This last seven days has been something, hasn’t it? First, Lance Armstrong acknowledges that he broke the rules in taking steps to enhance his performance in the Tour de France and other competitions, and now the breaking story is about a Notre Dame football player’s dead made-up girlfriend. How many people have taken up cycling since Lance made his historic run (pedal?) with his Tour wins? I can hardly get around town without seeing a group of bikers speeding down the road. And as for Notre Dame football, they have gotten more publicity this year with their resurgence than I can remember in recent history. Much of the attention they have received, both Lance and the Notre Dame linebacker that was runner up in the Heisman Trophy voting, has been due to deceit.
I know that people have always looked for competitive advantages in athletics to get ahead of the competition. Sports have always been that way. As a baseball pitcher in my youth, I practiced for a pretty good while on the proper technique of throwing a spitball. I tried spit, Vaseline, and any other substance that was slick and could be hidden. I also tried any other means to doctor a baseball that would make it move a little bit. All I got for my efforts was a soggy, slick baseball full of gashes and gouges, and a couple of ruined hats with Vaseline under the bill.
My pitching coach in college always had me take two aspirin just before I went out to pitch. Not exactly steroids, but if he’d told me to take something stronger, I’m not honestly sure that my moral decision-making barometer would have led me to make the right choice. I wanted to win. After all, that’s why the games are played – to determine a winner. Right? Right?
Let me say that Lance Armstrong made the decisions he made deliberately. He will answer for those decisions, just as he reaped the rewards during the time he was winning races. I watched portions of his interview with Oprah over two nights, and I don’t really know that he said much to sway public opinion in his favor. Whoever made up the whole pretend girlfriend thing with the Notre Dame football player will also have to pay the piper at some point. The truth will eventually come out and the consequences will fit the magnitude of the situation.
People will always let you down. Just because someone is gifted athletically or a talented performer doesn’t mean they are wonderful role models. Granted, there are those that use the spotlight of fame to do marvelous humanitarian works for others. Craig Biggio comes to my mind for his work with the Sunshine Kids. Bottom line though is that we are fallible, imperfect, and often, selfish. The pressures that come with success and recognition often pervert work we set out to do with noble intentions. Receiving positive public opinion is not the end-goal, even though it can be very validating. Public affection can also be very intoxicating. I have heard people compare it to a junkie looking for their next hit.
You will always be disappointed if your highest goal is to be like someone else…unless. There is a higher standard – a better hero to look to, one that you can depend on every day. One that has no need to deceive or be something He is not. There is nobody like Him, never has been or will be. He is the first and the last, the Alpha and the Omega. Every example Jesus has given us to live up to is perfect. No cheating, no deceiving – only truth. John 13:15 says it best, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” Why would we settle for someone or something that will let us down, when the best model for life is out there?