Sympathy for the Devil

Do you know who Billy Fiske is? I didn’t until about a week ago. I just happened to catch a History Channel documentary about him, most probably a piece of groundwork for the Hollywood extravaganza (“The Few”)to be released this year starring Tom Cruise and directed by Michael Mann. Fiske is perhaps best known for being the first American to die in combat in World War II. He schmoozed his way into the RAF and made the ultimate sacrifice during the Battle of Britain, approximately one month after he earned his wings as a Hurricane fighter pilot and more than a year before Pearl Harbor was bombed. Fiske is a rather fascinating gent, born into a wealthy Chicago banking family but never quite comfortable behind the desk. He spent most of his 29 years in Europe with a particular passion for skiing in Switzerland and raging along twisting Cote D’Azur roads in a Bentley. He also laid the groundwork for Aspen’s ski resort and possibly had a fling with Cary Grant’s fiancee while Fiske was on location in Hawaii for the filming of “White Heat”. For those of you who wish to know all the details of his life check this site out. As an aside, some elderly RAF veterans of the Battle of Britain are getting pretty amped up about the upcoming Tom Cruise flick since it appears that the truth will be twisted to parlay a very pro-American bias. It seems that Fiske (Tom Cruise) will be portrayed as someone who showed up and saved Britain’s ass even though the historic record states that in his month of combat he had no confirmed kills before he brought his wounded plane back to Tangmere airfield and died of burns suffered from a fire onboard.

Anyway, back to my TV watching…Fiske’s life story is certainly worthy of international man of mystery status, but what really caught my attention was his escapades as a Winter Olympian. Billy Fiske, at the age of 16, piloted a bobsled to a gold medal in the 1928 St. Moritz Winter Olympics and then repeated the feat four years later in Lake Placid. What raised my eyebrows as I flipped through the channels and kept me watching the History Channel for the rest of the episode was his behavior in St. Moritz. Young Mr. Fiske christened his bobsled “Satan” and then proceeded to create 5 matching turtleneck sweaters for his team (4 crew members in the sled plus 1 reserve) to wear in the Olympic Village, each adorned with a letter on the back that all together spelled out “S-A-T-A-N”. Needless to say, the US Olympic committee shit their pants. The sled was quickly renamed USA II and the sweaters never saw the light of day again. The Winter Olympics seemed pretty bush league back then, and apparently word never filtered back to the US about his behavior. Could you imagine the furor if someone pulled a similar stunt today? Well, it just so happens that a little birdy at Portugal’s Volta ao Algarve stage race photographed some mysterious behavior from the Team Discovery Channel camp which inexplicably flew under the radar of the otherwise eagle-eyed cycling media. Somebody must have seen the same show as me…

Exhibit A–Team issue Trek frame decal:
Exhibit B–Team Discovery on the front (how did nobody see this?):

I’m sure Discovery Channel management was eager to put the kibosh in those uppity pranksters.

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