Sunday, June 22, 2008

Major Faux Pas

Life was tougher a hundred years ago, and tougher still in the face of open discrimination. Yet while people like Jackie Robinson are celebrated across the US, an earlier pioneer, Major Taylor, the first black cycling world champion, has been entirely forgotten.

Or would be, if a band of enthusiasts didn't have their way. But this group has kept his memory alive, and just under a month ago crossed a milestone: a statue of Major Taylor now stands outside the public library in Worcester, MA, a city where Taylor lived for much of his active life.

I wasn't there for the statue per se—I find most of these civic monuments uniformly ghastly—but to support Lynn Tolman, who has been the most visible member of this tireless group. They did have two headliners attend the event, Greg Lemond and Edwin Moses, and I figured they might have something interesting to say. In the end, things came out backwards. The statue is quite superb:

Moses was interesting enough, while Lemond continued to embarrass himself and those listening to him. It's one thing for Lemond to declaim about drugs in the sport: he knows something about life in the peloton in a way that the rest of us never will. (It doesn't help that he has become a kind of confidant-in-chief for suspect riders.) But at an event like this—which he knew about well in advance—he not only rambled without continuity or coherence part of the time but, worse, didn't so for the rest. When he wasn't rambling, he was telling us about how terrible a time he had had as a young American in Europe, and somehow linked his own tribulations (immense though they were) to Taylor's (which were unimaginably greater). In the end, one felt pity for Lemond and an even greater sense of Taylor's accomplishment.

So, no photograph of self-promoting celebrities. Here's Tolman during her pleasant and modest address:

3 comments:

steck said...

OK, this is as good a place as any to offer my Major Taylor jersey for sale. It's a men's size XL, but it's really too tight on me. I've worn it just once, I believe. The jersey is made by Louis Garneau; maybe a too-snug fit is common for LG jerseys.

I really like the design, and when they get the XXL size back in stock, I'll get one of those.

Here's the home page for the jersey:

http://www.majortaylorassociation.org/jersey.shtml

If interested, send me an offer to the email address in my profile.

-- Paul

Eugene said...

Growing up in Indianapolis, I learned about Major Taylor from the velodrome named in his honor:

http://tinyurl.com/63de6o

It was a treat.

---- Eugene

Shriram Krishnamurthi said...

Thanks for the pointer. People go to watch NASCAR races; why wouldn't they want to watch a velodrome race? It'd be a bit like a Minor League game. Maybe we can bring back the Madison...