Tour de narrative

If one can recognize – and sympathize with – the protagonist as the person who gets dumped on in Act One, then Andy Schleck is now the protagonist of the 2010 Tour de France. Stage 15 is a little late for Act One, but at least I know who to root for in the stages that remain. Ride, skinny boy – ride!

Of course, the dumping upon is merely the situation that helps establish the protagonist’s status. We still need a story…
what will Andy choose to do next? Will he dig in and claw back those precious eight seconds? Will he accept former friend Contador’s hotel room apology? Will he whine about it and drop further back – in which case, I'll stop rooting for him.

Speaking of which, someone should have offered Lance Armstrong a rewrite after his early stage disasters. He could easily have been the protagonist, but he ignored the clearly heroic choice laid before him. Lance might be out of contention, but teammate Levi Leipheimer clings to a spot near the top. How wonderful would it have been if the great Lance Armstrong had declared, as his farewell Tour slipped away, "This one is for all the teammates I've had over the years." The world would have set aside any reservations they ever had about the guy if Lance Armstrong had pulled a Bull Durham during his remaining two weeks in the sport, and sacrificed his own glory to drag Levi onto the podium in Paris. Of course, that hasn't happened. And perhaps the sort of man who can win seven championships in a row is not the sort of man who will EVER sacrifice himself for a teammate. But hey, it would have been nice.

Slate has an interesting article on our deep-seated desire to root for the underdog. Though the article offers several semi-scientific reasons, the writer suggests that part of our tendency to root for the guy who isn't winning actually traces back to the narratives all around us – a bit of self-fulfilling prophesy for us writers:

When you think about horse racing, which comes to mind first: Seabiscuit's underdog victory in the 1938 Pimlico Special or Cool Coal Man's unremarkable loss at the 2008 Kentucky Derby? … And consider all the other underdogs in our culture—from the Bible, from literature, and from every sports movie ever made. It's no accident that we remember the Titans...

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