Monday, January 21, 2013

A Man of Parts

"Show me a hero, and I will write you a tragedy."
F. Scott Fitzgerald

OK.  Those of you who have read this screed for a while are aware of my unabashed distaste for the "sport" of cycling.  So you may find it odd that I am weighing in on the recent "revelations" that Lance Armstrong doped during his run being the king shit of the bicycle world.

I really can't say as I care any more than I cared about Paul Hornung or Pete Rose's gambling.  I care about the steroid abuse in baseball an equivalent amount.  Adderall use in the NFL interests me equally.

That is to say, not at all.

"I don’t think he was ever happy unless some one was in love with him, responding to him like filings to a magnet, helping him to explain himself, promising him something. What it was I do not know. Perhaps they promised that there would always be women in the world who would spend their brightest, freshest, rarest hours to nurse and protect that superiority he cherished in his heart."
 F. Scott Fitzgerald

Professional athletes are one of the oddest parts of our culture.  Sports is of such a trivial importance to our society, yet the mass media uses the National Enquirer culture to force feed the foibles of a bunch of pandered children as part of the appeal of the game.

Lance Armstrong did some pretty amazing things, even taking into consideration his notable inattention to the rules of the game.   The sport of bicycling is known as a cess-pit of rule bending, skating the line, and absolute cheating.  I really can't think of a dirtier sport.  I have heard that the agency that runs the Tour de France is having difficulty locating a participant who is not under investigation to award the prizes vacated by Mr. Armstrong.

You see, even with the doping, Lance has to be up there with one of the great ones of the sport.  If a cheater beats all of the rest of the cheaters, then, by definition, he is the best in the sport.

But Lance is a different critter.  I have never been a big fan of our adulation of the "cancer survivor", as if scrambling not to die somehow puts you above the herd.  So his "beating" cancer doesn't really hold any special pull for me.

So he went out and created a PR firm to harvest guilt-gelt harvesting machine.  It did great work for the business model that he isolated;  The perpetual motion money making machine that is the search for the cure for cancer.

Leigh Cowart over at NSFW banged the description of cancer right down on it head. (please splurge the subscription fee so that these folks can keep going, this is a great news service)
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. There’s no cure for cancer. There could never be, and will never be a cure for cancer. See, cancer isn’t a thing. It’s not a fightable foe, like a bacterial infection or George Foreman. It’s not an simple environmental agent that you can remove from your surroundings like Agent Orange or Aunt Tilda. The reason you cannot cure cancer is because cancer isn’t one disease. Or a hundred diseases. Or a thousand diseases. 
Cancer is millions of diseases. Cancer can become other diseases within the same cancer patient. Cancer is the varied and seemingly innumerable ways in which the abnormal cells in the human body can exhibit uncontrolled growth. And it’s changing all the time.
 So Little Lancie, a serial cheater, scrambles like hell to get rid of testicular cancer (an act which I hold in no contempt, seems like a damn fine idea), and sets himself up as a demigod for the masses and scrapes in buttloads of money for cancer research and his own lifestyle.  Sounds like quite the deal.

But now the Oprah crowd and its hangers on are finding out that Lance was an asshole during his run at greatness.   Wow, who would have thought it.

But our umbrage and outrage about Mr. Armstrong's behavior strike me as kind of disingenuous.  Maybe it is the contempt which I hold the world view that Ms Winfrey espouses, but more than that I think that it is our desire as a culture to have the folks who are willing to do anything to achieve the transient greatness of this life be "just ordinary Joes",  to be just like us.

Ms. Winfrey is the sounding board for the folks who have shoveled aside everything for the pursuit of fame.  It is a closely scripted, tightly controlled facade where the rich and powerful can pretend that they are "plain folk" for the edification of the masses and the increase in bottom lines of self-serving elites.

No, we can't blame the folks like Armstrong for their single minded drive.  They are different than us.  They will cheat to get what they want, because what they want is beyond the reach of the "ordinary Joe" we so wish them to be.

The blame lies with us, the noble unwashed masses who desire more than anything to retain the thought that we are just as good as the single minded automatons that have sacrificed everything to achieve their goal.  When we find out that such as these are different than us, have differing motivations, different interpretations of the rules, it ruins our fantasy that excellence is a path that we could have chosen, but one we just didn't tread.

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