Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Zuckerman Awards

Age is relative. Taylor Phinney and LeBron James aside, examples of older people outperforming their younger counterparts abound in our society and one need not look further than the world of re-run television and professional bike racing to find proof.

After yet another frustrating Classics campaign, George Hincapie will no doubt take solace in this notion. Following yet another badly timed mechanical in Paris-Roubaix, Melanie’s husband will no doubt have to overcome whispers that he is too old to ever win the Hell of the North. But while time may not be his strongest ally at this point, the date on your driver’s license is rarely an indication of how fast you can ride a bike or how lucky you can be on any given Sunday in Hell.

With that said, I would like to hand out some awards to those cyclists who have given the elder statesmen of the sport reason to be optimistic many years after the big 3-0. These awards are given in honor of the many actors and actresses who have played characters far younger than themselves and insulted the intelligence of viewers everywhere.

The Andrea Zuckerman Award:

This award goes to Andre Tchmil because he is the oldest winner of both Milan-Sanremo (36) and the Tour of Flanders (37) and because he almost has the same first name as the former editor of the West Beverly High School Blaze newspaper. Additionally, both individuals are best known for performing at a level far younger than their real age would indicate.

Gabrielle Carteris was in her 30’s when she played Andrea Zuckerman in Beverly Hills 90210. Seriously, for the first year of the show she was playing a character that was literally half her age. But even as old as she seemed, it should be noted that she was only a couple years older than Dylan McKay and Steve Sanders in real life. Sanders had the curly mullet and dolphin shorts to distract the eyes but Dylan showed that High Schoolers could have receding hairline and still be cool.

On a brief side note, Beverly Hills 90210 is my choice as the most Unintentionally Funny television program of all time. It is absolutely hilarious. For reasons I will not get into right now, I started watching Nine-Oh in college and have always considered it a Comedy. Between the fashion, the casting, the acting and the storylines, it is truly right up there behind Seinfeld and Cheers. Tori Spelling was a comedic genius and she didn’t even know it.

And David Silver is one of the most underrated Hip-Hop artists of all time. Singing, dancing, rapping…how could Donna Martin resist?

The Arthur Fonzarelli Award:

With victories in the World Championships at 38 and Amstel Gold at 40, Joop Zoetemelk may have been the most successful “old” rider of all time. And he certainly has the craziest name.

For reference, his given name is Hendrik Gerardus Jozef Zoetemelk but he went by “Joop.” Kind of like Arthur Fonzarelli just went by “Fonzie.”

Despite the fact that he was 29 years old when he started playing Fonzi on Happy Days, Henry Winkler actually went on to carve out a pretty respectable career for himself. He has a ton of directing and producing credits and his portrayal of Barry Zuckerkorn on Arrested Development was excellent. Anyone want a hot Ding Dong?

Speaking of Happy Days, C-Mac pointed out the other day that both Joanie and Chachi are currently on television regularly. Not much to say here, but I just thought you should know that in 2008, Joanie and Chachi are both still on TV. But Ralph Malph is nowhere to be seen. Is this progress?

The Mike Damone Award:

This award goes out to Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle, who won Paris-Roubaix at 38 years old in 1993. Amazingly, it was the Frenchman’s second victory in a row after having narrowly missed winning multiple times in his earlier career. Despite victories in Paris-Nice and GP Plouay, Duclos-Lassalle will always be known primarily for his exploits in Roubaix.

Similarly, Robert Romanus will always be known best for his portrayal of Mike Damone, the ticket scalping dirt bag from Fast Times at Ridgemont High even though he famously reprised the role of Natalie Green’s boyfriend “Snake” in the later years of the Facts of Life. I am not sure exactly how old Romanus was when he played that character but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was pushing 40 like Duclos-Lassalle in Roubaix.

The Arvid Engen Award:

Tony Rominger won the Giro d’Italia at 34 years old and is just behind Fiorenzo Magni as the oldest winner of the event. But because Rominger was kind of a techno-geek and looked way older than he was at the time, I will bestow the Arvid Engen Award to the Swiss GC specialist. I also don’t know much about Magni so the original “Tony Romo” gets the glory here.

It could be argued that the students in the sitcom Head of the Class were in the advanced learning program because they were all old enough to be in grad school. The uber-nerdy Arvid Engen was just the most glaring example. After all, this is the show that had Robin Givens (who was married to Mike Tyson in real life) playing a High School student on television.

Does anyone remember the episode where they go to the former USSR with the debate team? That was excellent. Kind of like Rocky IV with nerds. And Dr. Johnny Fever from WKRP in Cincinnati.

The Rizzo Award:

This final award, named after the oldest high schooler in cinematic history, goes out to Firmin Lambot, who was the oldest Tour de France winner at 36 years of age in 1922. I don’t have much history on him but this is what Homer Simpson had to say on the subject, “Mmmm, firm lamb.”

