I know I’m trudging into this dirty pool a little late, but I’ve been away and actually busy for a change. I’m back home in France now and I’d just like to throw my two centimes into the fray about this whole LA mess, if I may.
For those of us who have followed LA’s career (like many of you, I got hooked on pro cycling because of him), and have looked for something to read other than the narrative he and his admirers have been so carefully cultivating all these years, what has transpired recently comes as no surprise at all. The evidence has always been out there, albeit not nearly as damning or in one place, like the USADA’s lethal report. We now all know the names of the brave, few dissenters, who dared to cross Lance (Paul Kimmage, Betsy Andreu and Greg Lemond, being three of the earliest and most steadfast), but these people, and more, have had something to say about this case for many years.
The trouble was, we didn’t want to look because nobody wanted to believe it. This, to me, is really, really interesting. An illuminating comment I had on Facebook a few weeks back sums up what I imagine many people were feeling – ‘I’m really disappointed. I so much wanted him to be innocent.’
Why on earth would we not want to believe that Lance Armstrong is human, and therefore full of faults like the rest of us? Why do we need heroes so badly and why do we demand that they be infallible (maybe Dr. James can take a stab at that last one)? Why are our illusions shattered when someone like LA comes crashing down in front of our eyes?
This phenomenon goes well beyond sports, of course. Right now we are watching an advertising campaign, more than a political campaign, going on in the US, based for most part, on the cult of personality, rather than platforms. Many of us have carefully created stories about our parents, our countries, our ethnic groups and ourselves, choosing what fits into the story we want to cultivate, while tossing out the rest.
Then I got to wondering why I don’t feel this way about anyone and why I don’t have any heroes. The paradox here is that the reason can be found in one of my favorite narratives from my own life…oh the irony!
This curiously-dressed guy was my karate teacher for many years. He was, without a word of exaggeration, like a god to me for most of my youth. There is a long, sordid history that follows, but I only tell it when half drunk (I’m not quite there at the moment..) and feeling sorry for myself. But the short of it is, he ended up being a fraud and a crook, and within a violently short period of time a little over 20 years ago, any illusions I had about heroes was good a truly shattered.
However, I always look back at that moment in my life as being one of the most critical points of learning and transformation that I’ve lived through, and I wouldn’t change it for any other outcome. Thanks to this experience many years ago, when I meet someone who seems to be too good to be true (or not even too good to be true), I always think ‘skeleton…closet’. I find life easier that way, and I never get disappointed.
I had a lot riding on my version of this guy’s story and when I discovered that most of it was completely fabricated and people were getting hurt because of it, it was a very hard pill to swallow. I suppose this is similar, in a way, to the legions of Lance fans who had invested time, effort, and often money (Coach Rob can tell you how much he charged for the privilege of hearing him speak) would certainly not want to believe that his perfect story had a few important chapters left out.
I guess, in the end, what I want to say to those who had a hard time letting go of the lie (my assumption here is that nobody still is) is that this may not really be a story about the reality of Lance Armstrong, but more about ourselves and our own illusions.
Wow, that was heavy. Must be the deep freeze I just came back to in France. I promise something more uplifting next blog post!