After the news of August 23, 2012, I’m still not ready to give up on Lance Armstrong.
All of these sports legends have a connection. The connection is my Dad. Let me explain
My Father loved sports. He didn’t spend hours in front of the TV watching .. although he watched his share. No, he loved to participate. He taught his young son to do the same. Part of the lesson was exposure to great sportsmen.
Al Kaline (Detroit Tigers) – A pure hitter. His swing was the essence of a good swing. No odd twitches. No wind up. Just a pure swing. As an outfielder, he wasn’t too shabby either. My Dad taught me to swing like Al Kaline. Well, he tried. Mr. Tiger was also generally regarded as a swell guy. My Dad taught me about that as well.
Dick Butkus (Chicago Bears) – He was .. well, he was a monster. So much passion for the game. My Dad taught me about that.
Gail Goodrich (Los Angeles Lakers) – “Stumpy.” At 6’1” he was bucking the odds in the NBA. Another pure shooter. My Dad got me into a B-ball clinic when I was in elementary school where Mr. Goodrich was the featured guest instructor. Yeah, I stood on the same court as Gail Goodrich. I’ve never been a big fan of Basketball, but I will always be a big fan of Gail Goodrich.
1993 – I had just started what was to become a life-long passion with the bike. I purchased my first serious road bike, a De Rosa “Professional SLX.” The brand that the great Eddy Merckx had ridden (Eddy=Babe Ruth or Ty Cobb of professional cycling in the 60’s & 70’s). I still have a clear memory of sitting on my front porch with the first issue of a cycling magazine I purchased to educate myself on the sport of cycling. Some young USA upstart had won the US Pro Championship and the Cycling World Championship. Lance Armstrong. America’s new cycling hope. Brash & cocky, but he was delivering the goods. Muhammad Ali once said, “It’s not bragging if you can back it up.” Well Lance was backing it up. He was inspirational to me as a 35 year old newbie to cycling.
I watched and followed his career as he struggled in his first few attempts at the Tour De France. There were great expectations for that young man. He delivered if only in dribs and drabs. At the time, he was known primarily for his success in “One Day” races. Grand Tours were a different animal and although there were glimpses into his potential there, he didn’t have the frame for it. Not yet.
1996 – The day I opened the newspaper and read of the reason that he pulled out of the Tour De France .. Cancer .. that was a sad day. My own Father had died of prostate cancer on December 25th, 1990.
December 17th, 1990 – I went up to Sacramento for what would be my last visit with my Father. With the exception of one of my three sisters who is a Chiropractor, the rest of my family was still in denial over my Father’s chances of survival. Hope is good. You should always have hope. But hope can get in the way of facing reality sometimes. Another scene that is cemented in mind is the image of my Father, struggling to swing his feet over the side of his bed. Having achieved that simple task, he came face to face with himself in the full-length closet-door mirrors. I will never forget the look on his face. He knew.
One week later, he was dead.
1999 – Lance Armstrong wins his first Tour De France. First he conquered Cancer. On to creating the legend. I had dabbled in bicycle racing myself. I was tenacious if not talented. I trained as hard as I possibly could which, compared to many, was not that much. I could keep up. But at the end, I never seemed to have enough to get me on to the podium. It never bothered me that much as my Dad had always taught me that, if you had made your best effort, you had nothing to be ashamed of. And I truly had fun. Yes, Lance Armstrong winning year after year of the TDF was a continuing inspiration. When he started the Livestrong Foundation, I was all the more caught up in his legend. I read his books. All of it.
Over the years since the allegations, charges, denials, trials and news stories, I have always tried to keep an open mind about Lance’s case. I understand the arguments that insist that the likelihood of him being clean and still so dominant were unlikely. But I also know that in all parts of life, there are outliers. Individuals who are truly superior. Michael Jordan. Tiger Woods. Wayne Gretzky. It happens. All the arguments to support Lance are, at least, plausible. He is a type A personality, no question. He assembled a team of not only top athletes but trainers, technicians, equipment, nutrition, to support his endeavor. He put it all together. It’s true that that same machine could easily have had a component of, “how to cheat best” as well but ..
Supporting Lance Armstrong has grown increasingly difficult as time has gone on. I’ve been hanging on to a ledge with my fingers. I may be down to the last finger. But I’m not ready to drop off quite yet. I can’t – I have connections.
I won’t apologize for my biased support. Not now. Not ever. I can only hope. Even if it might keep me from facing reality .. for just a bit longer.
How do you like them fucking apples? – Lance Armstrong
By Scott (@InkGigolo)