Now, I have been forced to watch Grease a few times and my biggest problem with the entire movie (and I have lots of problems with it) is the fact that they had a 34 year old Stockard Channing playing Rizzo, a high school student. 34!!! The whole movie is kind of a joke in that nearly everyone was way too old, but still. 34? That’s just insulting.

I know I have left out a lot of racers that have been successful into their 30’s as well as many older actors playing younger characters, but this will have to do for now. I’m still trying to get over the fact that Andrea Zuckerman is pushing 50. I feel old.

Interestingly, Hincapie never would have made it on Beverly Hills 90210 or Head of the Class because he has always looked older than he is. I remember that he even had full-on 5 o’clock shadow at Junior Nationals back in the day. Twenty years later I still can’t grow a beard but Big George had one back in 1988. I call this the “Greg Oden Effect” but that is another topic for another day.


Wanda said...

What about Vinnie from Doogie Hauser MD?

I think he was about 30 when they did that show.

Sebastian said...

Cool post. Let's not forget Joaquim Agostinho, who finished on the TDF podium at the ages of 35 and 36, and in the latter year won the Alpe d'Huez stage:


And we probably shouldn't pass over Jeannie Longo, who won her first national title in 1979 and her last in 2006 (at 47 years old!), and in between won almost a thousand races, including the women's TDF and world titles on both the road and the track.

CaliRado Cyclist said...

Yeah, Vinnie. Forgot about him. He was creepy. Always climbing in Doogie's window. That's not right.

Must say I forgot about Agostinho as well.

I did think about Jeannie Longo though. She was/is amazing but will always be overshadowed by Connie Carpenter-Phinney in my book. Nothing to do with palmares, just a personal opinion.

But I also left off perhaps the best "old" guy ever in Deadly Ned Overend.

That guy is my hero. And one of the last racers to rock the mustache with great results.

Does Zabriskie still have the stache?

Anonymous said...

Nothing to do with palmares indeed! But we'll let that slide . . .

I suppose we should also give shout-outs to the two ageless Russkies, Konyshev and Ekimov. I don't want to wade into the murk of the Hamilton controversy, but part of me would have loved to have seen Slava nab that Olympic TT gold at age 38. But winning it at 34 (ahead of an Ullrich-Armstrong street fight, no less!) was a sweet feat too.

And Konyshev: it's kind of amazing to me that a guy who beat Lemond and Anderson in a sprint at the '86 Coors was still winning races the year Armstrong retired.

Your man Jens is now 37-ish and will probably be winning the Criterium International into his 40s.

Finally, the Zabriskie stache -- I hope it's not a mid-career crisis thing, like the Fignon ponytail, whose appearance early in 1988 confirmed that, indeed, the glory days of le Professeur would never return.

CaliRado Cyclist said...

Excellent...all good candidates for the Zuckerman Awards.

Perhaps I did not clearly express my CCP "palmares" comment. If Connie had continued racing as long as Longo did, then the comparison would be easier to make. J-Long, who I always thought was like a female version of the Badger (not necessarily a good thing), raced for like 22 more years after 1984. Longevity aside, in terms of head-to-head and quality wins, CCP is tough to argue against. Also, J-Long didn't go to the Winter Olympics as a teenager.

But somehow I get a strange feeling that I may be preaching to the choir on this one, no?

Konyshev and Eki were great. But it was kind of weird having likeable Russian riders. Part of me wished that they would show up to events with full beards, acting all sinister like Belov in American Flyers. Alas... our Cold War enemies were not so bad after all. But we already knew that from the Head of the Class debate episode.

Whatever happened to Vladislav Bobrik? I have no idea why I remember that name from the Tour DuPonTrump days but it's stuck in the hard drive for some reason. Brains are fascinating.

Speaking of which, my brother provided me with a fascinating account of the Jens Voigt/Chuck Norris connection recently which I will address soon. Very interesting. Perhaps even scandalous...but in a good way.

And finally...L-Fig rises again. Fignon certainly had the Greg Oden effect going on with the balding pony and old man glasses. Although his pre-ponytail haircut wasn't exactly the coolest thing in the world either from what I recall. He looked like a bespectacled Andy Warhol or something.

I could go on all day. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Anonymous said...

Re: J-Long and the Badger (in the context of the Carpenter-Phinney pairing) -- looking at the photo of them together atop the '86 Coors podium, I always reflect that if they'd gotten a little more hammered on that giant novelty champagne bottle and then stumbled off to a hotel room, French cycling might not be in the dire straits it is today. Consider that your happy mental picture for the week.

I'm glad I'm not the only one who remembers Bobrik. He went on to win the 1994 Tour of Lombardy for Gewiss (or another one of those now-dubious mid-90s superteams), but never did much else.

And yes, there were no Belovs waiting to be unleashed from behind the Iron Curtain. Sean Eadie was the best we got:


CaliRado Cyclist said...

Oh dear.

Their offspring would be named Bernie Hinongo and he/she/it would be terrifying.