Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France seven consecutive years, between 1999 and 2005. A colossal achievement given the nature of this grueling endurance sport. The race began in 1903 circumnavigating France as a means to sell more newspapers. Since 1903 there have been many champions, and a great deal of sensation, which sold many, many newspapers, but none match Armstrong’s achievement in accomplishment or fame.
And then, there is another view. While Lance Armstrong did manage to finish ahead of all competitors in seven consecutive races, in this most grueling of events, did he win? It is a complicated question. Finishing ahead of the competition is one thing, but the official statistics see another factor as relevant in answering the question. Unless you’ve been in isolation somewhere, you are probably aware that Lance Armstrong confessed to Oprah Winfrey in an interview on Tuesday, which was broadcast Thursday night in prime time, that he had cheated in every single one of his seven consecutive Tour de France victories. The historic record of his victories has been purged now, so there is officially no winner for the seven years that Armstrong strung together consecutive wins.
Interestingly, that blight on the record is only matched by one other purge, and only approached by a second. Those two blank spaces of “no winner” are World War II, seven consecutive, and World War I, four consecutive blank spots. Imagine explaining that to your mom. “Hey Mom, I joined a gang.” “Really Son, what are their names?” “Mom, I’d like you to meet my buddies, World War I, and World War II...” Nice company you keep there, Lance.
So Lance All-American achieved that fame, even if the official laurels are not his to claim any longer. And I suppose you’d have to take that “fame” away and call it “infamy”, but that’s a mere technicality. There is no such thing as bad publicity, right?
Most of you don’t give a fat rat’s ass about cycling. I know I don’t. I admire the achievement, such that it was, but the sport never tripped my trigger much. Back in high school, lots of friends went bike crazy when “Breaking Away” came out. It didn’t do much for me. I did end up in some races with friends from Shaker Hts out to Chagrin Falls, and back. We raced our $100.00 dollar Schwinns for all that they were worth. (Really, more like a fraction. No one ever had $100.00 dollars.)
But why is it important that Armstrong was stripped of his titles, leaving a chasm in the record as large as World War part Deux? Armstrong made his mark in “sport”, as Mitt Romney likes to call it. He was a media darling, superman in one of our favorite diversions, if not the specific variety of diversion. Armstrong is from sport, and you don’t mess with sport!
Speaking of “don’t mess with,” Armstrong himself is from Texas. Born in 1971, this 5’9 1/2”, 165 pound endurance titan managed unprecedented, and still officially not yet achieved (now that is truly unprecedented) seven consecutive wins (not) in a profoundly difficult endurance sport. Just Lance and his colossal competitive spirit, a few bicycles, some tight, gaudy gear, and a cocktail of oxygen enriching, hormone boosting substances, and a blood transfusion procedure, which I don’t understand and can’t explain, actually managed to fake win the Tour, before any of his competitors could fake win it, SEVEN straight times. That’s doing something, except when it isn’t.
Lance Armstrong is one amazing human, no question. Most people could not fake their way to this non accomplishment, even with the unethical means that he used to do so. I’ll give him that. Armstrong’s main mistake is that he chose to make his ethical lapse be in a career of sport. Had it been banking, politics, religion, show business, sales, or right wing radio, you can fake your four flushin’ ass off, and no one cares. Hell, if you are in conservative radio, the faker, the better. But not sport. You gotta be clean in sport.
If you want to fake protect yourself against a foreign invasion, (last seen in 1812), you can have almost any firearm you want. You’re more likely to shoot your Mom, wife, brother, sister, husband, son, or self, than any Hessians, Visigoths, Soviets, or Space Aliens, but you are fake constitutionally guaranteed to have that weapon. Lance Armstrong could have fake defended himself, like I am sure Joe the fake Plumber does with some inappropriately large weapon, and no one would mind. He might even be commended for it by some fake public servant, or fake gun owner advocacy group like the NRA. That you can do. But you can’t take human growth hormone to win a bicycle race. That shit will get you sued.
All jokes aside, Lance Armstrong is an amazing individual. He is a pure competitor, albeit in a rather impure way. But I’m just sayin’... This dude is extremely competitive. He’s like George W. Bush, the last fake President, only smart. I watched Lance Armstrong in his interview with Oprah. You know how those interviews go. Oprah asks you some questions, asks why you were bad. You tremble. You confess. You lay it all out and are rendered into the forgiving arms of the American viewing audience that will forgive almost anything if you will dance for the cameras. Kirstie Alley was forgiven for being fat. Kate Gosselin was forgiven for having 8 camera loving, annoying little tax deductions...six at the same time. Fava Flave was even forgiven for wearing those big f’n clock medallions, because they danced.
Lance don’t dance though. Lance sat there and laid it all out, but he looked like Richard Nixon without the sweat, Bill Clinton without the empathy, and Tony Soprano without the accent. Lance was cool, accurate, forthcoming, and the most unbelievable confessor since Frank “Frankie Five Fingers” Pentangeli testifying before the Senate in Godfather II.
Oprah: “Lance, did you cheat?” Lance Five Fingers: “Did I cheat, yeah, yeah, I cheated. But you know what? I looked up cheat in the dictionary and...”
That Lance is smooth. He’s cool. He’s cold. “He had lifeless eyes. Ever seen a sharks eyes..?” Sorry, I lapsed into my Captain Quint there.
But Oprah went into the water with Lance. “You go in the water?” “The cage goes in the water?” “Sharks in the water...?” “Our shark?” “Farewell and adieu ye fair Spanish ladies...”
Lance All-American is our shark. Lance is a pure competitor with no compassion. Lance Armstrong is win at all cost. Lance “Five Fingers” is Wayne LaPierre saying we need more guns in school after the Newtown shooting. Lance is a rights obsessed American culture with no thought given to duty, responsibility, or empathy. Lance Armstrong: All-American.