|Pikers and Puck Fans:
We know that a Bike racer without an excuse is like a fish out of water. But these days it's hard to come up with novel excuses. The good ones have already been used. To wit:
1. The Rare and Incurable Disease: mitochondrial myopathy, Epstein Barr Virus, spider bites, heartworms, adult onset pica resulting in craving for Hostess snowballs; lost eyeball; afraid to arise from saddle due to acute priapism, which of course is a persistent erection that people my age can only dream about, and;
2. The Mechanical Fritz: seat post snapped; cleats came loose; couldn't get it into my 54 x 11; speedometer said I was going 38 mph so I let the pelaton pull away; punctured on the first lap and tire flatted in final sprint; steel frame felt flexy so I throttled down besides which I've got a custom carbon fiber litespeed on special order; and
3. The Patently Absurd: abducted by space aliens; downdip on the biorhythms; male sympathetic menstruation; missed my feed and nearly starved to death; exploding water bottles; hot-tubbed all night at the Playboy Mansion . And my all time favorite, courtesy of Bratty Snottstein, "the snow was falling through my roof, my girlfriend is pregnant but it's not mine and I broke a bone in my ankle that has yet to be identified by my doctors at Mayo."
Those are some of the good ones. There's also the often heard, seldom disputed and always fraudulent stand-by's. To wit: had to work 60 hours at my crummy job; the kids are sick and my wife's having an affair with her hairdresser; I haven't trained since (pick a date) or I haven't rested since (pick a date); bronchitis; dropped my chain; chondromalacia; lactic acid spewing glycogen breakdown byproducts; dehydration; sensitivy training induced castration.
Then there are the unpardonably bad ones, like: I wanted it too badly; the course was too ______ (pick one: hilly, flat, long, swervy, short); I worked too hard in the break; nobody would work; I lapped the field but the Blue Shirts were napping; I just wanted to have fun; I was too tired to read the lap cards or hear the final bell; I was working for our sprinter but he got boxed in with 26 laps to go; or I backed off because I have to go to work on Monday morning. I know these are despicable because I've used all of them.
This last weekend had been on Labor's mojo calendar for months. Three big races at the Rose Bowl and the always bone-jarring dragstrip crit at Manhattan Beach. Labor understands that all good things do and must come to an end. We of course wanted to win -- badly --but we are smart enough to know that a major flail had been building and was about to burst. So we thought it prudent to fly in a professional excuse consultant from Hooterville, Indiana: the unflappable Bill Stone, who has spent a good deal of his life crafting nifty excuses while ducking all manner of responsibility.
Billy had been Labor's guest for all of 4 hours when it occurred to me that he hadn't stopped talking. So I borrowed from Darling Wife's closet a blue blazer and a big cream colored bowtie/ribbon affair and in my best repressed defense attorney impersonation established a few ground rules with my garrulous guest, who proved the adage that you write like you talk and we've all seen the cinderblock sized paragraphs that are Billy's trademark. 1. You are required to pause at least 5 seconds between the time my lips stop moving and your lips start flapping. 2. You are to suffer through my tales of glory and offer none of your own. 3. You must ridicule yourself roundly but only say nice things about my family, my house, and all accoutrements therein. 4. You are to accept my insults without grief, sorrow or retribution. 5. If my eyes close or if I turn my back or cram plugs into my ears, this is your cue to cease yammering. And, Six, you are to avoid clever quotes from obscure novelists that make me feel stupid.
Already MKA was getting exhausted, which in retrospect was a prelude to the misery ahead. I decided to take our jovial guest to Wahoo's for fish burritos. He of course ordered "taco salad in a bag" and again I had to insult his lowbrow taste. So I ordered for him. He then carefully unwraps the tortilla holding in the fish, slaw and salsa and politely asks the waitress to "take the cowbladder away." Of course I'm ecstatic because now I get to insult him again. But I'm noticing that I'm spending a lot of my energy reproaching and rebuking my guest, which is fun, but he's so good natured about it I worry that I'm losing my edge.
One thing leads to another and before you know it the weekend's over and out of four races Labor's best placing is a 3rd (Robocop in the Rosebowl 30 plus crit). Fortunately, Billy had been briefing me since his arrival on some of the new and exciting excuses he had been kicking around, so Labor was prepared for the spin.
THE EXCUSE-O- PLENTY BOARD
1. Too Much Money, Too Many Racers. The Rosebowl crits offered $2,500 for the 30+, 35+ and 40+. The M-Beach crit offered $1000 for the 30+. The field sizes for the Rosebowl crits hovered around 80 strong and the M-beach field topped out at 120. It turns out that Labor thrives only when the fields are sparse and the purse is basically empty. Labor of course funded the Rosebowl crits and lobbied the MBeach promoters to increase the pot from junk valued at $200 by local swapmeet standards. Your basic "hoisted on your own petard" situation. Labor is the Mother of it's own undoing, as it should be.
2. Former Olympian Alternates Should Be Outlawed. Especially ex-Olympian alternates who are 46 years old, freckled and Irish who call themselves "Butch." Bill Stone was also an alternate on the Olympic team in ‘72. But due to congenital defects which were every bit as serious as the one that faced Lance but which did not net him the media coverage or yellow jersey that he so richly deserved, Bill was forced to surgically remove 8 pounds of scar tissue from his right foot just before the trials so instead of going to the Games in Munich he decided to commit to the Pucks in lower Indiana. Billy verifies that indeed Butch was an alternate, but our wobbly friend also concedes that he was popping percocet like Pez and drinking heavily at the time. By the way, Butch won the Rosebowl 35 plus (repeat winner) and nabbed 2nd in the M-Beach Crit. Kudos.
