Last night, cyclist Lance Armstrong confessed to talk show host Oprah Winfrey to years-long allegations of doping. While this didn't come as a surprise to many, it was a turning point in the culture of sports and competition, where winning at all costs is considered necessary for success. Jared Zimmerer has some other ideas — better ones.
Lance Armstrong, professional cyclist and seven-time Tour de France winner, recently sat down with Oprah Winfrey to discuss the allegations of the use of performance enhancing drugs and many other illegal substances during his competitive years. Lance admitted to every one of the allegations of erythropoietin (EPO), steroid use. Lance has been a hero to many so the news of his ultimate fall from grace has been a shot to the heart for his fans. His life seemed to be the dream for most any professional, or recreational, athlete. He has a wife and children who love him, he thwarted an impossibly difficult disease in his battle with testicular cancer, and he made hundreds of millions of dollars doing what he loved. Sports created a pathway for great success for Mr. Armstrong; the problems came about when he started to incorrectly define what success is.
Out of the numerous examples of professional athletes that we have seen accused and proven guilty of illegal behavior, Lance Armstrong’s is particularly interesting. He stood for more than just a great athlete. He was a humanitarian, a philanthropist, an honest poster boy for living a clean life and being blessed for his efforts and struggles. I believe what Lance fell victim to is the philosophical principle that has dominated sports since they were professionalized: the end always justifies the means. Machiavelli’s rule of success takes away any guilt or pull of our conscience. It becomes easy to justify, in our own minds, something that very well could be against the rules once our sole focus is staying on top. When winning is all that matters, the anti-doping agencies, the courts, even the glamour, take a back seat to the end result of holding that trophy and claiming your prize.
When a sport infuses virtue into the competitors, it is verifiably one of the most inspiring aspects of humanity. The capability of viewing hard work, dedication, overcoming adversity, and the use of our bodies in a glorious way create a desire in everyone to become the highest mode of who we are. Lance Armstrong set his standard of success inhumanly high, which can be an honorable modality if the standard includes holiness along with his physical and financial accomplishments. It is evident that when a sport “gets it right,” the contestant leads toward the objective of living out the cardinal virtues. Yet when a sport “gets it wrong,” the moral vices of the participant are accentuated with decadent living and competing...
The Stanley Cup Finals begin tonight, and Kerry Trotter will be watching with bated breath. Read on to see why it's time to look beyond the scarred faces, and experience the sport for the beating, spiritual heart within.
I grew up in a hockey house.
While Chicagoland homes of the 1990s were held hostage by the Chicago Bulls’ easy brand of fandom, our home was not-so-quietly standing vigil for the most sacred time of the hockey year.
The Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Chicago Blackhawks were my team (tough stuff for most of that decade), but we were equal opportunity fans when it came to the playoffs. Often we weren’t privy to seeing our chosen organization even make the cut, and while disappointing, it really didn’t matter. The teams that advanced were often irrelevant. It was the style of play and the allegory of the struggle that made the Stanley Cup worth watching.
Many a May evening was spent in my parents’ darkened den, my father, brother and I screaming at the TV, nervously laughing at miraculous saves and tense power plays, running out of the room when the clock ran down perilously close to a win (or loss), and fighting back tears when Lord Stanley’s Cup was hoisted high above all those bearded, bloodied, toothless faces.
And I wasn’t speaking in hyperbole about the “sacred” thing. All that work in order to drink from a cup? We're treading on familiar ground here...
Well, whether we care to or not, we're probably engaging in some degree of Super Bowl talk this morning. Word on Fire blog contributor Dave Brenner takes a look at the event and wonders what place it has in our lives as Christians. And yes, there is a place.
Last night's game had a bit of everything: an amazing catch by Mario Manningham near the end of play; a Giants player trying *not to score* but failing; and nearly a game-winning drive pulled off by the Patriots. We got to see two of the best QBs in the sport (Eli Manning haters, hold your comments) duel until the last seconds of play. The final score of 21-17 was quite satisfying for someone who didn't have a particular allegiance at the kickoff.
In fact, this was actually one of my first seasons consistently following the NFL. In prior seasons I mostly had just a general sense of the storylines and they went something like this: The Patriots may be the best team ever; Detroit may never win another game; Green Bay fans are nuts; the Chicago Bears are definitely Super Bowl material next year.
Perhaps it’s my new found interest in the game, but this year seemed to bring a refreshing wave of new stories. Take Jim Harbaugh, for example. In his first year as an NFL coach, he took a San Francisco team that was 6-10 last year and made them 13- 3 with no major additions to the team. He was the consensus choice for coach of the year. He renewed my confidence that leadership and vision and expertise can make a difference regardless of how poor your starting point is.
Tim Tebow is another example. Everything to say about him has already been said so I’ll redirect your attention to this article by Rick Reilly. Is it possible that we have found a Christian role model in popular culture? Is it also not surprising that he’s been persecuted as he has?
In my own recollections of the season, I can tell you that there was not an insignificant number of hours spent in front of the TV instead of studying. And there was not an insignificant number of conversations with my sister about her strategy for her fantasy team. Now that the season is over, I wonder: was this a good use of time, energy and attention?
The answer is frustratingly complex: Yes and no. And just how similar is that to the rest of life? Are you glad you took a risk in taking this job even though it didn’t work out? Are you glad you entered this relationship only to have your heart broken? Are you glad you ate those three extra tacos?...