Lance Arms-yawn… Be your own hero

So that Lance guy has fessed up to cheating. I got wind of it yesterday on Facebook.

My first reaction was a giant yawn — which perhaps could have been bigger and louder with steroids.

It didn’t even occur to me that Lance Armstrong’s confession to Oprah had anything to do with the work that I do. Then my friend Chuck told me that Commute by Bike readers would be let down if I didn’t weigh in with some wisdom and/or snark.

I said something like, I have as much to do with Lance Armstrong as a fry cook has to do with a sword fighter. They both use knives. The similarity ends there.

Hmm… I wonder what I’d get on eBay for this right about now.

This morning, still in nothing but my boxers, I opened the shirt drawer of my dresser, and there on top of the pile was my LIVEWRONG t-shirt. I took it as a sign. I need to speak my mind.

Some of you are not going to like it. Here it is:

I still don’t care.

I’ve never been very good at hero worship, whether it be athletes, entertainers, or any of the standard variety of famous people who are compensated for holding our eyeballs.

I bought the shirt years ago, before there was any whiff of scandal around Armstrong. I bought one for each of my Lance-worshipping friends — to annoy them. The shirts were being liquidated for $5 each at AZ Bikes, who apparently had to cease and desist selling these shirts and bracelets after being a bit too successful at it. (The once thriving is now a sad link farm waiting for someone to bid high on the domain.)

Sometimes my herolessness feels like a social liability; sometimes it feels like a valuable immunity.

There is something hard-wired in our primate brains that leads us to equate high visibility with high significance. It probably was a positive correlation in our hunter-gatherer societies. But now it does a disservice to us. If we see someone on television often enough, our brains tell us the person is deserving of our attention. We end up filling our heads with names and details of people who are less worthy of our attention than some of the people living down the street whose names we do not know.

The so called “value” of celebrity, and the notion that celebrities can use their fame for good is based on exploiting this primitive characteristic that no longer serves us well. For every Angelina Jolie legitimately bringing attention to the plight of refugees, there is a Jenny McCarthy regurgitating pseudoscience against vaccinations.

Another friend of mine, Mike, does research at the University of Arizona Cancer Center. A few years ago he was driving his car, and got stuck behind a group of cyclists taking up two lanes.

When they all had to stop for a red light, Mike was able to pull up next to the group and ask, “Hey, Do you need to take up both lanes?”

He looked more closely and realized he was talking to Lance Armstrong, who replied, “Cut us some slack, bro, we’re trying something new.”

Mike got a little “brush with greatness” fever, and spent weeks trying to get through to Armstrong to perhaps get him come and visit the Cancer Center.

“He’ll remember me. He called me bro. Certainly he’ll want to know about the research we do.”

His efforts went nowhere. Armstrong was either too busy, or not as heroically anti-cancer as his public mythology would suggest.

Oprah speaks out on Lance Armstrong's doping confession - The Washington Post

Heroes will let you down. Not always, but often enough that you should at least brace yourself for it — or better: divest yourself of heroes entirely.

Lance Armstrong’s value to cycling was to sell cycling to people who view bikes as sports equipment, not as a practical way of getting around.

If you are commuting by bike, you are doing something that most people believe they can’t do — especially people who don’t see themselves as athletic. And the easier you make it look, the more heroic you are.

This Lance business has nothing to do with you.


Sign up for our Adventure-Packed Newsletter

Get our latest touring, commuting and family cycling posts and sales delivered to your inbox!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

14 thoughts on “Lance Arms-yawn… Be your own hero”

  1. switters says:

    Lance who?

    When asked about Lance by friends or co workers I ask who won the last NASCAR race. Most of them understand.

  2. BluesCat says:

    As adverse as I am to controversy (chuckle), one of my most enjoyable pastimes related to this issue is pulling the chains of various Lance-haters on a bicycle forum slanted more toward the competitive riders of two-wheelers.

    These folks seem to be oblivious to the “be careful what you wish for” consequences of the contention, if true, that “Lance knows about EVERYBODY in the sport who did drugs.” If Lance truly comes clean, and names ALL the names, there probably won’t be a single unsullied cycling race “winner” for about 15 years!

