I’m not angry with Lance probably because I could care less about cycling and maybe if the sport is so rife with cheating it shouldn’t be a sport. To be honest, although I played basketball and reached the highest level of wheelchair basketball, the Paralypmics, I don’t watch, follow or even care about any sport.
But maybe we, as Americans should be questioning the role we play in these stories. Americans worship the God of sports. We pay athletes millions and millions of dollars, they are all over T.V. the internet, they get huge endorsement deals, we treat them like Gods and then we’re surprised and angry when they cheat. We give them HUGE incentives to win at all costs. This is a product of our society.
What Lance Armstrong did was wrong, but at least he is finally telling the truth and he deserves some credit for that. Now that we have put him through the ringer maybe we should turn our intense gaze on ourselves and ask: What role did we play in this? Why do athletes feel that everything is justified when it comes to winning? Where does that come from?
“Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.” Is a quote that is often attributed to Vince Lombardi in 1959, It was actually said by UCLA Football Coach Red Sanders in 1950.
That’s bullshit, winning isn’t everything. And as member of the 1992 USA Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Team who lost the gold medal, you never win the silver, you only lose the gold. My coach, not the USA Coach, but my University of Illinois Coach said to me: “Winning and losing result from many factors, some are internal and controllable, some are external and uncontrollable. Therefore, winning must not always incite adulation and losing is not always cause for criticism and self-berating. The most noble feature of competition is not the outcome, but the effort, which precedes it. Where effort exists there is not failure, merely, momentary setbacks.”
If we continue idolizing sports and the athletes who excel at them, the Armstrong debacle may only be the start.
Isn’t it time to focus on what is really important, education, the economy, our children’s future.
Sports were originally extra-curricular, maybe it’s time to go back there, to the roots when sports occupied an appropriate place in our society. I played because I LOVED the game. Sure I would have loved to have been sponsored by corporations, adored by fans, made enough money to not have to worry about health insurance and been more than a has been, but would I have done anything to achieve that? No. And maybe it’s easy for me to say that, after all I play wheelchair basketball, so it really wasn’t in the cards.
But maybe, just maybe, I’m the one who has the most sane approach. No, that would my mother who always said that sports are extra-curricular and who left my silver medal hanging over the unfinished bathroom valance for five years.