Tuesday afternoon, I got an email from Versus’ PR company, with the big, bold, all-caps, and centered proclamation:
VERSUS TO AIR LANCE ARMSTRONG’S FINAL RACE
OUTSIDE THE U.S.
WITH DAILY COVERAGE OF
THE 2011 TOUR DOWN UNDER
Wow. With that kind of emphasis, it simply cannot be denied: this is truly important information, and must be shared. Right away.
I read the rest of the announcement, then immediately copied and pasted the entire thing into my handy blog editing software (recently moved from Ecto to MarsEdit, in case you’re curious, which you aren’t).
With — of course — the intent of courteously providing a pro bono edit of the press release.
Change of Heart
And then I saw the personal note above the announcement:
Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen, the undisputed voices of cycling, will be on site in Australia to provide insight and commentary for each day of the network’s coverage. Please let me know if you would be interested in speaking to Phil and/or Paul this week to preview the upcoming race.
Well. That changes things. Specifically, it changes what I’m writing for today’s post. Even more specifically, it means that instead of me making fun of the way the announcement gives the impression that LANCE WILL BE RACING HIS BIKE IN AUSTRALIA and oh yeah some other people will too, I’m going to consider the kinds of things I will ask Phil and Paul when I talk to them later this week. Cuz, you know, I’m kind of a fan. Even though I tease them a little.
Questions About Commentating
First, I’m very interested in what goes on behind the scenes in the booth when Phil and Paul are watching a bike race. I’d love to ask the following:
- What are you listening to on your big headphones when commentating?
- Do you have someone working in the background, collecting stats and interesting tidbits of information for you to relay? Or is that what Google’s for? Or do you actually know all that stuff?
- I’ve noticed that the Liggett / Sherwen commentating split is about 65% / 35%. Why is that?
- Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night with a crazy metaphor in your head and say to yourself, “I’ve got to say that tomorrow!”
- Do you have special hand signals you give to each other to communicate things you don’t want us to hear? Things like, “Please take a turn talking, I am about to have a coughing fit.” Or like “I have nothing at all to say at this moment.” Or “Hey, let me talk, I want to use that crazy metaphor I came up with last night.”
- Do you have a list of emergency metaphors, colorful adjectives, or very descriptive adverbs you keep on hand, just in case?
- How boring is it to commentate the long, flat stages where the breakaway rider has a fifteen minute lead? Seriously, on a scale of one to ten. Or maybe we should go to eleven. Or possibly fifteen. Regardless, sometimes the only thing interesting in some of those stages is the fact that you two manage to keep finding something to talk about. And while the rest of us can zoom through at 4x speed, watching for wrecks, you have to watch the whole thing and talk about it. So, anyway: How boring?
- When you’re sitting in your booth, are you wearing pants?
- If you were to do the exact same commentary about the exact same sport, but one of you had an Idaho accent and the other of you sounded like you were from the backwoods of Oklahoma, do you think you’d be as popular?
- Does Bob Roll spit-talk a lot when he gets excited? How about when he’s not excited?
- Do you have a pronunciation key for cyclists’ names? Why not?
Who’s the Most?
I would like to get Phil and Paul’s take on the people, teams, and moments of cycling who have been superlative at one thing or another.
- Who’s the most erudite cyclist you’ve ever talked with?
- Who had / has the ugliest team kit, ever?
- Who is the class clown of cycling?
- What was the best stage of the TdF you’ve ever commentated?
- What was the most awful stage of the TdF you’ve ever commentated?
- What was the most boring stage of the TdF you’ve ever commentated?
- Who’s the cyclist you would most like to invite over for a barbecue?
- Who is the most misunderstood cyclist of all time?
- Who is the best DS of all time?
Who Would Win?
I think the world would be very interested to know, between Phil and Paul, who would be better at a number of both cycling- and non-cycling-related activities. Which, between the two, would win at:
- A stare-down
- Climbing the Alp d’Huez
- Making sarcastic remarks
- Arm wresting
- Pie eating
- A spelling bee
- Obscure pop-culture remark-making
Additional Very Important Questions
Of course, not everything I would like to ask them has to do with their commentating style. I’d like to ask them a few “left field” questions, to just kind of mix things up.
- Do you have a running bet about who will retire first?
- Does it bother you when you are called “The Siskel and Ebert” of cycle commentating? What? You’ve never been called that before? Well, what if people started calling you that. Then would it bother you?
- You’ve seen Eddy Merckx race in person. Honestly, does anybody compare?
- What bikes do you personally ride?
- Do you ever mountain bike?
- Paul, does it irk you that everyone says “Phil and Paul,” never “Paul and Phil?”Would it make you happy if I put your name first, say about 35% of the time?
- What’s your favorite kind of cheese?
Questions About the Suitcase of Courage
Finally, I think I’d like to ask them a lot of questions about the term, “suitcase of courage.” In fact, I think it’d be fun to conduct an interview with them containing nothing but questions centered around this term. For example:
- When did you first say “suitcase of courage?” What was happening at the moment?
- When you said “suitcase of courage” for the first time, did you realize it was going to become a catchphrase of sorts? That people like me would say it whenever we try to do impressions of you?
- Did you borrow, buy, steal or otherwise appropriate the phrase “suitcase of courage” from someone else, like from a manufacturer of very brave luggage? If you bought this phrase, how much did you pay for it? Would you say you’ve gotten good value for your money?
- Suppose that, instead of “suitcase of courage,” you had said, “satchel of courage” or “bushel basket of courage.” Do you think it would have had the same impact?
- How about “Container of courage?” That’s nicely alliterative. Do you think that would have been a successful signature phrase?
- Do either of you own “suitcaseofcourage.com”? Why not?
- Did you know that “suitcaseofcourage.org” takes you to the Fat Cyclist website? Now that you do know, do you wish you would have trademarked the term? Do you think it was worth the price I paid and time I spent to acquire the domain suitcaseofcourage.org so I could write this joke?
- What color do you imagine the suitcase of courage would be?
I could go on. You know I could.
At the time I write this, I have no guarantee that I’ll actually get to talk to Phil and / or Paul. After I post this, I suspect my chances will go down considerably. Alas. I shall keep you apprised.
Meanwhile, I would be delighted to have your input into what kind of questions I should ask Paul and Phil, should I get the chance.
PS: Props to dug for helping me come up with a buncha these questions.
PPS: I now have an appointment to talk with Phil (not Paul) Friday at 4:45 MT. I doubt I’ll be able to sleep tonight. Or tomorrow night.