Friday, January 18, 2013

A Wristband Had a Strong Meaning

    Livestrong. At one time, the word molded in a plastic yellow wristband had real meaning for me. Not giving into anything. On tough days the word gave me an added sense of determination. Livestrong. Sadly, with time and admission of guilt it has lost its luster.
     Shortly after Lance Armstrong's foundation came out with the new wristbands in 2004 I got one, put it on my left wrist and never took it off. I try not to follow trends or fads. I never wear sports players jerseys or shirts advertising sneakers.
     But, I thought Livestrong was different. It made a statement on the fight against cancer and a way to live one's life. A subtle band of yellow let people know you were supporting the cause.
     I wore it for my mom Virginia who died from lung cancer never having smoked a day in her life. And for my best friend Dave who lost his life to liver cancer when he was only in his forties. When I looked down at my left wrist it reminded me of the both of them.
     It never came off. I wore it when I was dressed in a tux for my daughters weddings and I'd wear it when I went swimming in the ocean. I wore it until the plastic snapped.
     But I had a shiny new one waiting on my dresser replacing it immediately never missing a day until late in 2011. I was tiring of all the controversy on whether Armstrong was using steroids and blood doping to his advantage while pedaling his bicycle to a record number of Tour de France victories. So even though Armstrong hadn't admitted to taking steroids, I had enough and took the wristband off never wearing it again.
     I enjoy watching the Tour de France more than most sports on television. Everyday for a solid month these riders are in their Super Bowl or World Series. Not one game but a constant grind of tactics and teamwork. Jerseys ripped and skin bleeding from spills along the picturesque countryside. Grueling uphill climbs and whistling at incredible speeds and great skill down winding mountains.  Sprinting at the end to see who wins the daily race and met with a kiss and flowers from beautiful French women on the podium.
     I've grown tired of huddles and batters stepping out of the box along with constant stream of commercials. I lose interest in no time. But the biking tradition seemed to intrigue me and I'd watch for hours. It started with Greg LeMond back in the 80s who became the first American to win. I remember when he was accidentally shot while out hunting and watched as he made his comeback. LeMond was a great champion.
     I fell away until the guy named Armstrong starting making noise in the great race. Along with him the television coverage increased. I was just as interested in watching the photographers balancing on the back of the big motorcycles shooting pictures as they zoomed along. The scene kept me in my seat.
     Lance Armstrong was the top competitor in his sport and when he was diagnosed with cancer, he fought the deadly disease and made a full recovery. Livestrong. Who could deny this man and his work as he gave back to the world with his foundation that battles cancer.
     But along the way he made a monumental mistake just as many in his sport and also those in other sports. He used an unfair and illegal advantage to gain the upper hand to take him to the top of his profession.
     And yesterday he finally came clean, during an interview with Oprah Winfrey that yes, he took performance enhancing drugs. I wasn't shocked or angry, just disappointed that it took so long for him admit to doping.
     The bike race will go on. Armstrong is far from the only one who has been kicked out for using illegal substances. Just the most famous and highly decorated in the yellow jersey. His legacy will fade as years pass and new champions will be crowned.
     I don't remember what I did with the second wristband whether I misplaced it or threw it in the trash. But I kept the original wristband because it meant more than supporting a racer, I wore it for family and friends. Seven years the band stayed on my wrist.
     Maybe I'll find a new one of pink or purple if the cause is just. But, it won't be worn as a novelty.

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