Why I am angry with Lance Armstrong

painterlad's picture
January 15, 2013 at 5:37a

In the Pixar movie The Incredibles, a beaten down Bob Parr (aka, Mr. Incredible) comes home and accidently damages his car. In a fit of anger he lifts the entire car above his head as if to throw the vehicle across town. When he looks down he sees a little boy on his tricycle watching the entire event.
The boy’s eyes open wide as the giant bubble he was blowing pops and explodes gooey pink gum all over his face. Embarrassed by his outburst and afraid his old super identity would be exposed, Mr. Incredible slowly lowers the car to the ground and goes inside, leaving the boy to draw his own conclusions.
The next day Mr. Incredible returns home from work, only this time he had been fired. It seems that Parr was fed up with being ordinary, being forced to fit in with everyday society when he and his family are gifted with great powers. In a fit of anger, he tossed his boss through several cubicle walls when his greedy boss stopped him from helping a man that was getting mugged.
As Parr pulls into the driveway and exits his car, he looks over and sees the same little boy in his driveway.
“Well, what do you want,” he bellows at the kid.
Rather sheepishly, the boy looks up at Mr. Incredible and says “I don’t know; something amazing, I guess.”
You see, the boy had been exposed to the amazing, the spectacular, and he wanted more. Life is dull when all we have to witness is the mundane, the ordinary. When we go through life and all we experience is profoundly boring then we have no appreciation for what is truly great.
And that is why I am angry with Lance Armstrong.
I know little about the Tour de France other than it is a really hard bike race. It is physically demanding and requires as much mental toughness as it does strong legs. I also know that it has been won by Europeans 99% of the time and is therefore most likely some kind of hippie socialist agenda trying to destroy America and our world famous Huffy bikes and banana seats.
So along comes an American (and a Texan to boot!) that does the impossible. He not only wins seven consecutive Tours, which shatters the record, he does so in incredible fashion. His climbs through the Alps were the stuff of legends. He would blow by the strongest climbers the world had to offer and as an act of pure sports ego, he would throw them a glance backwards as if to say “how do you like me now, son?”
He wasn’t just great at what he did, he was amazing. He was the neighbor guy that could dent his car by squeezing too hard and then effortlessly lift the car above his head. He was the basketball player that could jump from the foul line and slam the ball. He was the shortstop that reacted faster than a speeding bullet and knocked down a screaming liner, only to jump up and throw out a really fast runner at first base. He was the quarterback that sensed the pocket was closing in on him and, in an amazing display of training and ability, saw the open receiver downfield and threw a perfect touchdown pass a split second before the linebacker smashed him to the ground.
But Lance Armstrong was also a dirty cheater. It was always rumored he doped simply because most of the professional riders dope. His competitors said he doped, his teammates said he doped and eventually even his friends said he doped. Everyone said what was clearly obvious and now Armstrong has admitted to Oprah Winfrey that, yes, he used “performance enhancers.”
Again, I am kicked in the sports crotch.
I can handle cheating. I recall sitting next to the banker during one of the many nights our family would play Monopoly and when I was in desperate need of cash, I would quietly slip a 500 or two from the till. I used my friend’s project and presented it as my own in school. My team, the Buckeyes, didn’t get to play for the national title this year because the former coach cheated. Sometimes at work I take longer breaks than I should.
What I can’t handle is living in a world where the amazing is impossible without cheating. I can’t handle something that is “too good to be true” because it is. I can’t handle a world where we are all equally average.
I need that sprinter to be just that fast while using nothing more than great training and God given natural ability. I need scientists that are so damn smart they think up stuff that no human should be able to conceptualize. I need artists and musicians and writers that can create the sublime, the life changing.
I am angry with Lance Armstrong because he allowed me to believe that a person could be so mentally tough they could defeat cancer and dominate at professional cycling. I am angry because his form of amazing came not just with training and talent but with regular injections of chemicals. I am angry because he reminds me that my life is so lacking in the amazing and that most of what I have done in my 47 years of existence has been truly average.
Armstrong was/is an image of support and inspiration to millions of cancer patients and their families around the world. I doubt that cheating in a fancy bike race around the French countryside is going to change all of that. But what he accomplished on a skinny rock- hard bicycle seat will forever be gone.
I still hold out hope for the amazing, but Superman isn’t likely to zoom over the horizon anytime soon.

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