I’m reluctant to post this entry, because I don’t want to tip my hand. But the fact is I’m at an impasse and figure that the likelihood of somebody winning this thing because they stole my idea(s) is worth the risk, because I need some advice.
What am I talking about? I’m talking about the contest in the current issue of Bicycling Magazine, of course:
Now, I have to say that I found the headline distracting:
The “Eddy Merckx Experience?” This makes me think that the PR firm that wrote the ad copy for this contest has Eddy confused with Jimmy Hendrix. Which is perfectly understandable, unless you know even a tiny little bit about either of them.
Still. Win an Eddy Merckx bike? I’m all over that. So what do I have to do? Well, the ad copy says I need to do this:
I don’t mind telling you that I panicked a little when I saw that I only have 50 words to describe “how riding a bike bearing Eddy’s name and inspired by his legend will empower [me] to channel ‘The Cannibal’s’ greatness and achieve [my] most ambitious cycling goals.” I mean, they’re only giving me 50 words to write an essay that has a subject matter of 27 words.
Being an ambitious-yet-thorough sort, I didn’t want to merely use the ad copy as my guide for my entry. Instead, I chose to be certain I completely understood what I was being asked to do, by carefully reading the rules.
My panic increased.
It turns out that a complete reading of the rules gives an even more daunting picture of what I need to do in those 50 words:
The essay should tell us, in 50 words or less, what cycling-specific ambitions or goals riding an Eddy Merckx brand bicycle will help empower the entrant to achieve and how the entrant will benefit from the signature features and technology of an Eddy Merckx brand bicycle. The winner will be judged by the following criteria: (1) detailed and creative description of an entrant?s cycling goal, (2) description of specific features and technologies offered in an Eddy Merckx brand bicycle that will enable an entrant to make the most of his/her physical talent, (3) description of how Eddy Merckx?s personal success as a professional bicycle racer will inspire or motivate entrant to achieve their goals when they ride a bicycle bearing Eddy Merckx?s name, (4) organization and development of the ideas expressed, with clean and appropriate examples to support them, and (5) consistency in the use of language, variety in sentence structure and range of vocabulary, use of proper grammar, spelling and punctuation.
That’s 162 words, telling me that in my 50 words I need to do each of the following:
- Talk about my cycling ambitions and goals.
- Talk about how the bike will help me achieve those goals.
- Be detailed (!!!) and creative in my description of these ambitions, goals and my accelerated achievement of said goals on aforementioned bike.
- Describe the features / technologies of the bike that will assist in the bike’s facilitation of my achievement of my ambitions and goals.
- Discuss, presumably in some detail, how the legend of Eddy Merckx ties into all this.
- Develop all of the above fully, and with good organization.
- No naughty jokes.
- Don’t stray off-topic in my 50-word essay.
- Be clever and original in my use of language.
- Demonstrate that I own a thesaurus.
- Use commas, periods, nouns and verbs where they’re supposed to be used.
- Run the whole thing through the spell-checker before I fire it off.
I’ve got to say that upon completing my review of this to-do-in-50-words list I briefly blacked out. Then woke up sobbing.
Eventually, though — my jaw set, my visage grim, my nostrils flared — I got to work. I am not happy with my work — yet — but here are my attempts thus far.
The Checklist Approach
My first attempts at writing this essay centered around simply trying to satisfy the requirements set forth in the rules. A representative sample of my 50-word essay using this technique follows:
My cycling ambitions and goals are many-fold (not “manifold,” which is a completely different word with a distinctly different meaning, and would severely alter the meaning of this sentence). First, I would like to win a bike race in my lifetime. Any bike race. I’m not particular about which race, or even about having to sandbag down to a slower category (if there is one) to do it. I just want to be able to say, “I have won a race.” An Eddy Merckx bike would help me achieve this goal by intimidating my competition, hopefully to the extent that they would soil themselves and hence be unable to queue up at the start line. And then I would win.
