Strip Tease

It was hot and crowded and the woman in front of me kept
pushing us away from her by grinding her very wide ass into my groin. My wife
suggested that the woman grab a pole and make some money while we all were
waiting.

It was an odd bit of serendipity that landed The Missus and
I
and me in Paris that July. We had gotten married the previous September, but with
both of us working and me still having a dissertation to write, we postponed
our honeymoon. To make up for time lost, we joined a tour group that was
heading to France that summer and decided to make that our belated post-wedding
trip.

After the requisite stops at the Eiffel Tower, the Cathedral
at Notre Dame and every mall within the city limits, we chose to spend our last
full day overseas waiting to see a Texas cancer survivor do the impossible.

After a series of floats, odd motorized vehicles and police
escorts, a flurry of steel carbon fiber and rubber came down that long stretch home. Men of
sinew and spandex, flying along on two wheels faster than I could on four.

The riders with nothing to gain or lose sped past with
reckless abandon, figuring on winning that final stage simply to say they did
it. The overall victory had been salted away days earlier with a series of
grueling rides in which the likely winner had separated his wheat from the
others chaff.

And then he came in the blink of an eye, too fast to be
captured by my pedestrian camera.

Lance Armstrong, clad in the yellow jersey, surrounded by a
protective ring of teammates, heading down the Champs-Elysees. We were
strangers in a strange land, but the sense of history filled us with pride.

He was not only going to win the Tour, but he would tie the
record for most Tour wins. As the riders made their laps around the final
circle of the Tour, we ran down to see them finish the race. Armstrong, knowing
he had it in the bag, enjoyed champagne with his teammates as they rode into
history.

The next day, we were on an early flight out. I stopped at
the airport news kiosk and bought one of every newspaper, even though I had no
idea what any of them said.

The photos told the story for me: Lance Armstrong, looking
like a giant banana, hoisting an ugly cup of some sort.

Today, I was told all of that probably never happened.

Lance Armstrong dropped his fight against doping allegations
and so the USADA or the UIC or WADA or some other spoonful of alphabet soup
will be working hard to take away his titles.
He might lose a bronze medal from
the 2000 games and he might also be required to turn in his other testicle.

This recent trend of historical revision has become one of
the dumbest things I’ve seen in sports. In an attempt to punish people who have
already left their sports behind (or in some cases died), athletic oversight
committees have taken to stripping them of things.

When the Gerry Sandusky molestation allegations came to
light, the NCAA bypassed its traditional investigative protocol and just
dropped the shit hammer on Penn State.
It banned the team from bowl games,
levied heavy fines and killed off scholarships for years to come. All of that
made sense to me, even though it seemed like the punishment was being doled out
on people who weren’t there when the crimes were committed.

However, the NCAA also stripped the team of all of its wins
from 1998 to 2011, which made no sense. What did that do, exactly?

Sure, Joe Paterno would no longer be the coach with the most
wins in major college football, but the guy was dead.

Nobody really wanted those “wins” once they got them either.
Bobby Bowden, the former Florida State coach, ascended via default to the
position of “winningest college coach.” He wasn’t thrilled and it wasn’t like
he was immediately retyping his resume.

And the schools that lost to Penn State over those years
didn’t really embrace the moment either. Were the creampuff schools that had
signed on to get murdered by Penn State for a paycheck rewriting their record
books? Were they boasting, “Hey, we didn’t really LOSE to Penn State by 912
points in 2001!” and using that as a recruiting tool?

The players who won games and titles were gone as well. Were
they required to turn in their rings and awards and such?

That idea isn’t too far afield.When allegations came to
light that Reggie Bush of USC had received illegal benefits, the school was
required to cut all ties with Bush and erase him from the record books.
In
addition, he essentially had his Heisman Trophy revoked.
According to the
records, no one won the 2005 award, which must really be a kick in the balls to
Vince Young, who finished second that year. Even when the Heisman committee
noted that it probably wouldn’t award Young with the trophy when they got it
back, Young stepped out and said he probably wouldn’t want it anyway.

Punishment is meant to do two things: penalize a guilty
party and offer solace or closure or restitution to those who have been
wronged. When athletic board, groups and organizations decide to rewrite
history, none of this happens.

Armstrong’s legacy and Paterno’s legacy and Bush’s legacy
get “tarnished” and talking sports heads dither about what this means in the
grand scheme of things. Bush is still getting paid to play, Paterno is dead and
Armstrong isn’t going to be on the side of a road with a “will cycle for food”
sign.

None of them really hurts.

Even more, the restitution factor never comes into play. It
wasn’t like the Bowden family was breaking out the bubbly and saying,
“Whoo-eee! Thank God for that kid-diddler!” Also, it’s not exactly clear how
this impacts the kids who were molested. Is there a bit of solace that their
attacker was on a losing team? Probably not.

