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David Sable Headshot

Real Heroes Don't Need Excuses

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How the mighty have fallen...

Or should I say, how the mighty have fallen again.

Or perhaps

Keep on falling....

A number of months ago I wrote about "The Deaths of Two Heroes."

One was Neil Armstrong, who died of natural causes and left behind a sterling legacy of what can be achieved in life when we reach for the stars.

The other was Lance Armstrong, who was a fallen hero -- a victim of his own unbridled ambition and personal lack of integrity and honesty.

Little did I know that Lance was dying the death of a thousand cuts and that he would finally admit and come clean -- albeit not graciously -- to years of lying and cheating.

And one would imagine that would have ended the sordid saga. But no... the follow-up is, will he be rehabilitated? Can he restore his reputation? Will he once again soar in our esteem and in the checkbooks of mega sponsors?

And therein lays my ramble.

I read a most disturbing piece in the January 28, 2013 edition of New York Magazine -- written by Will Leitch. His thesis is that Armstrong's primary issue -- "His fundamental problem, and the one he can never recover from, is that he was just too good.."

Read the piece -- we don't understand how PEDs (Performance Enhancing Drugs) really work; all his competitors took them so he never really had an edge; we don't even know the sport of cycling...

Maybe all true...

His conclusion: "People just wanted to be inspired. And now: We just want to be angry."

I don't know about you -- I always want to be inspired -- I want to be inspired by big public heroes and I want to be inspired by the little everyday heroes.

I want to be inspired by the people who do amazing feats that we follow breathlessly and I want to be inspired by watching in awe as people cope with the unimaginable.

I don't want to be angry -- in fact, many of our biggest and most public heroes are flawed -- but the flaws, and some are big -- are rarely related to why we admire them -- to their deeds that make them heroes to us. The flaws are to remind us that they are human and that we are too. Anger? No -- disappointment? Yes.

From the early Greek myths to the Bible and onwards, many -- if not most -- of our heroes were all too vulnerable to personal weakness; failings; imperfections, yet those were the very reasons we stuck with them, we could relate, we could understand, we could empathize and project ourselves into their space as we struggled with our own issues.

But doping and lying and taking others down? That is not an example of a humanized hero; that is not a case of people looking to place their anger, that is merely one doping, lying and uncaring narcissus who didn't just let us down -- as do occasionally the flawed and real heroes -- he out and out screwed us.

In today's always-on, nowhere-to-hide world, heroes can rise and fall as quickly as our fingers can hit a screen. That is why having a standard, a filter that allows for forgiveness but by the same token gives no quarter when it comes to what is just bad behavior. If we don't, we will never retain our humanity.

I hope that my children and grandchildren find heroes -- of all kinds -- they can relate to (warts and all), but I also hope that they will be able to distinguish between them.

Lance Armstrong might have been better served to have contemplated this thought -- listen:

"One reason I don't drink is that I want to know when I am having a good time." - Nancy Astor

He might have lost -- but at least he would have known why....

And clearly, as William Arthur Ward wrote -- listen:

"Leadership is based on inspiration, not domination; on cooperation, not intimidation."

And clearly we learn from Lance that domination and intimidation -- his hallmarks -- do not a leader make....

Yet I have no intention of bashing Lance Armstrong for his deeds or Will Leitch for his article -- I see it as closure to my early piece.

So let me leave you with a thought from a real hero -- Christopher Reeve -- who could have succumbed to bitterness and hatred -- the "just want to be angry" thought -- and instead elevated the world by using his own tragedy to help others.

"I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles."

And there you have it. I leave you with Neil Armstrong and Christopher Reeve and the people that you and I know.

What do you think?

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