I have to admit, when heroes fall it's a hard road to recovery... for everybody.
I remember being in college watching Lance Armstrong come up through the bicycle world. He just got out of severe chemotherapy and radiation for testicular cancer, and all of the sudden he was competing in the most grueling bike race ever! I've always been someone looking for a real hero, and this guy looked as though he could be a hero in an unsuspecting place. After all, I'd never ridden a road bike in my life!
I hear the pundits today try to minimize the bike world compared to the football, basketball, baseball, or the soccer world, it makes my brow furrow. Just go film them trying to climb Mt. Ventoux once, let alone trying to do it in the middle of a 3000 mile race where you compete with the most physically tuned athletes over 100 miles every day for three weeks. The Tour De France is nothing to shake your finger at. Just because they wear bike shorts doesn't minimize the pain these guys are enduring.
And Lance was an anomoly.
He did things no other bike racer has ever done.
He won an unprecedented number of Tours. ( by the way while everyone was on the same juice.)
He basically put road biking on the map in America.
He helped build a foundation to fight the most dreaded disease of our time, cancer.
He helped build companies like Nike, Oakley and the bike maker Trek to the tune of millions.
He gave us hope.
He made us all believe there were still superheroes in our midst.
But he lied....
He destroyed careers.
He was a jerk to his friends, and worse to his enemies.
He aimed his horizon at one thing..."To win at all cost."
All cost, no matter what devastation was left in the wake of his winning.
And now the world is judging the man who only a few short years ago was their super hero. I think there's something hypocritical about that. We judge the man for being a hypocrite; but we stop short of looking deep in our own soul for elevating this 'man' to super hero status in the first place. Come on, let's be honest... we made Lance.
We wanted a super hero.
We wanted it to be real.
We needed something, at the time, to look up to and say, it's possible to achieve our dreams.
If we didn't buy the bracelets; if we didn't buy the t-shirts; if we didn't pay to go see him at our local races; if we didn't buy the magazines with his face on the front cover; if we didn't buy Trek, Oakley, or Nike; Lance wouldn't exist.
At least not as we know it now.
So when we hear the world talking about what a low life Lance is, let's not forget; we're not that far away, each one of us, from dealing with the same stuff Lance is dealing with right now.
Sure, we're not flying around in private jets. Not many of us could look Oprah in the face and declare a sponsor dropping us is a $75M day. We may not have access to presidents and celebrities. Sure we didn't get the chance to build a megalithic empire of sorts. And that stuff is the stuff of hope. Maybe one day, if I work hard enough I can achieve that!
Now we know it was all a charade. A massive manipulative lie that just grew out of control. It wasn't that the bike world cares whether someone dopes or not, it's that Lance convinced us all he was a supernatural hero. He cheated our trust. He lied to everyone around him. He mislead his family, his friends, his sponsors, and all those would be cyclists thinking they had a chance.
But cheating, lying, misleading, and manipulating is all within every one of our reach, right? In fact, we're all in bed with the same human issues Lance is working through.
Is he sorry? Should we forgive? Do we have it in us as humans to look at Lance now and say, "It was my fault for elevating humanity to such a high threshold"?
Look, Lance is going to pay for all the past sins he's committed.
The consequences of destroying people's lives, manipulating corporations, and even misleading the federal government are severe. He's not getting away with anything. So if it's consequences we're after, Lance is getting his dose, and you can rest assured that if he is able to restore his public reputation or not, he and his family are going to face some of the harshest punishment to be dealt to a person. Don't worry. He's not getting away with anything.
But, I just wonder if, there's room in our culture to say, "Ok, he lied. He's admitted to lying. He's paying the price. Let's move on."
With all the brouhaha going around the media about the Oprah interview, I'm not hearing many willing to stand up and say, "I forgive you Lance. You let me down, disappointed me, but I'm willing to start the road to make things right."
The moral to this story is...
Evil catches up to us no matter how much we think we can control it.
We can justify our behavior in any circumstance to make it sound like we're doing the right thing, but getting away with lying and cheating never works.
Everyone has a day of reckoning, whether its financial, relational, vocational, or maybe its just that deep seeded thing in our heart that knows we don't deserve the accolade we're getting.
Somewhere... Sometime... It catches up to you.
I wonder how much time it takes for U.S. to lay down our need to punish, and just say with honesty, here's a guy who seems to be trying to make it right for whatever reason. He'll still feel the pain of judgement, but we can begin to say "Lance we forgive you?"
I don't know Lance, so I'm sure he won't care what I think. But I'm going to try and fight the urge to be critical of my one time hero. I see him for what he is, just like me. Sure he can ride a bike faster with or without drugs, but he deals with the same stuff I deal with.
So here in this lonely corner of Colorado, I'm choosing not to be on the snarky 'let's come up with critical hashtag team,' but rather to be on the healing team. After all, the people affected most by the Livestrong involvement in cancer need our encouragement. They lost their hero too.
Follow Andy Braner on Twitter: www.twitter.com/braner