Monday, May 23, 2011

Apathy Index

Apathy:
  1. Lack of enthusiasm or energy
  2. Emotional emptiness

Pathetic

  1. Pitiful
  2. Contemptibly inadequate

A couple items of note here: First, as I mentioned recently I’m riding to work on and off, May being the national month of bicycling. Friday, May 20th was National Bike to Work Day, and for our local bike commute contest, riders were allowed to double any commute contest eligible mileage for the day. You bet I rode to work that day, and home too, giving me a total for the day of 104.4 miles.

In my half asleep state that morning I smiled as I contemplated this on the ride. On the ride home my brain is fully awake (if a bit tired) and I have to admit I struggled with the conundrum of wanting to encourage more people to get out of cars and onto bikes by offering them some sort of sleight of hand gift; allowing them to claim more miles ridden than they actually did. My little bike commute calendar sports an impressive 104.4 miles for Friday May 20th! Actually I rode 52.2 miles.  I resolved it this way:

The whole idea is to raise awareness, hopefully to encourage and inspire people to ride bikes more and drive cars less. It brought a smile to the corners of my mouth as I rode in that morning to think that around town and indeed around the country there were certainly others like me, people who do not usually ride a bike to work actually riding a bike to work. To that end, the sleight of hand worked. I am sure more people were motivated to ride a little more than they would have otherwise. One of my co-workers rode her bike to work for the first time, the whole 3 miles. As we talked she made excuses and expressed self deprecation for the fact that she does not ride to work more often. I did my best to pump her up: Any ride is a big ride and she had done her part to help Team Fed Peddlers gain glory.

First I thought this might be trending toward pathetic, but now I think of it as a small achievement, praiseworthy.


Decidedly more pathetic are the recent revelations concerning use of PED’s in the pro-peloton. Over at Red Kite Prayer Padraig said it best: The other shoe has not dropped, it is literally raining shoes. It may be that there is only one solitary human left on the planet who still believes that Lance Armstrong won all those races without the aid of PED’s. And how could LA actually believe that he didn’t cheat?

Tyler Hamilton’s confessions last night on 60 Minutes was poignant because he once was a guy who, until his story started unraveling  seemed to be one of the most honorable and perhaps humble pro riders. He was believable … until he wasn’t. And so his ‘come to Jesus’ revelations are tainted, just like all the drug cheats before him who once claimed they were clean in the face of evidence to the contrary. His web is even more tangled than most: He was busted for his Vuelta ride, mounted a vigorous defense and recruited thousands of fans to support his challenge, served out his suspension, came back to the sport, had mediocre results and was BUSTED yet again.
Now some years later he's ‘coming out’.  PLeae note this, after having been dragged before a grand jury to testify under oath on the matter AND getting a plea deal. Oh, and get ready, there is a book in the works. Definitely a pathetic subplot.

Tyler’s story isn’t original; it follows a comon formula, just like romance novels or mystery novels, or western novels. The biggest weakness in the formula is that once these guys come clean it is always too late to have any impact. It’s years after their original sins, they are already damaged goods, they usually not only tell on themselves, but also name names of others that have not yet admitted doping, and finally lay it down that ‘everyone was doing it’.

Why doesn’t someone, just once, stand on the top step of the podium, holding up their winners bouquet and trophy and shout at the crowd and cameras: “I cheated! I used PED’s and didn’t get caught!”

Lance’s defense against Hamilton’s charge will also follow a standard script:  “They said they were telling the truth when they denied using drugs, and now they say they are telling the truth when they admit they (and I) were using drugs. Which story is the truth?” It does not help that Hamilton has been given an immunity deal for ‘telling the truth’ at the grand jury investigation.

The word on the street is that George Hincapie has testified at the grand jury hearing that he and Lance both doped. Big George is another of the standup guys, not brash, not a spotlight hog, a workhorse and a teammate of Armstrong for all 7 of his TdF victories.

So with Franie Andreu, Tyler Hamilton, George Hincapie, and Floyd Landis all claiming one thing and Lance Armstrong saying something else, it’s asking too much to believe that Lance raced clean.

I have struggled to create in my mind some scenario where this thing plays out to the general benefit of those most vulnerable in the big picture. The riders, the staff, the organizing bodies, the sport itself, will be damaged but they’ll all get through it just fine if you look far enough into the future.

The biggest casualty in my mind is the Lance Armstrong Foundation (LAF). In an average week I probably get one or more email notes, messages of hope, calls to political action, or pleas for pledges to the LAF. I think of all those pictures with those little bald headed eyebrow-less kids who are smiling their wan but courageous smiles of hope with Lance Armstrong himself there encouraging them to keep up the good fight. The LAF has raised millions and millions of dollars in support of cancer research and cancer survivorship. It is a good cause and it has done good by lots of people. It’s not just theoretical or distant; I have a personal friend who was helped in his cancer recovery by an LAF supported organization as he recovered from cancer.

I suppose once the Icon has fallen the foundation will be damaged and may even dry up, which would be a real shame. There are still hundreds of thousands of cancer victims who could benefit from a strong Lance Armstrong Foundation in the future.

Not apathetic, put perhaps pitiful and thus to some degree pathetic.

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