Thursday, January 10, 2013

Fallen Hero

Dear Mark

We read a lot of comics for sure. We both love 'em and still read/collect today. The stories and the art are fantastic. I have enjoyed watching Jack's curiosity in comics grow too. Instead of a book a week ago before bedtime, we read a (age appropriate) Avengers comic. The stories of Spider-man are my favorite. Perhaps it's Uncle Ben's famous line of "with great power comes great responsibility" and Peter's unwavering hold to his moral code that resonates, or that he can shoot webs because that part is cool. It's likely his smart alec comments that we love actually now that I think about it. 

One thing that seems to come up in comic stories is that the hero has so much to battle through. They fall to defeat and are in despair. Often unsure if they have been chosen for greatness or set up to disappoint their loved ones. Of course Spider-man just makes with the quips, remembers Uncle Ben and then goes all spidey-punch on the bad guy and wins while at the same time losing because JJ paints him as a menace. 

Recently one of my heroes fell down. Fell down, hit the ground, skidded, got stampeded, hasn't gotten up, seems to have acquiesced to being beaten and frankly I was stunned. I'm talking not about a comic book hero, but Lance Armstrong. 

Lance Armstrong cheated. 
My cycling hero cheated. 
His cycling gains were all a result of cheating. 

That sucks. 

You know that I have been his fan for so long that you can probably guess how much his non-admission, that is an admission, along with volumes of evidence, eye witnesses and other compelling evidence, has struck me. Sure it's old news as of today, but frankly I have not really talked to you about it. 

Lance's rise after beating cancer and winning the TdF was epic. Hollywood could not have convinced us of that story in 1999. Yet, there he was on the podium in Paris. What followed was nothing short of astonishing. 7 straight TdF wins, stage wins that were epic, famous moments ("The Look") and the rise of American cycling. He looked to have the right training, the right approach to winning the TdF, to building the right team. He even pulled a Michael Jordan and came out of retirement and stood on the podium again in 3rd place. Just amazing. 

Then in 2012 it all fell apart. This person who I rooted for. Whose poster was up in my office for 10 years. Whose books I bought and read and took training inspiration from. I wore his jersey for pete's sake. I bleed USPS blue during those victories. I had his Livestrong bracelet on for 8 years. He didn't just fall down, he got smacked down. He's been accused before, but this time he just took the hits. There is a moment during Mt. Biking when you are about to crash, the forest is quiet, you see all around you and then WHAM! pain as you hit the trail. You learn to get back up. "The reason we fall down is so we can learn how to get back up." Lance hasn't gotten back up. 

I'm a little ashamed to admit that the news of his downfall put me in a funk for a bit because I was just in disbelief. I took down the poster in my office. Seemed right to do that. Seemed everyone who has ever seen me in bike tights (and lets face it, that's a lot of people) asked my opinion. "Jeff, can you believe it?" "Jeff, do you think it's all true?" "Jeff have you talked to Lance?" "Jeff are you racing the TdF again?" (some people don't get cycle racing). 

I wanted to share stories with Jack about him.
After being a Seattle Sports fan I wanted to be associated with a winner (too harsh?)
I was a fan of Lance, as much as cycling itself. 
More than that, I was a believer. 

Maybe that part sucks the most. I believed in him. I believed he could be clean. I believed that his journey through cancer made him some how above this. A person who stares at Death and says "see you on my terms later" and walks away from Death couldn't possible stoop that low could he? I defended him every year. I had reasons that made sense of why I didn't think he cheated. He has better training. He was more focused. He was smarter. He built a better team. Riding with one testicle must be the reason. In hindsight it looks like I was reaching. I must have sounded stupid. 

All of cycling cheated, some still do. It seems as if Lance was the only one cheating, but he wasn't. We need to remember that. In fact half of his teammates turned evidence on him. You look back at his 7 titles and there is only 2 individuals among all the podium finishers who have not been implicated in cheating. Sad. 

So what do you do when your hero falls down? When Spider-man was in despair he threw his suit away, only to remember his responsibility a few pages later. When things were down for Batman he remembered that the "mission was not over." When Hulk got upset… okay when Hulk gets upset he just hits things and there is no real lesson there, but I'm saying.. I get it. 

Lance is going to have an interview with Oprah soon. Some say he'll confess. Some say it won't be enough. Others say he'll be sued to an inch of his life. I don't care. He cheated,but it seems like he'll get a marketing chance to save his reputation. Although he was on Oprah once. He lied to her. Last person to do that she brought back on her show and made him apologize. Lance may get his butt handed to him along with his one remaining testicle. 

At the end of it all I know that Lance used drugs. In 1995 when he went through chemo and beat cancer, a cancer that by all accounts should have killed him, he used drugs. He was suppose to. In doing so he climbed the biggest podium in life. He beat Death. 

Looking back I wished the story stopped there. It would have been a better memory of him than the one I have today. 

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