Fans of ‘elitist’ European sports

I’ve become what I used to ridicule and I blame Mrs. Brad.

For decades, a good part of our married life has revolved around watching sports – baseball, basketball and football.

So far. Now we’ve largely traded the NFL and even much of the baseball season for pro cycling and Formula 1 auto racing.

Yes indeed?

The beauty of loving multiple sports is that something is always in season – for most of my life it was Giants, Warriors or 49ers season. He really still is.

But that’s dwindled in recent years, with an increase in NBA fandom and a slight decrease in others (Ms. Brad won’t watch the NFL because of the league’s macho posture and inattentiveness to head injuries; the ascendancy of the Warriors means we’re focused on the NBA until mid-June, which is almost halfway through the baseball season).

But there are newcomers to our sporting world.

Over the past two years, cycle racing and Formula 1 have moved into our sports space, making us stereotypical, elite suburban baby boomer sports fans. These are the fans I secretly made fun of when I was a sportswriter, suggesting they considered themselves better than “regular sports fans”. They enjoyed cycling, golf, tennis and European motor racing.

Now we are among them. Type of.

First, the bike. Ms. Brad stumbled upon the Tour de France last year, enjoying it in part because of the slow pace of the event and the beauty of the scenery (she also enjoyed watching “Slow TV” shows, such as a 10 hours with a camera mounted on a train crossing Norway). But she started to understand the strategy and soon she had a favorite team. She would watch the daily six-hour international broadcasts of the Tour de France stages on the Peacock app and tell me about strategy and the winners.

This year she has watched several multi-stage races – often working or napping during the events. So I got interested. We support the Jumbo Visma team. When Jonas Vingaard won the Tour, our team won. When Wout van Aert won stages, our team won. When Primož Roglič gave up, our team lost a guy.

The Vuelta, a stage race in Spain, is now halfway through and we are watching it. Cycling holds our attention.

Second, Formula 1. The attraction was born because we watched the Netflix series “Drive to Survive”, which covered the last three seasons of F1 (as we fans call it). The series taught us how races work and showed drama beyond just who wins.

This year we started recording every qualifying session and every race (since they often start before 5am). That’s one hour of qualifying (ESPN also usually broadcasts three separate practice periods!) and two hours of racing. We have our favorite drivers (mine is Sergio Perez, his is Daniel Riccardio) and we follow the individual and team rankings. We are looking for the worst team in F-1 (Williams) to finish in the top 10 and finally get a point in the standings. We are now emboldened to critique tire choices and pit strategies.

Here’s the thing: Bike races are great. Formula 1 too. I was wrong to doubt it.

But as I embrace them, I suspect my biggest fear is that admitting cycling and motor racing are cool might force me to re-examine my biases against other sports. Is it possible that I can actually love NASCAR, professional golf and other sports that I reject? Even football?

No. And it’s almost Warriors season, so I can come back to that.

Except when there is a big cycling event or an F-1 race.

Contact Brad Stanhope at [email protected].

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