The Tricky Business of Role Models
This morning there were two announcements concerning North Texas native turned steroid needle pincushion Lance Armstrong: 1) The disgraced cyclist will step down as chairman of his cancer foundation Livestrong and 2) corporate sugar daddy Nike is kicking him to the curb. Both actions have been a long time in coming.
There are a couple of related lessons we can learn from this sordid saga. The first is, beating a horrible disease does not make you a noble person –– it makes you a lucky one. The second is, riding a bicycle really fast does not make you a hero. I understand the desire to turn victory over cancer into a character issue; sick people need hope and inspiration to continue their fight. But equating athletic skills with virtue has always mystified me, especially in an era when so many pro athletes get their edge from a syringe.
That’s why I prefer worshipping artists. Nobody expects musicians, actors, and writers to behave like model citizens. In fact, we’re a little disappointed when they do. So kids, aspire to be like Keith Richards rather than Roger Staubach. You’ll have more fun (if you survive), and in the end, they’ll throw you a big parade just the same.