Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Hero Villain Lance

A local athlete came home from some marathon in Colorado with yet another story about what an arrogant, antisocial pud Lance Armstrong is.

The details don't matter. It was something about using his leverage to get into a closed field AND take a preferential starting position. Our local reporter said that the race organizers and other competitors weren't happy about it, but somehow the organizers allowed it. There was grumbling. No one was apparently very disappointed when The Great Man did not hang around to socialize, yet Lance's immediate disappearance after the race offended about as much as his abrupt entry and brusque push to the front row.

One of the hotshots who used to join the Sunday morning riding group a few summers ago, when Lance was still active in or only very recently retired from the pro ranks, would launch into angry tirades about everything that was wrong with Lance any time his name was mentioned.

It occurs to me that the more he's hated, the more prickly and aloof he becomes. As a result he becomes even more hated. Not too many people like to be hated, although some will pretend it's fine with them.

Armstrong began his career with the magic blend of talent and insecurity that breeds greatness. You don't have anything to prove unless you have something to prove. The pursuit of dominance is different from the pursuit of excellence. To be a top athlete you have to win. That means you have to make the rest of the field into losers. Feathers often get ruffled. It's a rare champion who has not pissed somebody off. However, some competitors seem to do that more than others.

Personally I don't care either way. As my brother said, if everyone was doping and Lance still won then he's still the best rider. Among those who have strong opinions, that observation would surely spark a typhoon of excrement. My brother is not a Lance partisan, just a logical observer.

Professional sports are just entertainment. Pro cycling has been oozing with substance abuse since it was invented. If you think about it, the Tour de France was conceived as a publicity stunt to sell newspapers by someone who wasn't going to have to ride it. Tour riders came to hate race founder Henri Desgrange and took every chemical advantage they could get, even if it was the dubious advantages of beer and cigarettes.

Mr. Armstrong is just one among a very large number of people I will never have to deal with personally, about whom I know far more than I need to. I am not excessively aggravated by celebrity news, merely fascinated by the phenomenon. Yes, I would like to receive a little more high-fiber news from my major media outlets. I don't really care about entertainers' meltdowns. Pictures of the Sexiest Woman Alive are equivalent to pictures of the surface of Saturn in terms of the likelihood I will ever land there. But these are people. I have to think that most of them do not deserve the highest adulation or the darkest hatred that they receive because they successfully called attention to themselves. The form of the attention shapes them even if they do have massively dysfunctional personalities and would be jerks even in obscurity.

I reserve judgment because I will never have to deal directly with any of them. Even on the exceedingly rare occasions that one of the local summer celebrities appears in our shop it's very short. They come in, ask for what they want, buy it if we have it and go. It's as if they were normal.

1 comment:

Steve A said...

Lance wasn't the first and he won't be the last. Regardless of which element of your post we are talking about...