On icons and idols

Or, the tale of two Armstrongs – the death of Neil, and the fall of Lance.

Flag of the United States on American astronau...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Neil Armstrong has been described (rightly in my opinion) as an icon of our age.    So many dreams and aspirations caught up in one man’s big moment.  While I was very young at the time, the images and words of that first Moon landing have stayed with me.

Beyond that event, I know very little about Neil Armstrong – but that is sufficient.

By contrast, I have a much greater awareness of Lance Armstrong.  As an avid sports fan, and follower of the Tour de France, to me Lance Armstrong was a hero, a battler, an achiever of unbelievable feats.  And, yes, in retrospective, they were unbelievable or at least invited questions.

But add to that his own story of overcoming cancer and the amazing work that he has put into his charity, the encouragement that he provided directly and indirectly to those struggling with illness… and it’s fair to say that I idolised him.  Perhaps, I also idealised him – couldn’t bring myself to believe that he would cheat; wanted to believe that he had dominated the cycling world through hard work and determination; revelled in the way that he riled the authorities (especially the French!); even wished that his comeback would be a success!

Forced to reflect on his decision to stop fighting the allegations, I am reluctantly drawn to the conclusion that there must be some truth to them after all.  Reluctant because a hero has fallen; reluctant because cycling’s reputation is damaged further (just as it seems to be getting cleaner); and most of all, reluctant because the work if his charity will inevitably suffer, and many will lose some inspiration for their own more serious battles.

Neil Armstrong’s place in history is secure; so is Lance’s – but his will be based on notoriety not achievement.

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