Monday, July 19, 2004

Better Fred than Red

Did you know that there is a nickname of derision for the weekend bicycler with legs proudly unshaved?  (I am talking about the men, of course; there is no need to discuss derisive nicknames for women bikers with stubbly legs.)  The would-be Lance Armstrong’s of the world call them “Freds.”  For all I know, there is a whole other term for a Fred who doesn’t wear spandex.  So there you have it – biking is a sport where men who do not wear spandex and do not shave their legs are ridiculed.  As a sport, sadly it is not alone in this regard. 
Take swimming, for example.  When I was a lad life-guarding down the Jersey shore, our patrol’s representatives proudly eschewed the wearing of what we called “bird” suits in the swimming and rowing races held among the coastal towns in the county.  You probably know these suits as speedos – glorified thongs for men that leave little to the imagination.  I should admit up-front that our team sucked, and were routinely beaten by bird-suited individuals bringing glory to their teams.  But we didn’t suck because we wore normal swim trunks.  We just lacked talent.  Now it is one thing to lack talent, and it is quite another to lack talent and be wearing a bird suit.  That just makes you a French Canadian (for those unfamiliar, French Canadians vacation frequently at the Jersey shore, and always sport bird suits – reason enough, in my mind, for other Canadians to root for the Quebec separatists).
My guess is that swimming has no term equivalent to the bicycling “Freds” and this is because it is almost universally the case that everyone who swims laps or enters into some type of race sports the bird suit.  If you enter a race without a bird suit, the sight is so shocking to the other participants that it leaves them speechless.  No sense making up a word of scorn given the rarity of the non-bird suit wearing swimmer.
Now, I can understand that at least biking garb has some utility, and who am I to argue with guys who ride 2100 miles through the Alps and Pyrenees in three weeks time.  But of course there are only about 150 guys who do that, and I am pretty sure none of them pass me on the bike trail, muttering “Fred” to me while clad in their US Postal-wannabe outfits.  They may be faster than me, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t feel at home in Quebec.
Maybe the individuality of swimming and biking drives grown men to wear such outfits.  No team sport would admit of such competitive gear looking to exploit some thin competitive advantage, because it would take at least one guy on the team to propose such an idea, and he’d be teased mercilessly until he finally retired.  I would bet that basketball players could play better in just their jock straps, but that is no reason to take off the uniforms and show everyone the comparative size of your naughty bits.
These athletes have it so mixed up that even their teasing is upside down.  Does calling another guy a “Fred” truly convey your contempt for them?  If called out by that name, my first instinct would be to say: “Thanks!  It is good to be recognized as a regular guy, a guy who likes to drink beer and watch football.”  What guy named Fred doesn’t fall into that category?  My reaction would be far different if someone called me “Trent” or  “Dylan.”  By that I would infer that he thinks I wax my legs, enjoy wearing spandex, and can sing at least three show tunes off the top of my head.  Now that would be insulting, because I don’t wax my legs.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This reminds of a conundrum I found myself in a few years ago. I rode a Century ride with the local bicycling club and spent most of the ride with a guy named Fred (who incidentally did not shave his legs). I called him Fred all day but he didn't seem to mind.

You should take up triahtlon--then you can ride your bike AND wear a bird suit at the same time.

7:06 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Sign up for my Notify List and get email when I update!

powered by