“It’s not about the bike”

| November 7, 2012

It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life by Lance Armstrong

When I was kid growing up in Chicago there was a show on TV called "The Sports Writers on TV". Before I became addicted to ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPN4, ESPN5, ESPN Chicago, ESPN Radio and ESPN.com and ESPNRadio.com, this was how I got my Chicago Sports fix.  That and the Chicago Tribune.  Or Chicago Sun-Times.  It depended which newspaper Mike Royko was working for and that was the paper I read. I delivered both of them on my paper route.  They sold about equally well in our neighborhood. About 50 Tribs, 50 Sun-Times and 2 Wall Street Journals.  Margin lower on the Wall Street Journal for home delivery by bike.  Go figure.

Anyways, the show featured Chicago sports writers, some with heavy accents, sitting on a set around a poker table with all kinds of crap on the table under a lamp smoking cigars and drinking liquids of some sort (YouTube video clip below.  Classic).

In junior high, or as it is more commonly called, "middle school" there was an episode or two or three dedicated to athletes doing drugs.  One of the writers on the show, Ben Bentley, now passed, scratched his eyebrows with his thumbs on both hands, the right holding a cigar and asked "What is so catastrophic about athletes doing drugs?"

This was pre-Michael Jordan and the arrival of his airness.  Cocaine use was well known in the NBA.  The product on the court was poor and drug use rampant.  News of drug use on college campuses, the NFL, MLB or the NHL did not get much play then as I recall.  ESPNU didn't have an embedded reporter on every college campus looking for news yet. 

The new commissioner in the NBA by the name of David Stern, the arrival of Michael in 1984, the classic finals between the Lakers and Celtic with Magic and Bird, on the heels of their 1979 NCAA Championship Game changed the game and created the Golden Age for the NBA between the years of 1984 and 1993.  Cocaine was less talked about probably because use was down and The Steroid Era in Baseball shifted the sports world discussion relative to the war on drug use in sports. 

In 2003 and 2004 seven European cyclists died young and mysteriously.  As the story goes from Gwen Knapp in USA Today recently, they ranged in age from 16 to 35.  Some died in their sleep, some were retired.  All in about a 13-month span.  The seventh cyclist, from Belgium, died just days before indictments involving Barry Bonds started coming down. Their deaths are now largely forgotten because according to authorities in cycling "Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling". 

I do not know the first thing about competive cycling.  It looks hard.  Really hard.  I use to think basketball or hockey players had to be the best conditioned athletes.  No way.  Cycling. Or soccer.  Or beach volleyball.  Hey, it is an Olympic sport, right?

Enter Lance Armstrong.  Survived metastatic cancer to the brain and competed at the highest level in his sport and won.  Repeatedly.  Didn't just win.  Detroyed the competition.  Did he use performance enhancing substances?  If he beat the other guys, destroyed them in competition, and they were using chemicals to help win, than he must have, right?  I don't really know.  I don't really care.  If they were risking their own lives to win a race for a colored jersey, and apparently the sport knew about this for years, then what is so catastrophic about athletes doing drugs?  At some point, personal chemists aside, genetics and some conditioning would have to get put into the formula.

Maybe Lance Armstrong did do something that he shouldn't have.  Not condoning the use of drugs. 

Just do not care.  It's not about the bike.  It is about what he has been able to do with his fame and fortune.  Donations to his foundation are up compared to this time last year. Donations have doubled since Aug. 23, when Armstrong announced he would no longer contest doping charges, Much of those donations are related to Livestrong's 15th anniversary fundraiser. Total fundraising for the year is up 13% from last year, to nearly $21 million. Only three people in recent weeks have asked for their money back because of the doping charges.  The foundation has raised nearly $500 million dollars.  $500 million.

Ask Brian Rose or Jen Stringer what is so catastrophic about this.  They may not be alive today were it not for the support of Armstrong's foundation.  

Should he be banned from the sport?  Stripped of his yellow jerseys?  If he didn't win the races then who did?  How many of those have raised $5 or $50 million for a cause?

It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life by Lance Armstrong

 

The show was a video adaptation of The Sportswriters, a long-running radio program on Chicago's WGN. The first airing of Sportswriters on TV was on WFLD-TV in 1985. The set remained the same over the next 15 years of existence. The panel of three sportswriters (usually Jauss, Gleason and Telander) and moderator Bentley (a former public relations executive with the Bulls and a longtime boxing promoter before that) would sit around a card table, which was littered with newspapers, and talk sports. Gleason and Bentley would constantly smoke cigars, and the sportswriters would wear casual clothes. It was not uncommon to see Jauss wearing a faded pair of blue jeans and a T-shirt with the name of an area bar. Adding to the informal nature of the show, they would often call each other by their last names (e.g., "Jauss," "Gleason") as guys sitting around a bar might do.

After a year on WFLD, it moved to SportsVision, the precursor to SportsChannel Chicago. When the Fox Sports Network purchased SportsChannel in 1997, the show continued until 2000, when Fox decided not to renew the show.


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