Since I’m involved with endurance sports, I’ve had quite a few people ask for my thoughts on the whole Lance Armstrong debacle. Here they are:
One of my favorite sources of inspiration, former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, said, “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”
This perfectly sums up my feelings on the Lance Armstrong interview that aired yesterday and will air again today. I understand the facts–he cheated. I get it. But there are cheaters in every profession–from cyclist to stock trader. To argue otherwise would be naive.
Does this interview change my view of Lance? Heck…one could even throw Manti Te’o and Tiger Woods into this conversation, too. We the public put these people onto pedestals. We have an awful lot to say about them, but what does this say about us?
Why do we feel the need to label and judge? I grew up believing that sport existed to teach the participants about life. Playing sports taught me hard work pays dividends. Team sport taught me the joy of working with others towards a common goal. Working through the ups and downs of training and racing has taught me the importance of believing in myself. Racing competitors from all around the world has taught me worrying too much about the opponent and not enough about oneself–you can be certain you’ll lose.
I compete today as a professional triathlete for these same reasons. I love competing. I think it makes me a better person. I get to know myself a little bit better every time I push my physical and mental limits in a race. This thirst for improvement gets me out of bed in the morning–albeit sometimes with a lot of reluctance on the “getting out of bed” part 🙂
I know who I am. I compete clean and I compete with integrity. This is not because I don’t care about winning–there are few things I hate more than losing. In fact, the only person I know who hates losing more than I do is my brother, John 🙂 (Sorry, bro, I had to do it.)
The ribbons fade and the trophies rust. The true value of sport is in the pursuit. It is about the chase–the challenge–the chase for glory and the challenge to improve oneself. It is this pursuit which defines the individual. Champions look in the mirror and know the work is never finished. Maybe it is time for us to start worrying less about others’ reputations and to start worrying more about one’s own character.
But then again… Oprah might get lonely.