Killing Davey Moore

As I wrote in an earlier post, I tend to find non-riders' involvment in cycling’s myriad dope scandals more interesting than that of the riders themselves. The doctors, the directors, the sponsors, the officials, the fixers and what they knew, when they knew it, what role they played, and why – all hold more intrigue for me than rattling on about why some 26-year-old bike racer chose to be the final link in the chain. Riders’ perspectives are fairly well documented since, Willy Voet and a few others aside, they’re the only ones who ever really sing, and when they do, it’s a fairly simple song. Dope to go faster; dope to keep the job; dope to hang on one more year; dope to make more money. The part the cyclists play in the dope show is by far the most obvious. But the roles of everyone else in the sport, including you and me? Those aren’t always quite as clear, are they?

I have always wanted to write some grand, sprawling piece about how all those other parties, by demanding certain things or by ignoring others, contribute to the ongoing drug culture in the sport. About the sponsors who lean on directors for better return on investment. The director who demands better results to find a sponsor. The enthusiast media that whistles past the graveyard. The fans who cry out for ever greater performances. The officials who choose to look the other way. The riders who perpetuate a never-ending arms race that’s become just part of the job.

But I never do that piece for several reasons. Available time and citable insider knowledge are obviously two big reasons for keeping my trap shut. But the third reason I don’t go into it is simply that I know when I’m beaten. Which is to say that I would never get close to exploring the subject as well as Bob Dylan already has, and I’d eat up a hell of a lot more words trying to do it. Back in 1963, Dylan wrote and began performing a song called “Who Killed Davey Moore,” reflecting on how different parties contributed to the boxer’s death after a bout earlier that year. Yes, the song is about death and boxing, not doping and cycling, but the salient points are all there, simply and brutally, right down the unwillingness of each party to acknowledge their role in the final tragedy. There are a lot of people I’d try to out-write, but Dylan ain’t one of them, so have a read with a cyclist's eye.

Who Killed Davey Moore?
Bob Dylan, 1963

Who killed Davey Moore
Why an’ what’s the reason for?

“Not I,” says the referee
“Don’t point your finger at me
I could’ve stopped it in the eighth
An’ maybe kept him from his fate
But the crowd would’ve booed, I’m sure
At not gettin’ their money’s worth
It’s too bad he had to go
But there was a pressure on me too, you know
It wasn’t me that made him fall
No, you can’t blame me at all”

Who killed Davey Moore
Why an’ what’s the reason for?

“Not us,” says the angry crowd
Whose screams filled the arena loud
“It’s too bad he died that night
But we just like to see a fight
We didn’t mean for him t’ meet his death
We just meant to see some sweat
There ain’t nothing wrong in that
It wasn’t us that made him fall
No, you can’t blame us at all”

Who killed Davey Moore
Why an’ what’s the reason for?

“Not me,” says his manager
Puffing on a big cigar
“It’s hard to say, it’s hard to tell
I always thought that he was well
It’s too bad for his wife an’ kids he’s dead
But if he was sick, he should’ve said
It wasn’t me that made him fall
No, you can’t blame me at all”

Who killed Davey Moore
Why an’ what’s the reason for?

“Not me,” says the gambling man
With his ticket stub still in his hand
“It wasn’t me that knocked him down
My hands never touched him none
I didn’t commit no ugly sin
Anyway, I put money on him to win
It wasn’t me that made him fall
No, you can’t blame me at all”

Who killed Davey Moore
Why an’ what’s the reason for?

“Not me,” says the boxing writer
Pounding print on his old typewriter
Sayin’, “Boxing ain’t to blame
There’s just as much danger in a football game”
Sayin’, “Fistfighting is here to stay
It’s just the old American way
It wasn’t me that made him fall
No, you can’t blame me at all”

Who killed Davey Moore
Why an’ what’s the reason for?

“Not me,” says the man whose fists
Laid him low in a cloud of mist
Who came here from Cuba’s door
Where boxing ain’t allowed no more
“I hit him, I hit him, yes, it’s true
But that’s what I am paid to do
Don’t say ‘murder,’ don’t say ‘kill’
It was destiny, it was God’s will”

Who killed Davey Moore
Why an’ what’s the reason for?

Copyright 1964, 1965, Warner Bros. ; 1992, 1993, Special Rider Music.
(And I hope they'll forgive my use here, since I encourage everyone to buy a copy of the recording immediately. Among others, it was released on the excellent The Bootleg Series Vol. 6: Bob Dylan Live 1964, Concert at Philharmonic Hall)


  • Kind of a long recess here on the Service Course, wasn’t it? That’s due to a lot of the usual reasons – work, other obligations, a bit of ambivalence, trying to ride a bit. And it’ll likely be slow a bit longer since I’m on vacation next week, but maybe I’ll regain some momentum with the break. We’re starting to be able to smell cyclocross season, after all.