3. My Body Is Immune to Caffeine. In the old days, Labor would warm up before races at a local coffee shop. The combustible black powder like magic would help us convert the bitterness into full blown agromania. This weekend Labor lacked the agro frenzy. For example, at Mbeach, going into the final hairpin turn, MKA moved up to the coveted spot behind Butch's rump, which is like a soft recliner next to a hot fire in a cozy inn for a weary traveler. But as we started rounding the turn, about 6 Shogun warriors swooped in with their cutlery and coming out of the turn MKA resembled a pile of sushi. Gutted. Eviscerated. Chopped and dropped like so much bad monk fish. But MKA dutifully imbibed 4 espresso drinks beforehand! Where art thou Bitterness? Next race I'm going to get my bitterness up by playing tapes of Bill "Blunderbutt" Bennet, self-described paragon of virtue and obese Shrub apologist, wax hateful about that "towering disgrace" in office.
4. Key Personnel MIA. No, I'm not referring to MM Hackenflack, who went back to back at MBeach last year but this season would be lucky to actually ride his bike twice in a week (mediocre excuse). No, I'm referring instead to Rudy, who was a no-show for Rose Bowl and tardy for M-Beach. Normally, before a race Rudy helps Labor focus on what's really important, i.e., the knucklehead "infidels" who despise the Racing News because of Labor's media dominance and, secondly, the babes in halter tops. In his absence, all Labor could talk about was paying down the national debt, shoring up social security, closing the gender gap, renewing campaign finance reform and inserting dicknity into the ovum orifice. Hovercraft also raised $12 which we are sending to Veep Lieberman as a bribe to compel him to apologize to Howard Stern.
5. Radio Transmitters Jammed. Like all serious pro-am teams Labor has ear phones. It turns out our frequency was usurped by a Christian broadcaster who counseled that "it is better to give than receive." Normally, this would be dismissed by Labor's atheist contingent as so much babble. But when your brain is fried from the heat, your "fight/flight" instinct is permanently stuck on flight, and your muscles are weak, the Christian effluvium has a way of infiltrating. (Apologies to my sincere Christian brethren on Labor).
6. Texas Flashbacks. At the Rose Bowl at race time the mercury jumped to 103 degrees in the shade. Suddenly MKA is back in Wichita Falls -- I can feel my body expand, like a corpse bloating in the sun. But this is more of a personal excuse. I must note that my teammates from Vegas were wearing arm and leg warmers at the start line. Indeed, Robocop -- in his first real race since bouncing back from a broken ankle he got from jumping out of a helicopter -- easily saddled up with reptilian cohorts Chris Moon Walker and Hillbilly Hillbrecht and lapped the field.
7. The other guys were faster and smarter. McFive Dollars McMahon is raging. He goes by MKA so fast these days I don't even know what he looks like, which is a good thing. Sometimes a blur is best. But in light of his recent rash of flyby field sprint victories, we are officially upgrading his nickname from McFive Dollars to McSix Dollars. McSix Dollars won the MBeach Crit. The Scumdinks also deserve praise, in particular God's Gift, who happily sacrificed his poor pathetic body so that Butch could win again. Do you know how hard it is to even think about trying to come around a freshly led out Butch Stinton, with the rocking bike, the swinging elbows and the boom-boom buttcheeks? Christ. Even if Labor had the speed to go shoulder to shoulder with this hulking bar banger I think I'd end up face down in the gutter or hanging upside down from a tree.
8. Mean Spirited "ABL" attitude. Anyone But Labor. The races are basically fixed. The evil forces have conspired to do anything to beat Labor, including racing tactically and savagely. This is unfair and demeaning to the sport and violates all sorts of codes of honor and I think MKA will refrain from cutting checks his body can't cash until at least he wins another race.
9. "Club Foot is Contagious." This is my personal favorite and proof enough that Labor's money was well spent on a pro like Billy Stone, whose comic delivery reminds me of W.C. Fields. Billy did show me his scars and I did inhale some of his toe cheese, so this excuse is not without scientific merit. Also, my legs did tend to load up more quickly than usual, and I'm starting to limp and scrape about and I just ordered the Usual Suspects from Amazon.com on account I have a theory that clubfoot is a precuror to genius.
10. Spun Out by the Spinner. From the moment he arrived Billy was spouting excuses, some clever, some mundane. Billy was determined to field test his favorites and Labor felt obligated to comply. So it turns out that Labor's overarching excuse for the weekend is that you shouldn't consult with Professional Excusers until AFTER you flail, not before.
Free Bonus Excuse: Labor operates best with simple instructions, like "Go hard from the gun" or "Long and Large." Regrettably, before Rose Bowl, MKA assembled the squadron and laid out a winning strategy that of course we forgot to execute. Finally, I'm not saying anything, but I swear my head's been swelling up lately and my back hurts. Last week I was penetrated by a swarm of mosquitos that seemed to be riding on an Easterly wind. Anyone heard about any West Nile virus going around?