Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Lance Armstrong, American Icon?

Recently, an editorial writer (sorry, I’ve misplaced the reference) opined that Americans would do well to pay more attention to the example of Lance Armstrong, and to follow that example by eating less and exercising more. The editorialist’s point was that Americans may be aware of the athletic feat being pursued by Mr. Armstrong, but not enough to draw the connection to the level of physical fitness required to accomplish the pursuit. I believe the article made a reference to the average American’s major source of activity would be to go to the refrigerator for another snack and beverage whilst in the midst of a commercial break watching televise coverage of the Tour de France.

On that level, I must agree – especially since I am one of the “gravimetrically challenged” (translation: fat) persons on the face of the planet. (Honest, as soon as I’m done typing and posting this, it’s off to the gym to swim!) I certainly need to eat less and exercise more; and, without pointing any fingers, I know I’m not alone. (Y’all know who you are!) I must also agree that the level of mental and physical conditioning required to win an event such as the Tour de France even once is exceptional – maybe even qualifying as a form of asceticism. If Mr. Armstrong wins a sixth consecutive time, as he appears poised to do, it will be an outstanding accomplishment. I have rooted for him since his first race, when he was a remarkable story for his successful battle against cancer. There is a part of me rooting for him to reach the heights now.

And yet… The story is different this year. I cannot think or feel the same way about Mr. Armstrong or his accomplishments or his goal. Why? It is because he left his wife, and is now living with the singer, Sheryl Crow. How unfortunate for them all. That’s why, where at one time Mr. Armstrong could, indeed, have been a type of American icon, I must now question whether we should hold him up as an example. The Tour de France is a tour de force. But how sad that his life off the racecourse seems to have taken a turn for the worst…