  • That recent silence isn’t to say there’s nothing good going on right now. Quite the contrary. Sure, there’s all the transfer buzz, but this is also the time of the year that the Italians host a great series of longstanding UCI 1.HC and 1.1 races, including the “Trittico Lombardo” – the Tre Valle Varesine on Monday, Coppa Agostini yesterday, the Coppa Bernocchi today. This year, all three races were won by young guns from talented fields, with Francesco Gavazzi (Lampre) continuing the progression he’s shown the last few years by winning Agostini, and Manuel Belletti (Colnago-CSF) doing the same today in the Bernocchi. Only Irishman Dan Martin (Garmin-Transitions) prevented an Italian sweep of these fiercely provincial contests by winning Varesine from Domenico Pozzovivo (Colnago-CSF) with a beautifully timed attack. I think everyone’s ready for a bit of a youth movement in the sport, no?

  • Why do I like these races so much? I don’t really know, but I’ll give it a shot. First, I love Italy and yearn to go back as soon as possible. So I’ll admit that sometimes I really just like looking at the photos, and that some of those times, I’m staring right past the riders and into the hills and palm trees and old villas. You really can’t beat the light there. Second, these littler late season races, together with the achingly beautiful Giro di Lombardia, are the yin to the early season yang of the soggy Belgian races in the spring. It’s not quite that they’re providing closure, but it’s something like that. And third, the Italian classics provide a little understated, history-laden relief from a slew of better publicized but sort of bland stage races that seem to flounder around between Tour de France and the Vuelta each year. Anyway, Italian 1.1 racing picks back up again with the Trofeo Melinda up in Trentino on Saturday, and then continues with the Giro del Veneto on the 27th. Do yourself a favor and see if you can find a grainy video feed online somewhere.

  • Anyone else feel like American cyclists’ infatuations with different European cycling cultures might be cyclical? Or maybe they're just linear right now, and will get cyclical later. Back in the days of Pedali Alpini in California, late 1960s and the 1970s, Italy seemed to be the culture that elicited the most reverence in dedicated cycling circles, and many of this country’s best headed for the boot to try their luck and talent. In the 1980s, I feel like things crossed the Alps to France, probably thanks to Greg LeMond (or maybe because of Dave Stoller’s change in loyalties in the closing scene of 1979’s Breaking Away). I’m not quite sure about the 1990s – maybe they felt a little Italian again thanks to Gewiss and Mapei, but I was in college for some of that, so it’s a little hazy. What I do know is that somewhere in the mid-2000’s, everyone decided to worship at a Belgian alter. So what’s next? Spain is noticeably missing from the rotation thus far, and Alberto Contador (Astana) is winning a hell of a lot, but somehow I don’t see that happening. (Which is kind of odd, because if there’s a second language Americans are most likely to speak, it’s Spanish.) With a good U.S. fan base and the (alleged) new team, maybe the Schlecks are making a serious play to bring the fanboy crown home to Luxembourg. Quick, everybody toss your Lion of Flanders socks and buy a pair of these! Put down those frites and start whipping up some smoked collar of pork with broad beans! That's right - Luxembourg. You heard it here first.

  • I know I just sort of slagged all the little stage races buzzing away right now, but Robbie McEwen (Katusha) is looking pretty good in the Eneco Tour right now, with a stage win yesterday and a second place behind Andre Griepel (HTC-Columbia) today. After a couple of injury plagued seasons, could McEwen finally be getting back on track just in time for the sprinter’s circuit at his home-turf World Championships? Yes, with riders like Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre), Mark Cavendish and Andre Griepel (HTC-Columbia), and Tyler Farrar (Garmin) all going well, a World’s win for the aging McEwen is a longshot, but he’s a pretty crafty guy.

  • Speaking of Eneco and Farrar, Garmin’s on a hell of a tear right now. It’s nice to see them get results, but you have to wonder whether they’d trade Vattenfall, the Eneco prologue, and Tre Valle Varesine all for a single Tour de France stage win. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, because I too am one of those people who loves to howl about how there’s more to cycling than the Tour de France. But for “American” cycling teams, it’s still the 600 pound gorilla, like it or not. That said, Vaughters’ sponsor roster is pretty good on the “international presence” scale, so there’s a chance the folks who pay the bills might actually appreciate the success in Germany, the Netherlands, and Italy. I hope so.

  • Menchov to Geox. Man, he really must be scared of Tchmil. Probably not without reason. That guy's nails.