Vince Young wasn’t campaigning for sloppy seconds or
demanding a revote as he tried to hang on to a job in the NFL.

And the cycling guys… Well, actually, given what I’ve seen
of the sport, there probably is a ton of cheering and some guys casting lots
for seven yellow shirts.

Look, I get it. You have to do SOMETHING to these people and
you can’t actually punish them in real time. Until Jean-Claude Van Damme shows
up with his ride from Time Cop, you can’t go back and actually stop stuff from
happening. However, rewriting the past isn’t the way to improve the future.

You can take Armstrong out of the books, but guess what? I
was there.

I saw him ride. I saw him win. I still have those hunks of
dead tree in my office that proclaim in a language I don’t understand that he
kicked the shit out of the field.

You can’t make me un-cheer him. You can’t make me un-remember
watching that moment. You can’t make me undo what I got the chance to
experience.

If you can do that, start by getting that woman’s ass off of
me.

8 thoughts on “Strip Tease

  1. mothra says:

    Well, think of this: if Lance and his team were actually doping, he screwed every other guy in the peloton who were trying to race clean.
    And, correction: those guys don’t race on steel. They race on carbon fiber. Steel is real, but heavy.

  2. MapleStreet says:

    While I applaud the Tour in trying to get rid of doping, especially in light of the use of increasingly difficult to detect ways, there are 2 things about Armstrong which give me pause:
    1) He was never proven to have used any illicit means. It looks more like a witch hunt based on the idea that no one with cancer can come back and win 7 Tours (admittedly a seemingly superhuman feat) – especially in a sport which is plaqued by doping.
    2) I also have to wonder about what substanced he had to use as a result of his cancer. I don’t know the stage, but it is likely that he had to have the cancerous organ removed. To just be “normal” he would have had to had hormone injections which are banned substances (depo testosterone?). Not to mention that chemotherapy is extremely aggressive to the body and racks it up in so many ways. Again, it is likely that he would need banned substances just to get his body to normal (e.g. erythropoetin for anemia).
    I also see, coming down the road, a problem similar to 2 above. Regarding the amputee that ran in the olympics. Right now, even though drastically improved from a couple of decades ago, the state of the art for prosthetics is still clearly inferior to “real” limbs. But at some point, technology is going to improve to the point that prosthetics may be possible to make one have superior ability. The sports bodies had better start thinking about how they can determine equivalency.

  3. Kaleberg says:

    Elsewhere in the blogosphere there was some discussion about Erdos, the noted and extremely prolific mathematician, having used benzedrine. Thank god mathematicians aren’t as crazy as sports people. There is no talk whatever of taking his name off of papers or unproving his numerous theorems. Computer scientists are just as sensible. They aren’t going to undo electronic computers just because Von Neumann was also a big benzedrine user, and he smoked, which was probably more harmful given how he died.
    I sort of wonder about the anti-drug attitude in sports. Sure, steroids are bad news, but so is ramming a 300 lb someone with your head enough times or throwing a ball at 90 mph again and again. Sports aren’t about promoting health. They seem to be about destroying bodies in the name of a certain form of victory. Just about every competitive sport seems to chew up bodies and often minds as well. Is the precise nature of that destruction all that important? (I’m probably being too dark here, but I do wonder.)
    P.S. Please try not to write things like “landed The Missus and I”. You use words as your tools. You know better than that.

  4. Tasha says:

    c’mon – none of those riders is clean – why doesn’t the sport just accept it, actually regulate it so no one is getting hurt and move forward.
    Lance Armstrong is one of the most-tested athletes ever and they NEVER found evidence of doping, even when they tested him right after winning races. This came down to a he-said, he-said case, not scientific evidence. Whatevs. but he is still a GREAT rider.

  5. Doc says:

    Dammit. There are days I’m not good at my own craft. Strike through fixes with H/Ts to both of y’all. Sorry for failing. 🙂

  6. Gerald Bostock says:

    Willie Nelson Statue.
    Stevie Ray Statue.
    Lance Armstrong Bikeway.
    We support our local dopers in Austin.

  7. Beauzeaux says:

    Lance Armstrong is the most drug-tested athlete in history. He was tested hundreds of times. They even came to his house in Texas in the middle of the night and tested him. He NEVER had a positive test. (Call me cynical but the testimony of people who expect to make a deal with the ADA is not to be relied upon.) He NEVER tested positive for anything.
    This is a vendetta pure and simple. Though I guess we should be glad the USADA went after Armstrong — otherwise they’d be burning witches.

  8. pansypoo says:

    did he admit he juiced?

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