Put On Your Thong And Cheer On Your Countrymen

The Tour de France is known for the wild enthusiasm of its fans.  The fans are part of the spectacle.   Where else do you see people camping in devil costumes replete with pitchfork or dressed as Borat running up a hill?  I have never seen so many men in thongs.  As one of them explained to me, “we don’t normally dress like this, we do it for the Tour.”

Others dress like they normally do.  These guys might not normally plan to all wear same hot pink jersey.  Then again, they might.

People show their enthusiasm for the Tour in their dress.  This poor lady from Luxembourg had a cast.  She painted her toenails in her country’s colors and drew red and white polka dots (to represent the King of the Mountains polka dot jersey), yellow and green stripes (for the Yellow and Green jerseys that go to the overall tour winner and the leader in the sprint points).

Although the Tour de France is France’s premier sporting event, its international aspect is an integral part of it.  We saw people from:

  • Norway,
  • Luxembourg,
  • Denmark
  • Belgium,
  • the Netherlands,
  • Germany,
  • Switzerland,
  • Estonia,
  • the United Kingdom,
  • Australia,
  • New Zealand,
  • and the United States (although Boris and Natasha said that there weren’t as many Americans as there were during the Lance Armstrong era).

Having a rider win the Tour de France, is a huge boost to cycling in that country.  People become more familiar with the sport, it gets more publicity, people starts buying more bikes and riding more.  Australian’s interest in cycling and the Tour exploded with the success of Australian Cadel Evans who won the Tour last year.

We saw tons of flags we’d never seen before.  There were tons of Brits and we saw several of these three-legged flags.  We learned it is the flag of the Isle of Man, the home of legendary British sprinter, Mark Cavendish.   Undoubtedly, the Queen, Prince William and Kate are all Cavendish fans.

Someone else had a theory that the nationalities of fans on the mountain revealed something about how economies are doing.  Vacations in France aren’t usually cheap.  We saw tons of Norwegians (who went nuts for Team Sky‘s Edvald Boasson Hagen).  Norway is definitely not hurting.  The UK, the Danes and the Germans have some of Europe’s strongest economies.  Then again, it could have something to do with geography and when people have vacation time.

French rider, Thomas Voeckler, won stage 10 from Macon to Bellegarde-sur-Valserine.

How do Frenchmen celebrate a fellow countryman’s victory on a stage of the Tour?   With champagne, bien sûr.  We had to hustle to get to the next day’s stage so we didn’t stick around to see if they had thongs.

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Bracketology: How To Fill Out A Bracket

Warmup before the 2006 NCAA Men's Division I B...

Warmup before the 2006 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament National Championship Game (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Last week, I posted about trying to explain March Madness to non-Americans.  Now, I’ve compiled some suggestions for our non-American friends who are wrestling with their NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament brackets.  Here is their introduction to Bracketology, the art and science of filling out a winning bracket.

 

  • If you are filling out a bracket for a giant pool online, feel free to go nuts and pick crazy upsets. Otherwise, play it safe.  Smaller pools tend to be won by those who do.

 

  • The early rounds are not as important as the later rounds.  It is virtually impossible to win if you haven’t picked some of the teams in the Final Four.  The best way of ensuring this is to look at each region before filling out the bracket and choose the team you think has the best chance to come out of it.

 

  • After picking your Final Four teams, choose the highest of those to win the tournament.

 

  • Pick all of the No. 1 seeds to win against the No. 16 seeds.  The No. 1 seed has always won against the No. 16.

 

  • While you are at it, pick the No. 2 seeds to win.  They have always won the first game.  They don’t always win the second.

 

  • Since you have picked all four No. 1 seeds to win their first game, how far do you have them going?  In theory, your chances are probably better with all four No. 1 seeds the Final Four, but this rarely happens in practice.  A good rule of thumb is to have two No. 1 seeds in the final four.

 

  • It is probably safe to keep them winning through the Elite Eight.  The teams that are left at that point are all good teams and who have beaten other good teams.  At this point teams seeds do not matter as much as the individual matchups.

 

  • While there are occasional upsets, the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds win their first games over 80% of the time.  However, No. 4 seeds don’t win as often as No. 3 seeds in the next few rounds.

 

  • The odds say that a No. 5 seed will lose.  Almost every year, one does.  The No. 12 team that knocks them off is known as a Cinderella.  This team will likely win one or two games, but is not likely to make it past the Sweet Sixteen and almost never makes it past the Elite Eight.

 

  • You may as well flip a coin when trying to pick the winner between the No. 8 seeds and the No. 9 seeds.

 

  • The seed means  little to nothing with the  No. 7 and No. 10 matchup.  Ignore the seeding and just pick who you think is the strongest.

 

  • The No. 13 and 14 seeds are not expected to go far.

 

  • The No 15 and 16 seeds lose their games.

 

Now that you have some general guidelines, here are some things (in no particular order) to consider when choosing your winners:

 

  • Travel – Do any of the teams have to travel a long ways, which is tiring and time consuming?  If they have to change several time zones, it is even mores.

 

  • Location close to home – the closer a team plays to home, the more fans who will come to support them.

 

 

  • Talent – It is good to have it.  No surprise there.  The more of it, the better.  It’s good to have a deep bench.

 

  • Age of the players – Experience counts.  Teams packed with older players, upperclassmen, are less likely to be thrown off balance, used to the drill and have more leaders.

 

  • Past tournament experience – this is invaluable.

 

  • Coaches – Some coaches have a history of winning in the tournament.  They know how to prepare their teams and are able to get the best out of their teams there.  Teams coached by these guys have an edge.

 

  • Free-throw shooting – Free-throw shooting is important.  Everyone should be good at it, but they aren’t.  Teams that can make free throws have an advantage.

 

  • Offense and defense – Teams need to be able to play both to win the tournament.  Be very wary of any team that can’t and pick winners that do both well.