is a novice in the world of cycling.
The formula now is to have Phil and Paul do the live coverage in the morning and then when they replay it with what they call ‘expanded coverage,’ Trautwig and Roll act like the video version of Cycling for Dummies as they try to explain the ins and outs of this extremely complex team sport.
Maybe I am just being elitist. Sure, it was great being the ONLY person I knew who followed cycling. Sure, it was cool to be one of the few Americans who knew Claudio Chiapucci and Laurent Fignon. Sure, it felt satisfying to be the only one in a group who knew a domestique from an echelon or a peloton from a repechage.
Regardless, Al Trautwig, Kirsten Gum, and Bob Roll may have “Americanized” the special evening coverage – but I will take the old-world style and poetry of Phil Liggett‘s emotional call during the finish sprint any day over “McTour Coverage.”