Yeah, yeah, I know: Roger Federer made a compelling case for himself as the best men's tennis player ever on Sunday. And the Detroit Red Wings wrested back momentum from the Pittsburgh Penguins in a tasty Stanley Cup final, a classic clash of youth and experience, Sidney Crosby (22) and Nicklas Lidstrom (39).
In the real sports news, however, BRETT FAVRE HAD ARTHROSCOPIC SURGERY on his torn biceps tendon, opening the door for him to re-un-retire! (Brett, buddy, how can we miss you if you won't go away?) And JERRY JONES MAY GIVE PACMAN A SECOND CHANCE! AND A DAY LATER THE COWBOYS SAY NO WAY! Yes, open-wheel racing has kneecapped itself down through the years, what with that whole CART/IRL split, but still, the Indy 500 is an international icon. Yet if it weren't for Danica, most Americans couldn't be bothered.
That's not a slap at one of SI's most popular swimsuit models, a legit, world-class driver whose sixth-place finish in Fort Worth on Saturday snapped her streak of four straight top-five finishes. It's a lament at the oligopoly in sports today; an observation that, entertaining as they can be, the NFL, NBA and MLB, have a tendency to suck all the oxygen out of the room.
Seriously, if it's not one of the The Big Three (or their NCAA farm clubs), if it isn't one of golf's major tournaments, or if a one-name celebrity isn't in the mix, did it really happen? If Tiger doesn't charge to victory at the Memorial on Sunday, is anyone, other than Jim Furyk and his immediate family, talking about it today? One hundred-eighty riders will roll down the ramp in Monaco next month for the prologue of the 96th Tour de France. But you could be forgiven for assuming, if the promos on Versus were your sole source of information, that only one guy will take the start.
The cold truth is, Lance Armstrong isn't the best rider on his Astana team right now. That distinction belongs to a 26-year-old Spaniard named Alberto Contador, who has already won all three of cycling's grand tours, and who might just drop the Texan like a sack of meal when the peloton hits the Pyrenees on July 10. In a recent interview, Contador trod a fine line between candor and insolence, describing Armstrong as "just another member of the team."
The dynamic between those two, the exquisite tension, is already one of the best soap operas in sports. But watch Versus's Tour ratings go through the floor if and when it becomes apparent that Armstrong has no shot at an eighth victory. Americans -- or should I say "the Lance freaks," as one of his ex-teammates described them to me -- will bail by the thousands, even though they'll be turning their backs on a dozen storylines that are, arguably, no less compelling.
I make these points not to scold, but to remind readers that sports is not a prix fix menu, but a sumptuous buffet. Even if Armstrong fades from contention, give the Tour a chance. Keep an eye on Mark Cavendish, the charismatic and voracious young Brit for team Columbia-Highroad who won a preposterous four Tour stages a year ago, at the age of 22, and could very well eclipse that mark this time around. See if argyle-rocking riders of Garmin-Chipotle, the other American team in this Tour, can snatch victory in the Team Time Trial in Stage 4. The Argylenauts will be among the favorites.
Open your mind, in other words, to the cornucopia of sporting options -- from rugby to track and field (yes -- even in non-Olympic years) to horse-racing (yes -- even when a Triple Crown is not at stake.) If you give it half a chance, you may find yourself sucked in by the College World Series, which begins in Omaha on Saturday. Did you happen to catch the joyous dog pile formed by the Virginia players following their Super Regional victory over Ole Miss, which gave the Cavs a spot in their first CWS? I worried for the safety of the guys on the bottom. That mound of humanity served as a reminder that the number of Nielsen ratings points an event earns is often inversely proportional to the amount of passion it packs. There's a wealth of drama and great stories outside the Big Three. And you'll find them not quite as stale.
In the meantime, have you heard the news? TERRELL OWENS IS HAVING TROUBLE RENTING A HOUSE IN BUFFALO!