For men at least, fame and fortune generally follow glory in the field or on the road. As much as some prefer not to be loaded with the former, it’s a small price to pay, writes Anthony Tan.
“It’s funny how the times (have) changed. I would’ve said ‘yeah’ before but… I don’t think I’ve ever been as disappointed taking a yellow jersey as I am today.”
Wiggins’s reluctance to wear the maillot jaune was patently obvious when he stepped on to the podium in Saint-Vallier, the day Cadel Evans surprised all except he, and won the stage, emphasising the defending Tour de France champion’s remarkable versatility and ability to spot and take advantage of an opportunity.
The look on the Briton’s face was as if he’d been tasked with scrubbing the showers at the Roubaix velodrome after a mud-spattered “Hell Of The North”, or forced to lick team-mate Mark Cavendish’s shoes clean.
But he had his reasons: “I wanted to wear my Sky skin-suit on the time trial on Thursday. So, hopefully I can lose it by not so much in the next few days, and then I get to go with my full TT set-up in that long time trial.”
Unfortunately or not, things haven’t worked out that way for Wiggins, who will enter the demanding fourth stage time test fleeced in yellow.
But has the burden of being race leader really been that bad for Bradley?
After all, it’s not inconceivable the same thing could happen in the opening week of this year’s Tour, where, if it did, his team would go out of its way to lose the maillot jaune, for the pressure on both Wiggins and his team would simply be too onerous.
Could part of his aversion, then, have something to do with the media commitments required of a race leader, for which the at times irascible Wiggins, as charismatic as he can sometimes be, bears a not-inconspicuous loathing?
I was thinking as much after reading a profile on Australian MotoGP two-time world champion Casey Stoner, who at the ripe old age of 26, announced last month this season will be his last.
“I don’t want to go, but there’s nothing left for me here,” Stoner said.
The kid from Kurri Kurri, New South Wales, also has a contempt for the press, telling a Sydney Morning Herald journalist who recently interviewed him “they friggin’ twist things” in reference to his specific disdain for the Italian and Spanish press.
Wrote Jane Wheatley, the author of the article, “Stoner’s claim is that he doesn’t owe anybody anything: not the public, not Australia – which, as he sees it, gave him no support – not MotoGP management and certainly not the press, which, as others have confirmed, were slow to appreciate his talents and grudging when they did. I’m fairly sure this attitude was instilled in him by his father: the bullish defensiveness of the outsider.”
Having spent more than a decade interviewing and profiling cycling champions past and present, it seems that this ‘chip on the shoulder’ mentality gives them an edge.
Lance Armstrong first comes to mind.
Those who have come from privileged upbringings, whose families have never had to fight to put bread on the table each night, do less well, particularly in non-team oriented sports.
And while these champions or champions in the making seek glory on the pitch, in the field, or, in the case of cycling, on the road, unlike rock stars or supermodels or Hollywood actors, fame and celebrity-status are spurned.
If they were really famous and had to deal with serious stardom and all its accoutrements, like Bono or Justin Bieber, George Clooney or Barack Obama, they would probably go into meltdown. With the exception of Armstrong and, perhaps, Tom Boonen when he’s in Belgium, most of these blokes could still walk down any street and, for the most part, not get noticed.
“I’ve never been interested in popularity,” Stoner said.
“Other people love it, love being famous, but I get less popular because I don’t put on a show. People behave as if they own you; they jump in front of your scooter, grab you and pull you about, demanding signatures. They don’t appreciate you . . . so I just ignore them, then they get cranky and it just goes in a circle.”
I found it rather ironic that when asked about rumours of retirement at the Portugal GP last month, Stoner told reporters: “Don’t believe everything you read in the press,” spouting a much-used line of defence. Ten days later, those murmurings he openly dismissed turned out to be true.
Yes, the constant fawning and over-the-top objectification and gratuitous autograph signing must grow a little tiresome, even if the millions in the bank account do not. The media scrutiny and intrusion into one’s personal life can also be burdensome, or at the very least, irritating.
But really, in the grand scheme of things, it’s a small price to pay, especially if you happen to win the MotoGP world championship or a race like the Tour de France.
For most sporting women, they’re ecstatic to have a column inch written about them, although it’s often loaded with a negative sub-text, such as a catfight with another teammate on the day of Olympic selection.
As far as moolah goes for the chicks, it’s for the most part non-existent, tennis and golf being two exceptions to the rule, and when it is there, it’s more an insult than anything.
Fairfax columnist Richard Hinds noted in his column last weekend the highest-paid player at Canberra United women’s football club earned $6000 last season, which makes you wonder what dual international, Ellyse Perry, who is not the highest-paid, by the way, thought when she received an ultimatum by the club to ditch her cricket whites or play elsewhere.
Choosing between two sports that don’t provide a living wage… Hmm.
So harden the hell up, Casey and Wiggo, and put a smile on your dial, because life could be so much worse.