Thursday, February 22, 2007

Lunacy. This is Lunacy.

I remember once reading an article by Eric Heiden, one of the most amazing overachievers in sports history. Heiden won a bunch of Olympic gold medalsin speed skating at Lake Placid, then won a bunch of US and World Championships in track cycling, then raced in the Tour de France. THEN he went to medical school and became an orthopedic surgeon. Now there's a guy who should be tired. Heiden said something like "on the morning of the second stage of my first Tour de France, I woke up convinced that the organizers would cancel the stage due to the fact that all the riders were too exhausted to ride. We had battled so hard in that first stage, there was absolutely no way anybody could possibly race the next day. I couldn't get out of bed. But somehow I did, and we raced, and we did it again 18 more times before we reached Paris. It was numbing".

Well, Dr Heiden, I've got news for you, it's not just the riders. It's Day Four of an 8-day tour, and I can't get out of bed, either. The sound guys, the staging guys, the drivers, the chopper pilots, the TV production crew.....we all feel the same way. This event has a US Open-like Death March feel to it. The US Open is way longer (3 weeks), and the hours are way longer (TV on the air from 11 AM until past midnight), but at least at the US Open I sleep in the same bed every night and I don't have to get into a car from the time I arrive into LaGuardia until the day I leave.

Hence, I've come to the conclusion that working at stage races really sucks. This is the best-produced, best-organized stage race in the world, yet for me, every day pretty much blows. I'm not having any fun at all.

Here's a typical day:

7AM Wake up. Long, hot shower and 30 minutes of stretching & yoga.

8AM check out of the hotel, trudge out to the vehicle with my suitcase. Drive to breakfast on the way to the site.

9AM finish breakfast

9:15 AM arrive at TV compound, set up my stuff.

Work like hell all day in a TV truck, which, if you've never been in one, is like working in somebody's bedroom closet with the door closed, on a desk the size of a dinner plate.

Never have time to eat lunch.

5 PM. Stage finishes. Walk to Starbucks, get a venti tea, and cool my heels for an hour while the timing crew packs up. Check e-mail, watch the 650 support people (staging, lighting, sound, fencing, commissaires) pack up all their crap into their trucks and hit the road.

6:30 PM Dinner. I'm all grimy from working all day, but I'm not currently checked into a hotel, so I can't shower before dinner. Wash my hands at the restaurant and eat like a zombie, staring off into space.

8PM Hit the road. Drive 2 hours to the next day's stage finish.

10 PM Check into a new hotel. Trudge across the parking lot with my suitcase and go upstairs.

10:03 PM FINALLY...... a hot shower.

10:13 sound asleep.

At least the hotels are nice. Mostly Hiltons and Hyatts. Big beds, good showers, big fluffy towels. That's all I ask for out of a hotel, and I'm getting it every night.

Thank heavens I refused to go work the Tour de France all those years I had the opportunity to go. Le Tour not only has the same shitty hours and ridiculous levels of chaos, but the hotels are all these crappy little shitboxes in the middle of nowhere, the showers are awful, and the people are all French, and therefore malodorous grumpy assholes badly in need of a bath and a smack upside the head with a crowbar. And of course the food is disgusting, and by the way don't drink the water.

The Governator came to yesterday's stage in Sacramento, which really screwed things up. His security must have been trained in Berlin in 1945. Fucking bunch of Waffen SS wehrmacht jarheads. I have a credential with a picture of a key on it, which means I can go anywhere at any time. But Arnold's Assholes wouldn't let me in to the scoring & timing motorhome 30 minutes before the stage finished. So I had to call an ATOC official on the phone to come out and chew the guy out.

Another Harvard graduate working security. God Spare Me from event security guards and the highly trained technicians at the TSA.

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