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Friday’s foaming rant: The world’s greatest athlete?

Comparisons are odious. –John Fortescue As surely as the Christmas decorations go up after Halloween, so too do the “Lance Armstrong is not the world’s greatest athlete” tirades go out after the Tour de France. The latest yahoo to dust off this apples-versus-oranges claptrap is Mike Imrem, who scribbles for a thing called The Daily Herald, a suburban-Chicago sheet whose founder, Hosea C. Paddock, proclaimed that his goal was to “fear God, tell the truth and make money.” Paddock’s successors may indeed fear God and make money, but they have fallen short of telling the truth in running

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By Patrick O’Grady

The next winner of the Tour de France: Ricky Williams, late of the Miami Dolphins

The next winner of the Tour de France: Ricky Williams, late of the Miami Dolphins

Photo: The Associated Press (file photo)

Comparisons are odious.

–John Fortescue

As surely as the Christmas decorations go up after Halloween, so too do the “Lance Armstrong is not the world’s greatest athlete” tirades go out after the Tour de France.

The latest yahoo to dust off this apples-versus-oranges claptrap is Mike Imrem, who scribbles for a thing called The Daily Herald, a suburban-Chicago sheet whose founder, Hosea C. Paddock, proclaimed that his goal was to “fear God, tell the truth and make money.”

Paddock’s successors may indeed fear God and make money, but they have fallen short of telling the truth in running Imrem’s July 26 meandering diatribe, in which he argues that pretty much any of the higher primates capable of throwing, catching or running with a spheroid is athletically superior to a top cyclist, though it’s woefully clear that the only qualities cycling and ball sports share are illicit drug use and the desire to conceal same.

“(A)nybody who ever carried the football once in the NFL is a better athlete than even cycling’s best ever,” writes Imrem. Guess he’s missed the past couple Chicago Bears seasons. I’m thinking the Bears would have their hands full getting a first down against the Luna Chix, if Alison Dunlap’s healthy.

Now, I don’t tell you these things to score points against Imrem, because frankly, it’s just too damn’ easy, like shooting puppies at the pound. I’ve read a few of his columns, and the best I can say of them is that they are definitely words in a row – sentences, of a sort, with an occasional paragraph mark thrown in, probably by a round-shouldered copy editor who subsists entirely on Marlboros and coffee and is counting the hours until retirement.

Too, we must remember that ball-sports aficionados in the greater Chicago area have been left unkissed and short of the altar more often than Jennifer Lopez, and inflicting further torment upon them would be unseemly and cruel. Besides, they enjoy it. As Cubs manager Herman Franks said more than a quarter century back: “Chicago Cubs fans are the greatest fans in baseball. They’ve got to be.”

No, I mention Imrem’s folly, not to encourage a letter-writing campaign against the man and his stale witticisms, but to discourage any such knee-jerk response. Take it from me, there’s nothing a hack from a backwater rag loves more than a bulging sack of fresh hate mail, the kind of venomous correspondence that has to be handled with tongs and a welder’s mask through a thin slit in a lead wall. It tells him that someone is reading his column other than his gray-haired momma and a round-shouldered copy editor dutifully adding paragraph marks while overlooking the odd botched homonym, like “peddle” where “pedal” is indicated.

Howls of outrage are music to the ears of such a man, sweeter even than the Tokay he sips surreptitiously from the Listerine bottle in the third drawer of his Army-surplus desk as, with a quick wink to the stained photo of Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl garment malfunction, he taps out his latest two-fingered Andy Rooneyesque blockbuster on the old Royal manual typewriter: “Say, what’s with these bicycle racers, anyway? They shave their legs like girls! If they were real honest-to-God American he-men, they’d be in the NFL, trading forearm shivers with Bill Romanowski.”

You think you can change a mind like this with e-mail? What you need is a hacksaw, a strong stomach, and most important, a fresh brain, unsullied by hallucinations of Ricky Williams – a 5-foot, 10-inch, 228-pound, dope-smoking running back who bailed on the Miami Dolphins after five seasons and three flunked drug tests – winning the Tour.

So I beg of you, hold your fire. Feed not the mouth that roars so feebly, and with so much halitosis. Withhold your angry letters, and take solace in the notion that Imrem is less upset with the notion of Armstrong as a celebrated athlete than with the daily reminder that he himself will never be Ron Rapoport.

But feel free to keep sending your nasty notes to me. I get paid by the letter.

Ho, ho. As if we’d pay O’Grady anything for this stuff. Still, feel free to send your bouquets and brickbats to us at webletters@insideinc.com. We sell your e-mail addresses to spammers to pay the round-shouldered copy editor who puts all the paragraph marks in. – Editor