Who Really Lives Strong?

Fallen icon, fallen hero — what Lance Armstrong can never be.

I heard a psychiatrist discussing the shameful Lance Armstrong smashup on TV, suggesting Armstrong suffers from low esteem, no doubt a result of something occurring in his youth, causing him to cheat and lie about his performance enhancing drug use.

That’s just bunk. He wanted to win at all costs, and cheating was fine with him — as long as he didn’t get caught. Unfortunately this is a prevalent attitude in professional sports and it’s really the pits.

It’s also indicative of the attitude of some of those known as “Generation X,” aka Gen X, those born-after-the-post-WWII “baby boomers,” from approximately 1961-1981. Armstrong was born smack in the middle, in 1971.

I have some real problems with the Gen X philosophy, which often seems to translate as “I want what I want and I will do what it takes to get what I want.” That might mean they would buy their way to success (preferably with someone else’s money of course) — or cheat — whatever. Armstrong’s ex-wife, Kristen, even suggested that EPO blood doping was just a necessary evil, really no biggie. The end justifies any means and people are but insignificant pawns in the game. Intimidation and/or total lack of emotion or compassion is part and parcel of the scenario.

One theory (Strauss-Howe) describes the Gen X’ers as “ a streetwise generation who does indeed bring a bag of savvy tricks that their elders lack …”

But, for every callous and calculating Armstrong and entourage, there are true heroes that follow a different path; a time-honored path of honor, friendship and commitment.

If your yellow Live Strong wrist bracelet feels a little too heavy these days, I’d like to suggest you visit the Team Jesse Foundation for some untarnished inspiration. The mission at Team Jesse is to provide education and support to families of fallen soldiers in honor of Staff Sgt. Jesse Williams, a young war hero from Santa Rosa who was killed in Iraq in 2007. I am sure founder Kevin Mincio would be happy to send you a red, white and blue Team Jesse bracelet that you can wear with pride, as my family does.

Mincio is a Gen X’er of another sort. While Armstrong was doping and winning, Mincio left his lucrative financial job at Goldman Sachs in New York City, after watching one too many bodies jump or burn on 9/11/2001. Older than most of the rest, he enlisted, and went off to seek revenge. Nothing artificial pumped those boys up in basic training, where he met Jesse Williams, but each other. These were teammates of a sort Armstrong could never know nor understand. They were the real deal as generations of soldiers were before them.

While Armstrong was doping to ease the pain, and winning, Kevin Mincio took off on a 4,400 mile bike ride from Jesse’s grave to Ground Zero, to arrive on 9/11/2010 and honor his fallen friend. This ride is the subject of a gripping documentary film (see attached) making its way through the film festival circuit. Mincio and his riding partner had nothing but sheer will to ease their pain, no drugs, no fancy entourage, no lies nor excuses, just 93 days of riding their bikes across the country in heat and hurricanes.

They won more honor in their finish than Lance Armstrong ever did.

I submit that Kevin Mincio is a hundred times the man Lance Armstrong thinks he is or thought he was in his consummate Gen X attitude. That Jesse Williams knew then and knows now, more about a purposeful life than Lance Armstrong ever will. That the child of Jesse Williams will know the honor of his father and his father’s friend, while Armstrong’s five children will bear a heavy burden with his name. And that every generation can learn from the heroes among them.

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John Ferguson October 17, 2012 at 11:07 PM
No love for a man who built the nation's preeminent cancer survivors' support network? Regardless of whether he did or did not take illegal substances (hint - everyone involved in pro cycling did at that time), you can't just blindly condemn him as a narcissist when his true legacy is not his TDF wins but LiveStrong. Before you fire off the nasty responses, just think about the absurdity of your armchair psychoanalysis of an entire generation. It's catchy and it certainly is thought provoking, but it's just as certainly nonsense.
Craig Belfor October 18, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Many thoughts on this subject: Lance was told the cancer had spread to his bones, brain, and lungs. The French team came to visit, but instead of coming to cheer him up, came to tell him he was kicked off the team. At that point, he qualified for any drug that would get him through it, including heroin. Lance has raised over half a BILLION dollars for cancer research. Now the bad: Lance has already cashed all the checks. Even now as Nike severs it's relationship with him at a $50 million loss to Lance, he's still a very rich man. Why do athletes do this? It's simple-Trophy wife, Ferraris, mansions, more money than you can count,-- or night shift at Taco Bell. Don't blame Gen X. We showed them how it's done. We gamed Wall Street, the equity in our homes, our retirement, and our kid's college fund, all for immediate pleasures, while handing Gen X the biggest debt this nation ever had. If I was Gen X, I'd break every rule to get ahead, just like my parents did.
boethius October 18, 2012 at 08:51 PM
Armstrong - along with virtually every other rider on the tour - did whatever it took to win. If basically everyone doped and he still won that's either an indication he doped smarter or he was just a superior rider. The ethical calculus of it all is too byzantine to ponder. He doped - even if he "technically" didn't (I.e., he passed the tests) - and won. They doped and lost. End of the day does Armstrong sleep well at night? Maybe or maybe not so much. He probably made a Faustian bargain and now he has to live with it. It's unraveling primarily I think because he's wanting it to unravel after decades of a withering and brutally vindictive witch hunt that's dogged him most of his career. Every rider dopes but the French and the USADA really, really hate Armstrong for winning. Seems like his biggest sin was doping proudly not doping modestly and throwing a Tour now and then. His teammates, US Cycling, and of course the French and every European rider despised him for it, justifiably or not. Personally I think they just don't like the guy. The crass and bald hatred for Armstrong if it weren't already incredibly obvious really came out when he announced he was giving up the fight. You could practically hear the glee in the USADA's rep's voice, like he was stomping on the grave of a vanquished enemy. Indeed, he was, I suppose. It's all a clear the sport is a mess and needs a major housecleaning.
Ann Popovic October 19, 2012 at 01:33 AM
This is kind of an icky article. Why would anyone feel the need to be so hateful? You want to promote your friend's movie, great, but the FACT is, LiveStrong was and is support for people who are fighting cancer and on what planet should that be ridiculed? Gah! And then to condemn an entire generation for a prevalent attitude ... that there is absolutely NO scientific basis for? What are you TALKING about? What IS this, Dr. Phil does Jerry Springer? This article does dishonor to your friend's tribute. Because nobody should need to have to tear down someone ELSE's achievements to have their own lauded.
Jayne Birkin October 19, 2012 at 02:50 AM
Lance Pharmstrong is a cheater, but I don't think the author needs to indict an entire generation of people. I was born in 1972, does that mean I'm a cheater because my parents procreated about a year after Lance's parents procreated? Does everyone born within a certain media-proscribed "generational decade" have the exact same personality, philosophy, moral compass and attitude? I applaud the criticism of the cheater cyclist. I deplore the stereotypes of all people born between 1970-1980. And I dispute the stereotype of "GenX" that we're trying to get what we want, by any means necessary. This has nothing to do with the GenX stereotype, which is rooted in the book by Douglas Coupland published in 1991 about Microsoft programmers and their lack of social skills and direction in life.


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