Thursday, January 17, 2013

Lance, for once in your life....

      I would be remiss if I did not share a brief story here in the hours before Lance Armstrong's interview with Oprah Winfrey airs.

      Those who follow my blog (or my life) know that I have been a fan of cycling for more than three decades--OK, probably since I got that Stingray bike for Christmas in 1964.  I have followed Lance's career in amazement--pre-cancer, post-cancer and beyond--and I have defended him in the past.  When riders of integrity--George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, Frankie Andreu and others--came forward to finally tattle on him, I knew that the niggling thought in my sub-conscious--'But what if he really does dope?'--was in fact true.

      When my youngest son (not Ezra, for those of you who know him) was a boy, he was constantly in trouble--like most boys--for doing hare-brained, goofball things like ironing his clothes on the linoleum floor in the kitchen because he was too lazy to drag out the ironing board. When all evidence pointed in his direction, he would lie, loudly and repeatedly, no matter how long he was interrogated.  I could point to the evidence--in this case a burn mark in the flooring that exactly matched my steam iron--and remind him that only two of us lived in that house and that it wasn't something I had done, but he would adamantly deny any knowledge of the crime.  Why?  Because he is a man of stubborn pride.  He simply couldn't bring himself to confess that he had done something so stupid.  Sitting in a chair, looking me in the eye and telling me over and over he had no idea how it happened was easier for him than admitting he had made an enormous mistake.

      All that is to say, I understand why, up until this time, Lance has denied using performance enhancing drugs.  He is a man of stubborn pride.  He wanted so badly to win and win again and not be called a cheater.  And once he had won a Tour de France by doping, he knew he could never attempt to win without it, because by then everyone in the cycling world--including the sweetest, most moral of men--had stepped over the line.  Which is what I suspect we will hear in today's interview.  I would love to hear Lance--for his own sake--simply say, 'You know what?  I screwed up.  I cheated.  It's no one's fault but my own.  I've let a lot of people down, and I'm deeply sorry.'  But I doubt we will hear that.  We will hear excuses and blame, see shrugs and those hard-as-steel eyes, the windows to Lance's soul shuttered against the light of Truth.

      Many times in my son's life--months or years after doing some knucklehead stunt, then denying it repeatedly--he would tell me, in a moment of sober clarity and confession, the truth.  'Yeah, Mom, I don't know why I lied.  I did that.  What an idiot.'  And we would laugh together.  He always knew--I pray he always knew--that I had forgiven him long ago.

      And I forgive Lance.  But I hope and pray that no governing athletic body ever allows him to compete anywhere ever again.  Because if you can't--eventually--tell the truth, you simply can't be trusted.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

BOLO--Be On the Look-Out: Gold Chevy Suburban Lic #6CPK813

Sometimes, up here in our quiet little neighborhood near Snowcrest Inn, we are unaware of the chaos going on just a quarter of a mile away.  Such was the case on New Year’s Day.  We’d had enough snow to make it possible for plastic sleds to slide out of control down a few slopes behind the campground, so the highway just below our private road was jammed with vehicles, some parked helter skelter and some rolling slowly forward as distracted drivers searched for a place to squeeze in.

Excited to attend my daughter’s poetry reading that evening, I hadn’t even considered what I might encounter as I tried to leave the mountain… until I white-knuckled it down our ice-slick road to find two SUV’s blocking the entrance to the main highway.  Both drivers ignored me when I tapped on the horn several times.  They also ignored me when I laid on the horn in frustration.  They did not ignore me when I got out and informed them impatiently that they were about to be ticketed by the ranger if he happened along.

Back in the truck, I tried to regain my usually calm demeanor as I watched the two drivers finally move off.  Taking deep breaths, I pulled onto the highway… and found myself in a long line of traffic rolling along at 10mph.  I had plenty of time, having left early, so I settled in for the drive… behind a gold Chevy Suburban, license plate #6CPK813.

As I watched, a child’s arm emerged from a side window on the passenger side.  Clutched in the small hand was a plastic bag.  Around one switchback, then another, I followed the Suburban, watching the bag hang precariously from the kid’s hand.  Then, as we navigated the final hairpin, right next to a turnout that leads to a beautiful, verdant section of the stream, the tiny hand opened wide… and the bag was ditched by the side of the road.

I hit my brakes as safely as I could with a line of cars on my back bumper, thinking the Suburban would brake, pull over, go back for the child’s treasure.  But no.  Of course not.  The drop was intentional.  Like so many people who come to visit, this family mistakenly believed that, like their local movie theater, after the pretty show some young people would come through with a trash can and brooms and clean the place up.

I have to wonder at the conversation in the car.  Was little Johnny reluctant when Mom or Dad or both told him to drop the trash out the window?  Did anyone in the car protest?  The bag had hung there out the window for at least a half mile.  Did Johnny have to be talked into committing this sin against the scenery?  I can only hope.

I followed the car all the way down the mountain and into Upland, but lost track of it when several cars pulled in between us at an intersection.  I wanted to catch them.  I wanted to pull up alongside, smile disarmingly, motion for them to roll down the window, then ask if our mountain looked like a giant trash can to them or who they thought would come along behind them to clean up their mess?

And, because I just can’t help myself, I looked for the bag on my way home (in the dark) and again the next morning on the way down the mountain.  It was gone, probably snatched up by a coyote, bits of the family’s trash no doubt chewed and strewed all along the stream.  Sigh.  I have committed their license number to memory.  I hope you will, too.  I just want to ask them the question… maybe look into little Johnny’s eyes.