Friday, September 12, 2008

The Wayback Machine - 1999

Time is relative. For many, 1999 may seem like it was just yesterday. For others, such as myself, 1999 feels like ancient history. In an effort to place Lance Armstrong’s pending comeback in a context relative to his first Tour victory, let’s take a quick trip down memory lane and re-educate ourselves on what life was like before we all realized that Y2K was just a massive practical joke.

So…we all know that 1999 was the first year that Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France. But Prince’s favorite year also brought us a plethora of interesting headlines in both the Real World and the Cycling World.

Now let’s rev up the Flux Capacitor and look back at the following noteworthy events (at least for me) which took place in the year 1999:

- Gary Coleman filed for bankruptcy. Sadly, the primary reason I thought this was interesting was that I figured Arnold had been forced to do this much earlier. What you talkin’ ‘bout IRS?

1999 was just a bad year for the Diff’rent Strokes family altogether, as it marked the passing of Dana Plato as well. Generally remembered for her portrayal of Kimberly Drummond, I tend to recall her post-Strokes cameo on Growing Pains as the Madonna-esque, virginity-preying girlfriend of young Mike Seaver. But that’s just me…

- Ivan Gotti won the Giro d’Italia after Marco Pantani was disqualified for an excessive Hemocrit level prior to stage 21. Rumors that Ivan’s American cousin, notorious Mafioso John Gotti, was seen lurking in the Anti-Doping tent prior to the ejection have not been verified. I’m not sayin’…I’m just sayin’.

- The Denver Broncos won their second consecutive Super Bowl over the horrendous Atlanta Falcons and their unforgivable Dirty Bird routine. This event was important because it created a number of highly frustrating debates with Donkey fans about whether they were as good a franchise as my beloved San Francisco 49ers. Obviously I won all of these arguments with well-crafted (albeit obvious) statistical analysis but I generally just responded with, “Seriously? Please.”

- Andrea Tafi won Paris-Roubaix as the Mapei team swept the top three places. This was a watershed event as it provided the cycling world with some of the ugliest podium photos of all time.

- The Euro was introduced as a unifying form of European currency. Elsewhere the Dollar was quoted as saying, “Uh oh.”

- Jan Ullrich won the Vuelta a Espana. Many people overlook this result when reflecting on Ze German’s palmares but in retrospect, I believe this victory is best understood as irrefutable evidence of Spain’s sub-par pastry industry.

- The World population reached 6 Billion people. The U.N. reported that number 6,000,000,000 was born in Sarajevo then quietly asked, “We don’t actually have to prove that, do we?” Then they all had a good laugh.

- Jakob Piil won the USPRO Championship in Philly but Marty Jemison took the Stars and Stripes as the first American across the line. Despite recent events, it should be noted that Jemison did not punch any doctors in the face after the awards ceremony.

- Napster made its debut. I remember thinking that the whole MP3 thing was a fad as I tried to reconcile the many thousands of dollars I had already spent on crappy CD’s with one or two good songs on them.

- Oscar Freire won the first of his World Championships. Shortly after his victory officials requested verification of his nationality since many within the cycling community believed that a Spanish Sprinter was a mythological creature from the past – like Unicorns or a French Tour de France winner.

- Boris Yeltsin resigned as President of Russia. I don’t recall this being terribly important to me at the time but in retrospect, I find it curious that this event seems to make 1999 seem like a very long time ago. At least physically, Yeltsin always reminded me of Golden State Warriors coach Don Nelson. Okay, I’m starting to run out of events now…

- Frank Vandenbroucke won Liege-Bastogne-Liege. The Belgian hero then proceeded to fall victim to a number of scandals and catapulted himself into The Mike Tyson Zone, at which point nothing he did seemed too outrageous. How this guy is still making headlines in 2008 is beyond me, but then again, we still see Iron Mike in the news from time to time as well. When Frankie starts getting face tattoos and biting people’s ears during races, then it’s officially over.

Interestingly, when researching the events of 1999 I have come to find that a number of high profile deaths occurred. In addition to the aforementioned Ms. Plato, the passing of Walter Payton, John F. Kennedy Jr., Payne Stewart, Charlie Byrd, Grover Washington Jr., Curtis Mayfield and George C. Scott all took place that year. But perhaps most significantly, the legendary Wilt Chamberlain (the greatest record-holder ever) hung up his shorts for the last time in 1999 – thus putting the final touch on a lifetime of truly remarkable endurance which will never be matched. Not even if Lance wins number 8.

Man, 1999 seems like a long time ago…


Sebastian said...

And, of course, there was Star Wars I, another "second coming" that was ultimately less successful than Armstrong's will probably be . . .

As much as I'm impressed, though, I kind of have mixed feelings about this comeback. The problem is that, in the years since Armstrong retired, no real new generation of Tour "patrons" has risen to take his place -- with the exception of Contador, and perhaps in a year or two Andy Schleck. Armstrong vs. Contador would be a wonderfully compelling generational clash; but with Alberto effectively neutralized on Astana, what we're likely to see is Armstrong beating a bunch of aging dark-horses left over from his first reign. How fun is it really going to be to watch him decimate Satre and Menchov?

Perhaps Basso will re-emerge from the woodwork and make things interesting.

CaliRado Cyclist said...

I never got into the new/old Star Wars flicks. After Return of the Jedi, I kind of lost interest.

Somehow I doubt ASO will be too pleased with Johan bringing Armstrong, Contador, Kloden and Leipheimer to the party.

I know Mapei used to sweep Classics podiums but could Astana take the top 4 spots in the Tour?

Not sure how I would feel about that either...

Sebastian said...

Obviously ASO don't trust Bruyneel or Armstrong; but I think their actions this year were aimed primarily at the UCI: "We run our race, not you." The exclusion of Astana was intended primarily to send this message by making an example of one of the teams, and of course Astana, with the combined history of Amstrong/Bruyneel and Saiz/Vinokourov, was the most obvious candidate in their eyes. I don't expect another exclusion this year, because the whole point of playing God like this is that you give as well as take away. They'll make a big fanfare about how Astana has done its time and now is invited as long as it submits to the same drug controls as everyone else, yada yada.

The piece on the other day suggested that there could possible be a Team Livestrong, which I think would be much better from Lance's cancer PR perspective and would allow Contador and Leipheimer to remain players. I'm not sure how likely this is, but it would be more exciting.