“Obviously, we get paid a lot of money for doing this, and that’s a very good thing,” Brooking says. “But I can say with all my heart that I’d play for free. I love to play football. It’s a lot of fun, and just the competitiveness of it–it’s a great game. I love it very much.” Keith Brooking Alanta Flacons linebacker
I hear this a lot. I never really believe it from these athletes. I’ve seen too much behavior to the contrary in the major professional sports in the US.
There are athletes who do come close to that ideal. I am referring to the domestiques. The unsung heroes of cycling. If you have any doubt that these guys get absolutely no glory, then reflect for a minute on how many times you had to explain to non cycling friends why cycling is a team sport. Why Lance would not have won 7 straight Tours de France if he did not have a strong team.
If professional cyclists need to embrace suffering to ride at the highest level then domestiques epitomize this love affair with suffering. I can’t think of anything more difficult than to put oneself through that torture anonymously. Instead of cheering crowds, the sound of workers breaking down the stands is all that’s heard when crossing the finish line.
For all those who:
- Ride tempo mile after mile before any cameras are watching
- Get dropped on one mountain, fight to get back on during the decent then ride straight to the front to set tempo before blowing up again
- Ferry bottle after bottle of water through the peloton on 100 degree plus days
- Give a wheel, bike, or whatever is needed
- Struggle to make the time cut so you can torture the body one more day
- Chase down break after break
- Ride with more scabbing than fresh skin
- All for about 1/10 the minimum salary a professional football player makes in the US.
You are the ones who
- Lend beauty to the team time trial
- Keep the sport’s unique contact to the next generation by being so accessible
- Give us some of the most unforgettable moments
- Inspire us to reach within ourselves for that something extra
- Get in that break that stays away and enjoy, just once, the top step of the podium
- Feel the soft kiss on the cheek of a beautiful podium girl
- Hear the crowds cheering for you
- Exchange your team colors for something in yellow, gold, or pink for even a day
- Know that all your hard work does catch the eyes of a few who can appreciate the impact you have on a race
Before getting back to work the next day.