Last night this chatty young fella was on the television show 60 Minutes talking shit about Lance Armstrong. I’m not sure who he was. Apparently he was a bike rider himself, used to be friends with Armstrong, and spoke about Armstrong being a cheater. He said he knew this because he cheated along with him.
I guess it takes one to know one.
Interesting. I never knew any bike riders other than Lance Armstrong himself. And here was this unknown fella talking bad about one of the most masterful beings in the Universe.
What were the fella’s credentials? He’d never even won Le Tour de France himself. He had, however, won a gold medal in cycling for the United States. Perhaps that’s why I’d never heard of him.
It seems to me that winning a gold medal in any sport is pretty decadent. Think about it. It certainly requires a fair amount of free time and a certain standard of living. For example, if you are poor and have to spend all of your free time hunting and gathering food, working on your shelter, and protecting yourself from predators, it seems to me you’re not exactly going to have the kind of leisure time necessary to get good enough at a sport to be the best in the world.
Anyway, I digress. Here in the Abyss we have a certain luxury of position regarding so lofty matters as things like gold medals and le Tour de France. Thus our leading philosophers can approach such matters with a certain sense of style and aplomb.
The big question: Did Lance Armstrong cheat by using Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) including erythropoietin (EPO) or not?
Abyss philosophers may take their time but they invariably come up with the correct answer, of course, is: “Who gives a shit?”
This reminds me of sports like golf, tennis and bowling where we’re supposed to care about who, in a group of men, will get the largest paycheck. You don’t see motherfuckers gathered around my place of employment every year watching, cheering and speculating if my pay raise will be three percent, do you? Of course not, and for good reason.
When Lance Armstrong, literally a living logo in his little rubber outfit covered in advertising, won le Tour de France for the seventh time, even I, briefly, stopped to take note. I still remember thinking, “Wow. That’s gotta be an achievement that will last a long time and perhaps never be equaled.” Of course this was when I was younger and still capable of some positive feelings.
Since then I’ve revised my opinions regarding sports. I’m now operating under the assumption that just about all participants in just about every possible sport are dirty. I used to follow Major League Baseball (MLB) rather closely. As soon as you imagine most of them a bunch of cheaters, though, it is remarkable how little you can care. It’s the same thing with the National Football League (NFL).
Lance Armstrong, of course, denies everything. But isn’t that the way it always works? The truly innocent get indignant and angry and vigorously defend themselves to the end. The guilty do exactly the same thing. Otherwise it would be too easy to tell the difference. So Lance can stomp his foot and move his mouth and make his little indignant noises. Lance can blast 60 Minutes for choosing to give someone a soapbox to be critical of Lance. None of that adds anything substantive in determining innocence or guilt. It’s not like every guilty person since the dawn of time has denied wrongdoing.
This weekend I attended my first ever discussion group for people who are non-religious. I guess you could call it an atheist meeting. As a newbie to the group, I was forced to introduce myself. I explained how it is very important to me to try to live an ethical and moral life. In fact, I even go so far as to describe myself as an amateur ethicist and moralist. I easily maintain my amateur status by avoid doing either as a professional activity. That and the fact that I’ve had no formalized training.
I spoke about living in a small town. One guy in the meeting from Alabama said that upon meeting people for the first time, the first thing he’d be asked was, “What church do you go to?” This was a screening process important to determine how the community would treat newcomers. In essence, it’s a quick and easy way to judge a book by its cover. When I moved from the big city to the small town, I dealt with something similar when I’d be asked questions like that when I interviewed for jobs. I know. That’s illegal. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen anyway.
To conclude my introduction, I also spoke about how, after a few months on the job, when I felt it was safe, I’d come out of the atheist closet to my coworkers. I guess I speak about morals and ethics enough during the course of the job and hopefully live as a good example, because eventually I end up as the resident yardstick for ethical questions. The religious folk I work with eventually come to see me as someone who can offer an opinion on such dilemmas.
The point I’m building up to here is, last night I pondered a different sort of question. What if, simply by cheating or telling a lie, you could reach out and pick up one million dollars? Would you take it? I thought about it. I really thought about it. I tried to be open-minded and honest with myself. I tried to sidestep all of my rigid thought patterns and personal biases and really put myself in that situation. What would I really do? Not just some flippant sound bite of an answer after a few seconds of thought.
I shocked the shit out of my wife when I said, “Yeah. I’d have to take that money.”
I think she literally gasped.
My explanation: If I could really have a million dollars, what would that mean? Perhaps I put too much stock in a mere million dollars, but it would mean that my wife and I could maintain our current lifestyle and never have to work for hateful dumbass motherfuckers ever again.
What if. What if Marlboro offered me a million to advertise on my blog? The only questions would be, “Who has a pen?” and, “Where do I sign?”
Principles only go so far. Perhaps those are also a luxurious thing reserved for those not concerned with mere survival all day?
I’m not saying I know for a fact that Lance Armstrong is guilty. Hopefully one day it will be conclusively proven one way or the other. If not, even if nothing else happens, this will always be a cloud over his head. But think about it like this. What if Lance made it almost to the top of his sport and then learned he had to cheat to get ahead of everyone else who was also cheating? That would be quite the decision.
Go for the big money? Fame? The chance to be a legend at something he loves?
What if the alternative was to quit? Just walk away? And what then? What if it was a career at McDonalds or Taco Bell in the drive-thru window? Can you imagine Lance Armstrong happily accepting that fate? “Would you like fries with that?” Or what if he had to take a regular mundane job like the rest of us? Work for a fucking asshole 40 hours a week and make $12 an hour. Can you imagine that?
Gee. The brass ring or a ring handcrafted completely of shit? What if those were the choices? I’m thinking it would be a very rare human indeed who would choose the shit.
The system is gamed towards these choices. Whether it is something as silly as cycling, golf, tennis, bowling, boxing, soccer, baseball or football, the systems involved encourage choices in favor of doing whatever it takes to win, to be the best, to be famous and rich.
That’s why I’ve lost all interest in sports and, to be honest, Lance Armstrong, too. My life is miserable enough already. I don’t need my entertainments to be just another opportunity to see the absolute worst of what humans are capable of.