And The Answer Is...
Three. That’s how many pairs of socks I can knit while watching the Tour de France. One pair in plain stockinette, one in twisted rib (sort of fake cables, really), and a third in Knitty.com’s RPM pattern (knitty.com/ISSUEsummer06/PATTrpm.html). Lisa got me hooked on the Tour four or five years ago, and of course as she was fighting her cancer seeing Lance Armstrong winning again and again was a continual inspiration. (She joked after she got her intrathecal port that she had similar scalp scars — and a similar hair style.) This year was really different: no Lisa, no Lance (except in interview); no Ullrich, either, or Iban Mayo. Bobby Jullich crashed out early, the Discovery guys and Levi Leipheimer messed up (Leipheimer was Lisa’s pick, and she had the Gerolsteiner cap to prove it), and Floyd Landis had two of the most unbelievable days of cycling I’ve ever seen and won the Tour. Watching him lose and regain 8 minutes over those two days, I’m amazed the last sock has a coherent pattern at all.
I wasn’t sure I was going to watch, except that I did want to see what happened. I’m a sucker for long sporting events, ones in which your choices at the very beginning have a profound impact 3 hours or 3 weeks later, but still, watching it without Lisa.... Not the same, particularly with Lance Armstrong still very much present in the commentary. Her heart, her attitude was just as determined — but cancer is like that. Sometimes you don’t win.
And maybe that’s the other part of why I watched, and why I’ve been watching sports a lot this summer. You can fight your hardest, do everything right, and still lose. In sports, mostly, you get to get up and do it again, next week, next day, though the Tour had its share of broken bones that would put riders out for months. I’m not big on the notion that sports is a metaphor for life (though, being a southerner, I haven’t been able to escape the idea, particularly in regard to football). But it has been oddly consoling to see that message spelled out: sometimes the best people don’t win. Sometimes they do, and you treasure those moments, but it’s not a given. When they don’t, you curse and you cry, and you knit ridiculous numbers of socks — and you cheer even harder for the victories.