Wednesday, October 24, 2012 | Categories: Michael's Essays |
(AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
It haunts us still. Spend a few days in the Great Republic and you see the stories in all the newspapers. Sportscasters on radio and TV probe and parse and plumb the depths of the scandal and all its implications, not only for this generation but for generations yet unborn unto the ages.
Last Sunday's New York Times had an in-depth report on Page One, turning inside to hundreds of more anguished paragraphs.
Fly back from the City of Brotherly Love and it's all over our hometown media.
Lance Armstrong and the Great Doping Scandal of 2012.
It turns out that Lance Armstrong did all kinds of things to his body that helped him to win bicycle races.
The man rides a bicycle. For a living, that's what the man does. He rides a bicycle.
A Martian might be shocked if he (it?) read a New York Times story that said Lance Armstrong, brain surgeon, or Lance Armstrong, bomb disposal expert, or Lance Armstrong, ace diamond cutter, was taking drugs.
That would or could be serious.
But no, this Lance Armstrong rides a bicycle for a living. And takes bicycle-riding-enhancing drugs.
And we the media, the sporting fraternity, the New York Times, sports journalists on every network are shocked to the very pith of our being.
Not to mention the hundreds of millions of bicycle racing fans.
We seem to be losing perspective here, people. We have moved into an era where the frivolous is taken seriously and the really serious stuff is stored away in the Amnesia Warehouse.
Let's look at this drug thing. And bicycle riding as a sport.
Bicycle riding is a sport like rock, paper, scissors is a sport. It's like synchronized diving or beach volleyball is a sport.
Which is to say it's not.
It's at most a pastime. It's for weekend warriors in this country who get all duded up with Italian bike gear and flash sunglasses and ride like crazy down to Starbucks.
So Lance Armstrong is a professional athlete in a sport that's not really a sport and he is caught taking drugs.
Hold the back page.
It is fair to suggest, is it not, that professional athletes who do not juice, are as rare as those Shakers who do not reproduce and are therefore on the way out.
Blood doping and other performance enhancing practices have become common in every sport - baseball, football, hockey, basketball and non-sports such as bicycle racing.
On Monday, the non-sport's governing body, Back Pedaling
International, revoked Armstrong's wins, saying with Orwellian logic,
they never happened.
It's as if he never existed. He has been unpersoned.
Did I mention the scandal was about riding bicycles?
The fact that a world famous, highly paid athlete takes performance enhancing drugs is no longer news. All the testing in the world is not going to deter athletes from using drugs when the stakes are so high.
Do the math. A little needle here, a few games suspensions versus a contract that pays eleven or twelve million a year.
Pass the syringe.
We have to realize we live in a different sports universe, one where the best pharmacist, not necessarily the best athelete, wins.
As for the role model argument, it too is long gone.
For me, reality raised its head when I was about 10 and discovered that Ty Cobb was the meanest man who ever lived.