Monday, May 23, 2011

Yellow Band

I want to believe. This situation is thrown into stark relief whenever I become disillusioned. The frequency of disillusionment episodes appears to correlate with the number of trivial things I believe in. In fact I can be much more specific by narrowing the “things” category from all possible nouns to those more likely to be referred to by proper names and pronouns; namely people. People are notoriously unreliable. People with only trivial roles in my life are doubly so.

Disillusionment is more awkward when it is accompanied by massive media attention. Robert Fitzpatrick knows this better than most. Bob’s blank “I don’t know what happened” in response to not being raptured may speak of stupidity, but it echos of unquestioning belief. The fabric of Bob’s belief appears more hole than weave, so we find his attitude amusing. Unfortunately, on Sunday, I experienced the evaporation of a belief whose evidence was comparably threadbare.

Many people hold their irrational beliefs close to the vest. Some people’s conversations are peppered with random statements that suggest their belief. Some people pontificate on the righteousness of their point of view; those with a forum to do this can give new taint to the term “a**hole”. Some people wear their belief openly on bumper stickers, T-shirts, caps, and the memo field on donation checks.

The BELIEVE jerseys, caps, and buttons sported by those that believed cyclist Tyler Hamilton was innocent of doping are iconic. The logowear of belief in his innocence is even more iconic after Tyler’s public admission this Sunday of multiple doping events, over multiple years, with multiple people.

Who in their right mind believes a doping-accused-cyclist’s insistence of innocence anymore? Didn’t I learn from Floyd Landis’s epic fiction “Positively False”?

I want to believe. Tyler Hamilton was “The nicest guy in the peloton”. Tyler Hamilton was the guy who rode through hundreds of miles of grueling race stages with bone breaks so ragged they would have left most grown men shaking and gasping in a roadside ditch. Tyler Hamilton was the guy who had to have his teeth capped off after he had ground them down clenching his mouth to the pain he rode through.

Even cycling-savvy people who had examined Tyler’s profession of innocence, and found it wanting, refused to call him out on his guilt. Jonathan Vaughters was quoted as saying of Tyler’s proclamations of innocence: “He really does believe it himself”. He was only caught once; perhaps it was an innocent mistake on his part. Elaborate scenarios of his partial innocence were conceived.

We know now that Tyler never believed it himself. We know that he simply lied, and lied in a very public, and very convincing way. He was able to look people and cameras in the eye and lie.

And then there is Lance Armstrong.

I still want to believe. It may be too late to reconstruct a belief in Lance the drug-free cyclist. It certainly is too late to assemble a framework to care.

LA, however, is more than a former professional cyclist. LA is the world’s most famous cancer survivor. Modern medicine turned him from a shaved-head dying cancer patient to a cyclist competing in one of the toughest sports on earth. He did not ascribe his recovery to winged angels sprinkling him with magic sparkles. LA was injected with amazing synthetic substances, and became better than he had ever been.

It is evident that the amazing substances probably followed him out of the cancer ward and onto the streets of France. It is interesting to note that Armstrong was given EPO to keep him alive while undergoing cancer therapy, and is now vilified for probably taking that same substance to assist in the crushing of his opponents.

I want to believe that people can be better, faster, stronger, and that modern technology can help them. This weekend’s admission by Tyler should have strengthened that belief with evidence, but it is hard to believe someone who lies so well.

Disillusionment is usually difficult. One is left wondering what other unerodible evidence is crap. I do, however, have additional evidence to support beliefs complementary to the disillusionment. I am more firmly convinced that people can be liars with as much skill in their craft as I can demonstrate in gullibility.

What will the next disillusioning sports-related bombshell be? Will Armstrong turn out to never have had cancer? Will Oscar Pistorius turn out to have real legs? Will Dana Torres will turn out to have been born in 1987?

I’ve still got my Livestrong bracelet, but I’ve stopped wearing it in public.


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