My second — and more pressing — ambition is to look sassy on a bike. I have purchased several jerseys and bib shorts and a special very aerodynamic-looking helmet that all go very well with the color scheme of the Eddy Merckx bike featured in this contest. If I win the contest, I intend to take this course to its natural conclusion and buy socks and shoes that go with the bike. And then I will look sassy indeed.
My third ambition is to figure out why anybody would ever eat bleu cheese. It smells terrible, looks awful, and tastes nasty. What is it other people find appealing about this nasty substance? I must know. I confess, however, that I do not know how an Eddy Merckx bicycle would help me solve this riddle.
The Eddy Merckx bike is really crucial to my achieving my objectives, because — unlike other bikes — it is a lightweight carbon fiber road bike with racing geometry and high end components. This is totally unique in the world of cycling.
To conclude, I would like to describe how once, Eddy Merckx appeared to me in a dream. He told me that if I ever wanted to win a race, I must be certain that as few people as humanly possible start that race. He told me that I must have confidence. He told me I must look sassy. He told me his bike was exactly what I needed to do all these things. In my dream, Eddy was eating bleu cheese.
Curse you, bleu cheese, for spoiling what was otherwise a very awesome and topical dream!
This is, of course, a perfectly wonderful essay and would almost certainly win, except it’s 392 words long. I tried the trick of hyphenating every word in each sentence, but I knew that the judges would see through this ruse.
Disappointed, I tried another approach.
Appeal to Authority
As many of you know, Eddy Merckx isn’t actively involved in Eddy Merckx bicycles. However, I’m sure his opinion still holds considerable sway with whoever judges this contest.
So I contemplated how I could use these two facts to my advantage. And that’s when it came to me: I’d do a photographic essay, showing how Eddy has already endorsed me as the winner. Behold:
Really, no additional text is necessary, as far as I was concerned. The judges would see that Eddy is my close personal friend and that he has already selected me as the winner. Really, there’s nothing left to do but collect my bike.
And then the rules went and spoiled my party.
Entry Material/Entry cannot contain the image or likeness of or reference in any identifiable way (for example, by first and last name, or by any part of a name that is identifiable) any person other than the entrant, including, but not limited to, any depictions of celebrities, unless a signed release from such person(s) is submitted to Sponsors along with the Entry Material/Entry.
Man, those guys thought of everything.
So I’ve got an email out to Eddy asking for his OK on using this photo, but he hasn’t replied yet. I’m sure he’ll be cool with me using it, but as a plan B I got to working on a fallback plan.
I’m probably the only person this has occurred to, but while the rules are really explicit about what the essay must contain, it doesn’t say (and believe me, I have checked) that the contents of the essay have to be true. So here’s my next attempt.
I am a committed Cat 2 cyclist with dreams of moving into Cat 1 this year. I win more often than not, and when I train, it is always watching an Eddy Merckx video — I am the only person I know who rates “A Sunday in Hell” as his favorite movie of all time.
I want an Eddy Merckx bike because my current bike is a piece of crap. It weighs 24 pounds, which causes me all kinds of difficulty in climbing stages. Eddy Merckx bikes, on the other hand, are the pinnacle of beauty, reliability, and power.
Even more importantly, though, would be the fact that as I ride my Eddy Merckx bike, I will feel like The Cannibal is urging me on, reminding me with every turn of the cranks of what he has accomplished…and what I can accomplish, if I will not break.
I want an Eddy Merckx bike so I can make him proud, if only in my own mind.
This is, of course, pure hogwash. Plus, it’s more than three times as long as is allowed, which gives you an idea of how impossibly brief my actual entry is going to have to be.
You see why I’m discouraged? You see why I’m asking for your advice? This essay contest is difficult. Perhaps it’s even impossible.
But I won’t give up.
Because I know, in my heart of hearts, that The Cannibal wouldn’t.