I am going to start with the conclusion today and then work to it.
Heroes are people like you and me and as a result they are imperfect. They make mistakes. They are shaded in gray.
Anyone who has been a parent knows this reality all to well. Remember when you were THE unquestionable source of all for your child? How they would ask questions and look up to you with total trust and belief? I remember trying to muddle my way as best as I could to be that, but knowing that in the end I could not live up to that. And then at some point the child realizes that you make mistakes, that you are not perfect, that you don’t know EVERYTHING. Shades.
The past couple of days have been a trial for the biking community. For many people Lance Armstrong is a hero. Look at what he has done. He had what was nearly terminal cancer. Fought it. Came back to ride at the highest level, and won seven TdF’s. Along the way he started Livestrong and has created in that a source of support for people who are suffering from cancer. He has touched millions of lives. And for that he is a hero.
Along the way we have learned that he is not perfect. Nope far from it. In the drive to be the best he violated the rules. He cheated. He did this at a time when that was the culture in bike racing. But irregardless, he cheated. And now he is paying the price for that.
I remember watching the TdF and seeing Lance race. I remember the stage with “the Look”. When he went to the front of the pack on a climb, looked back at his competitors, challenged them with his eyes, and ground them into the pavement. He won with panash. And to this day I believe that this is the way you SHOULD win a TdF. Forget the domestiques, forget the strategy. You should be able to go and grind your opponents into the pavement and make them understand that you are the best. Lance was my hero.
But along the way we have learned that Lance is not perfect. He is human. (I am still coming to terms with what those years of bike racing mean. Much like baseball during the steroids era, what do the home run records mean?)
We also learned throughout this whole time that others were cheating as well. And many many people are being impacted by what has happened. For example, Levi Leipheimer has received a 6 month suspension and was fired from his team. By all accounts Levi is a genuinely nice, good guy. But he too cheated. Shades.
I believe that people can redeem themselves. But they have to be honest with themselves and with all of us. I believe that if they do this, if they are truly honest, they become more than what they were.
I believe this because being human, having faults, is what makes this world an interesting place. Those faults help us to feel a connection to people (boy is it hard to connect with someone who is perfect they are so much better than I am). It’s what takes a relationship with your child from one of worship to one of real respect, connection and love. And that’s WAY better.