Saturday, January 19, 2013

Big Hat, No Cattle

Big boat, no paddle
Big belly, no heart.*

Lance lied.

ArmstrongOkay, bad guy. While doing the EPO, the blood doping stuff, the ' was all in the context of the times.... You shouldn't have kept lying to us, man. You could have stuck with the easy way out - "I've never tested positive." We understood that little evasion. They set up the game and you played it better than most. On a clean playing field you might have won, anyway. You didn't create the context. Roger that.

There are real victims, real people he hurt. Sportswriter Rick Reilly's decade-long defense merited more than just a "sorry about that" email. Other riders, friends, employees, people who told the truth about him and incurred his considerable wrath - "We sued a lot of people" said Lance. Sued them, it turns out, for being right. Family members who believed in him, maybe still do. Wouldn't want to be Lance and have to explain this all to his kids.

There's lots of loose talk about sponsors suing him for the money they paid him and the team. Puh-leeze. It's LPL - let's play lawyer - time. The Postal Service wants their money back because Lance was a doper. Lance breached the contract. Boo fricking hoo. Somewhere, the Post Office bean counters have figured out how much money Lance made them. I'll bet they more than broke even. Let's put that in front of a judge and watch her roll her eyes and ask USPS why they are wasting her time.

I know a number of cancer survivors who clung to his story during some pretty dark times. He told them to "stay strong" and they did. They made it through, stuck it out. Lived. Wore those silly yellow bracelets, and the scars, to tell the world that Lance believed in them when they thought they were going to die. He got them to believe, too.

Okay, so he's not a great man. It turns out he's just a skinny, narsissistic masochist who fooled us into thinking he was pure in a dirty business. But....

I'm getting on the bike today with my good friend. He and I have burned up a lot of miles over the years, seen a lot of asphalt disappear under the front tires of our bikes. We've spent a bunch of that time talking bike racing, remembering the great moments when a cluster of flawed men raced each other to the top of a mountain.

*"Big Hat, No Cattle," Randy Newman, Bad Love, 1999.

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