    The War on Drugs in Sport is going to be about as successful as The Greater War on Drugs has been. Which is to say about as successful as the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was.

  3. Steve a Rider says:

    Racers have been doping for way more than 15 years!

  4. Jeff Gardner says:

    Bicycle racing, especially at his level, has a small, rarified, but worthy place in sport. It directly impacts the lives of …. some small X number of people.

    It is no comparison to the number of lives, social situations, and national and planetary objectives affected by bike commuting.

    In the end, it is Lance who sees it our way: miles and speed are not the measure of the bicyclist. How we treat people and interact most accurately with the world around us is.

  5. Graham says:

    Interestingly, I made almost exactly the same observation to my wife this morning (who’s a sports nut) concerning that Notre Dame football player who apparently made up some tragedy about something this year (I’m not a sports nut, can you tell) and now everyone is appalled.

    I said, “You know, this wouldn’t happen if we didn’t treat athletes like gods… objects worthy of reverence and worship.”

    What would the world look like if instead of idolizing sports figures and other celebrities we instead obsessed about selfless acts of ordinary people?

  6. Audrey Wagner says:

    Nice. I will have to remember that!

  7. Audrey Wagner says:

    From a Facebook group I frequent: Lance is everything that is wrong with our country: “Artificial Achievement, Focused Branding, Televised Arrogance, Feigned Ethics, Litigious Denial, Public Implosion, Sponsored Contrition.” As a commuting cyclist, recumbent rider, and non-sports-fan, I never had any love for the TdF or Lance. The saddest thing about Lance is the communication to young sports fans that to be the “best,” you have to lie, break the rules, and give yourself dangerous enhancement. Doing your best doesn’t cut it.

  8. ret3 says:

    I do like to think that I’ve passively encouraged some of my coworkers to take up bike commuting (the bike rack isn’t as spacious and lonely as it used to be) simply by riding to work each day while being visibly dorky and overweight. If I can do it, pretty much anyone can.

    As for ol’ Lance, I’ve never much cared about him or his exploits one way or the other. I’m just not a sports guy. It is difficult, though, to avoid the occasional discussion about him, what with my being well-known among my colleagues for riding a bike while living in Austin.

    1. Ted Johnson says:

      I paraphrased your comment, tweeted it and posted it to Facebook.


  9. Island Dave says:

    Well written piece.

    I am saddened and greatly disappointed. It comes from my mom’s final battle with cancer. A battle that went on, piece by piece cut from her body over 35 years, finally ending July 10, 1997.

    I had felt that in a way Armstrong had come back from the brink and won the TdF for my mom.

  10. Tim Sherman says:

    I read a book about a man that hiked across Oregon from the SW corner to the NE corner. I thought to myself how do people get this much time off of work? Since I read the book I have commuted more miles each year than his hike. Last summer my wife and I were wandering through the Oregon State Fair in Salem, OR when we came across a large area that had local authors displaying their books. I walked around the tables to see if Willian Sullivan was there sure enough he was. I was struck dumb. I couldn’t even get the words out that he was the one who inspired me to go forth on a bike. My wife told him that I had read all of his books about hiking in Oregon and then she purchased his latest book getting it signed. I just stood there. Hero? Maybe not. He was just a person that inspired me to do more. What the author and I have in common is that we like being outdoors. It is something that can be done everyday on a bicycle without taking time off from work or by taking long hiking trips and writing books about the experience.

  11. Richard says:

    For every weekend MAMIL Armstrong-worshipping warrior around the world, we – who ride every day, on a variety of machines, in all weather, to transport ourselves, our children, our shopping, from A to B – ride without ego.

    And that’s the way we like our riding.

  12. These been a big debate on this but we think here that yes what he has done is wrong, very wrong. We understand where he is coming from when wanting to be the best and being ‘A fighter’. We all have a competitive side and maybe he has just taken his competitiveness a little bit far.

  13. It’s sad he has let down so many people with this scandal, but celebrities and athletes are just normal people after all! We can’t be too hard on them.

Leave a comment.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


20% off ALL Ortlieb Bag Closeouts! Shop Closeouts

Scroll to Top