Monday, October 15, 2012

Gods and Heroes

The tale of Lance Armstrong has become almost tragic.

The only thing that saves it from true tragedy is that the tragic hero doesn't seem to be aware to his fatal flaw. He seems unable, or unwilling, to acknowledge that he has paid too grievous a price for his glory.

Lois Bujold said it best: "Some prices are just too high, no matter how much you may want the prize. The one thing you can't trade for your heart's desire is your heart." When Lance traded his honor - the very thing he trades on most, his reputation as a clean rider - for victories he gave away the gift. And he can never regain that gift; it is gone as though it had never been.

The fact that it seems impossible to avoid the conclusion that Armstrong, like nearly all the other top-flight cyclists in his era, relied on a combination of transfused blood and drugs like EPO and CERA to boost their endurance to impossible levels does not make the other facts of his lifestory - the cancer and the recovery - less true, or less moving.

Yes, there's a lie there. But there is truth, too. And to accept the truth you have to accept the lie; you cannot have the man without his failings, and it is for you and I to decide if those failings are too great for the man's achievements to have any meaning.

We want our heroes to be perfect. We want them to be pure, without stain, without sin. We want them to be bigger than we are, better, in short, we want them to be more than human.

But to be more than human is to be closer to a god than a hero. There are those among us who wanted Lance Armstrong to be more than a hero, more than a human, who wanted him to be perfect as a god.

And that will always end in heartbreak.


rangeragainstwar said...

i wonder how many of our SOF troops are steroid junkies.

Big Daddy said...

As I commented last year, I gave up on Lance after he was nasty to Cheryl Crowe. While I don't expect my heroes to be perfect, I don't want them to be assholes either
Since 2009 I had thought that Lance was either an unbelievably good one trick pony or the worlds most skillful doper so I'm totally surprised that his stone wall just made like Jericho.
I can take solace in the knowledge that Kristin Armstrong has no connection to Lance so her Olympic Gold medals and world championship are untainted.
As an aside to Jim, steroid use is rampant among the police so I would unsurprised if the military were juicing.

Big Daddy said...

Oops, I typoed that second para, I meant to say I was unsurprised that Lance's stone wall collapsed.

FDChief said...

jim: I understand that in WW2 it was not uncommon for guys in the elite units to get handed amphetamine to keep them alert through long missions. I wonder how many Rangers and Airborne guys came home with addicted to greenies? I wonder how many of the guys on their third and fourth rotations in SW Asia need a little help to get through the day?

BD: I guess the only thing about this that gets to me is how utterly ferocious Armstrong has been about fighting these accusations. Most of the other patrons like Ullrich and Basso just tried to stay under the radar until they were nailed. I think Armstrong is so investing in his own image that he just can't let this go. It's kinda sad, really...

But not THAT sad - not as sad as he has been miserable to the people who have been on his case about this.

Big Daddy said...

And apparently even Phil Knight has limits on how far he will support a doper.

FDChief said...

I noted that he has also resigned from Livestrong. I guess the reality is finally sinking in.