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I'm from Houston, a graduate of the University of Texas, a fan of the Houston Astros and Houston Texans. But this blog will be about the "greater sports", whatever that means.

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The sad plights of Alex Rodriguez and Lance Armstrong. Greed, Denial, and Tainted Legacies

As a big fan of competitive cycling (particularly the Tour De France) and baseball (particularly Major League Baseball), my sports innocence has taken a huge, sobering hit the past couple of years, with the undeniable guilt of former heroes Lance Armstrong and Alex Rodriguez.  It's insightful to evaluate how parallel their plights have been.  Each did things that no other human in their sport have done.  Each didn't want to just be one of the best, they wanted to be THE best.  Each denied well beyond the time period in which their guilt was obvious.  Both suffered humiliating suspensions and their legacy is forever shattered.

Greatness:
Armstrong - Seven Tour De France Titles.  By huge margins.  On dominating teams.  With flair.  
Rodriguez - Tallied 518 home runs before his 33rd Birthday.  Was the highest paid player in baseball, won a batting title, five home run titles, and three league MVPs.

At 18, Alex Rodriguez had the potential to be known as the best ever

Greed
Armstrong - In a sport in which everyone was bending rules one way or another, Armstrong's ego got the best of him.  He wanted to do it for his (still honorable) Live Strong cancer campaign.  He wanted to do it for the United States.  He wanted to thumb his nose at Tour de France organizers that he knew would never be able to catch him.
Rodriguez - He watched other users (Bonds, Sosa, McGwire) juice up and shatter what had been hallowed home run records. He was probably the best clean player, but the others were getting all the attention and spotlight. It wasn't fair.
Lance gives Jan Ullrich "The Look" as he easily pulls away from the champion

Denial
Armstrong - For a decade, he kept saying "no positive test, all speculation, I didn't cheat."  What he meant to say was "they can't prove it."  Finally, with the French authorities stripping his titles away with what they considered enough evidence (including eye witness accounts from former teammates), he ran out of friends and everyone knew the inevitable.
Rodriguez - Despite being suspended 50 games for prior use in 2009, then having his name all over the infamous Biogenesis clinic documents with another 162 game suspension, plus eye witness testimony of his patterned use, to this day, Rodriguez is trying to paint baseball as being on a witch hunt, implying that it's personal vendetta between MLB commissioner Bud Selig and him, and that the truth will come out.  Once again, only his own lawyers are believing him at this point, and they stand large financial gain from keeping the fight going.

Rodriguez admits to past mistakes, but says he's clean (to Katie Couric)


Humiliation
Armstrong - Now banned for life, Lance Armstrong can't even compete in sanctioned triathlons or be in any way associated with Professional Cycling.  A pariah of the sport, he can only do what he can to raise money and awareness for cancer, and mostly stay out of the spotlight.  Still a popular figure it seems, his legend is forever tainted.
Rodriguez - He may never play in the major leagues again. He will fall short of all the home run records that seemed so easily within his grasp at age 31.  Even when playing, now clean, his power is gone and he breaks down physically.

Armstrong confesses his sins at the church of Oprah

Reconciliation
Armstrong - He seems to paint himself as the victim, one of many, and as if he was unfairly made an example.  Well, yes, you are the one who won seven straight TDF title.  You were the one who insisted you were clean.  To our faces.  No sympathy.  Perhaps he can negotiate some way to pay back the sport.  In the meantime, that decade of the Tour never happened.
Rodriguez - Has accepted full season ban (quietly), has not publicly apologized or shown any remorse.
 
Both of these guys fought to be the best.  They cut corners, bent rules, and ruined what could have been an incredible legacy on merit, hard work, and talent.  Great American heroes became great American shames.

- David Whitlock

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