I usually devote this column to the latest events emerging from the political world, this week however two of the biggest names in pro sports over the past decade made news and the legacies they will leave behind are extremely complicated.
On Saturday there were reports in the New York Times that cyclist and possibly the world’s most famous cancer survivor Lance Armstrong would soon be coming clean on an issue that the rest of the world who weren’t blind loyalists of his already knew, he did indeed use performance enhancing drugs throughout his storied career.
Earlier in the week Baltimore Ravens Pro Bowl Linebacker and surefire NFL Hall of Famer Ray Lewis announced that he would end his 17 year career at the end of this current season.
I guess Armstrong and Lewis admirably compare to our elected officials in one sense. Like Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton they have stood in front of the American public and offered a series of lies or half truths that will always seem to follow them.
Armstrong should first and foremost always be remembered for the way he stood down a dreaded disease that kills thousands a year and spread from his testicles to his brain and his lungs. In Armstrong, people all across the world battling cancer and their families found a champion that they could look to for inspiration, he has also provided millions in research and care for those victims through the LiveStrong Foundation that he established.
As I have said and written on numerous occasions, I have never cared about what professional athletes have injected into their bodies to get themselves ready to play their chosen sport for a myriad of reasons that are to numerous to go into. My problem with Armstrong was the way that he would flat out bully and intimidate people who knew the truth about him when they would speak up.
Greg Le Mond, Floyd Landis, and Tyler Hamilton former cyclists and teammates of Armstrong’s at one time or another all took their turns being berated by Armstrong when they come forward with knowledge that he indeed was guilty.
As the old saying goes The cover-up is worst than the actual crime. Had Armstrong come out initially and said “I did it and I’m sorry” this would have been as much of non-story as you could have possibly have had especially given his back story.
People like Pete Rose and Marion Jones were hammered publicly and even went to prison in Jones’ case for lying for years on end and then calling into question the character of people and news organizations who confronted them with questions and more importantly evidence to the contrary. Why should Armstrong be any different?
Lewis’ story is different but yet the same. As I have watched the coverage of his announcement this week I have been amused by the sports media’s complete failure to mention what happened on the night of January 31, 2000.
Lewis and companions of his left a Super Bowl party in Atlanta that night and got into a scuffle that led to the stabbing deaths of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar. Lewis and two of his companions were charged with murder. Lewis’ attorneys negotiated a plea deal where in exchange for his testimony against the other two he would plead guilty to obstruction of justice and admit that he gave a false statement to police the morning after the incident.
The two men he was partying with that night were ultimately acquitted and no one else has ever been charged with the crime.
Despite the fact that Lewis has never had another run-in with the law he has never really come clean about what happened that night. There are two families with lost loved ones who would like to know the truth and who would want the real perpetrators held accountable. That night is a much a part of Lewis’ legacy as the 13 Pro Bowls he made and the Super Bowl ring and MVP trophy he sports.
Society has a problem with making people in the public eye larger than life. Whether it’s your favorite movie star, musician, or athlete we defend or make excuses for their unwillingness to take responsibility for their sometimes deplorable actions.
The road is littered with people let alone celebrities who screwed up but were giving second chances and made it right.
The problem with Armstrong and Lewis is that to this day they have never publicly acknowledged their screw ups.
The public shouldn’t heap upon them praise over gloss over their histories until they finally do.
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