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David and Kristine Daly from Sacramento decided at the last minute to come to Paris for the finish of the Tour de France on Sunday. I met them at a cafe just before the cyclists completed the 21st stage of the tour, riding up the Champs Élysées in a misty rain with flags flying and crowds cheering.
The Dalys are die-hard sports fans who have been to two Superbowls, various World Series and the '84 Olympics. They had plenty of frequent-flier miles and couldn't pass up the chance to watch Lance Armstrong win his seventh tour. What if he hadn't won? "Well," she said, "we'll still be in Paris."
The crowds along the avenue thickened as the cyclists approached. There were lots of American tourists waving yellow Lance fans, a club of French boosters wearing funny orange hats and a German couple with two towheaded boys, bored to tears by the biking.
Most striking to me was the lack of partisanship among fans, partly because Armstrong's win at that point was a fait accompli and partly because of the international composition of the teams. By rooting for the Discovery Channel, fans weren't necessarily backing America, just the cyclists under the sponsor's banner.
I like that, even if my idea of a sporting event is a yoga class.