Waldron on Armstrong’s Fall

Travis Waldron sums up some of the ambivalence I’ve been wrestling with myself in the wake of the doping chickens coming home to roost: The Complicated Tragedy Of Lance Armstrong.

So is Lance Armstrong a fraud, a cheat, and a villain, the worst example of how the quest to win at all costs can distort our priorities? Or is Lance Armstrong a friend, an inspiration, and a hero, the best example of how success can be used to change the world around us. Can’t he be both?

I think it’s wrong to focus just on Armstrong. He was arguably a victim here too. But not in the responsibility-free way that one might think I’m saying.

Sigh. It’s complicated.

2 Responses to “Waldron on Armstrong’s Fall”

  1. __j__ Says:

    Armstrong was a great athlete, and a drug dealer, who used his own product to win even more. Yes, the pressure-cooker of celebrity sports is also to blame. Much the way Hollywood and experimental aesthetic surgeries go hand in hand. But that seems to be the key: he’s a celeb, of the subcategory sports-celeb.

    I look at his charity work in perspective, though. As a celeb who beat cancer and won a lot of awards (some of them by cheating we now know), he’s responsible for ~$400M since 1997. Bill Gates expends about four times that much every year, and his foundation is backed by a gargantuan endowment (aka savings account) that will keep those billion-a-year payouts flowing pretty much indefinitely. Gates also has some controversy to his success: Microsoft is not well regarded by many engineers, because of the sorts of tradeoffs they make in their products (for business reasons), and for economists it is like ExxonMobil — in the category of natural economic monopolies. See also: Stallman & Torvalds.

    Whether you think Gates is a hero, or Linus is a hero, or both, what matters is the hero. I think it’s right to focus on Lance, because he’s the potential hero and/or potential villain. Part of our culture is that we *create* hero & heroine folks. The more banal side of our culture is the creation of celebs — people that are famous for being famous, more or less. Look at our politicians. Nowadays, we mostly just have celeb politicians (Reagan was not the first nor the last). Sometimes, though, we do have heroic leaders. And it seems to be culturally rare — and related to our politics, with the basis in rugged individualist rights and such, not groupthink or submersion of the self.

    “…a perfect example of how cherishing the good in a president [Washington], making him a hero, inspired another president [Lincoln] to actualize it and live it out.”

    So, methinks the important question is, should we lionize Lance Armstrong the hero, up there with Neil Armstrong? (Who… when you look at it through rational eyes… was just a celebrity-soldier in our ICBM-technology-showdown versus the Russkies.) Or, should we just treat Lance as a sports-celeb, who got caught doing that typical celebrity thing, drugs?

    On a lighter note, a pure-libertarian take on drug usage by sports celebs is illuminating…
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=k-rIm5R7v1Q (2 mins)

  2. shcb Says:

    That guy is funny, I’ll have watch more of him while I’m drunkblogging with the vodkapundit during the debate tonight, now that is multitasking!

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