Thursday, October 18, 2012

The V is to Make the Lie less Strong

I don't own a bicycle (though I have a bell and a thumb) and despite a lot of time living in Western Europe and getting used to the devotion that cycling is shown there, especially in Belgium for reasons about which I can speculate but won't, I have never warmed to the sport at all.

I enjoyed Tour De France as an album by Kraftwerk and remember Ralf und Florian stopping by 'the station' to play a test pressing to me and a bunch of folks wandering the hallways of AFN months before the record's release. They were keen to see if 'Americans' liked it (seriously); we did. Such fond memories of the other TDF, the one with the yellow jersey, the video cameraman racing along on the back of the motorcycle and the pack struggling to climb the Alps or the Pyrenees or perhaps just Anna Nicole Smith, not so much.

I am, of course, aware of who Lance Armstrong is, though not of the precise moment he transcended the sport of cycling and was assumed bodily into Olympus. I know of his battle against cancer and how he and his family overcame it and how he experienced the joys of fatherhood and his first TDF title in what seemed like the same year. I was disquieted with how the woman who had stayed and prayed (and everything else) with him during his treatment was so quickly jettisoned and replaced by a rock chick.

If your family is like mine someone, somewhere within it has battled cancer. I hope for their and your sake, the struggle was successful. I don't pretend to know what that diagnosis means or what it does to a person as it's not a conversation I've had with anyone fighting the disease, much less with Lance Armstrong. And I'm also aware that unless/until you've walked a mile in someone else's shoes, or ridden a stage of the circuit in his spandex, one should reserve judgment. But .....

It wasn't too long after his first victory in France, and the back to back championships which followed that the whispers about cheating started to pick up in volume and stridency. Still how could you not admire Lance Armstrong and his efforts on behalf of Livestrong (this is the dot com and not the dot org) and all his other outreaches? He started turning up more often in the pages of Rolling Stone and People magazines than in Sports Illustrated but that says as much (if not more) about us as a culture than about him as a celebrity.

But, endless covers and feature stories later, even after retiring, then unretiring but not returning to the pinnacle of his sport and finally choosing to retire again, the chorus of murmured accusations continued unabated until it seemed the only one ignoring it was Lance Armstrong himself.

You've seen the TV news headlines and read the extended sports stories in recent days and now the last threads have started to unravel. Nike has decided to cut its ties to Armstrong as has Michelob Light though I can't understand why  a beer company would seek out a bicyclist as a spokesperson. A bowler, yes; a cyclist, huh?

Nike feels cheated and I guess they were. I'll skip a gratuitous observation about the going price per pound of selective moral outrage-it's hard to keep a straight face condemning Armstrong for doping/cheating when you're screwing every last one of your Third World employees. Or maybe I didn't skip it.

What becomes of those warehouses filled with yellow bracelets with the check mark Swoosh thing on them or did you think Nike did all of that from the kindness of their hearts? Me, neither. Suspect we'll see a lot of merchandise show up on woot so be ready to make your best deal. As for the soul of Lance Armstrong, perhaps not even Daniel Webster would want to get involved after he realized by covering up the V in Livestrong all was revealed.      
-bill kenny

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