The Lance Armstrong Foundation told ESPN it received 25 times the donations of a typical day Friday, hours after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said it had enough evidence to strip Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles -- if not also his pride and dignity.
Figures. Why wouldn't we all want to support the embattled Armstrong, a living legend that's transcended sports and become an inspiration, by whatever means, to countless Americans? Why wouldn't we want to give our hard-earned money to a man who without any reasonable doubt systematically cheated his way to fame and fortune, sullying the names of his peers and competitors in the course of lying about it all for, oh, about 15 years?
You know, in these tough economic times.
The ESPN report goes on to say that Foundation merchandise sales tripled from Thursday to Friday. This serves as added proof that people making these donations aren't simply supporting cancer research. They're supporting Armstrong, their hero under assault. There must be thousands of fund-raising organizations in existence to fight cancer. Most of them don't sell yellow bands though. And most of them aren't led by a demigod who finally decided to stop fighting USADA charges against him because, as Armstrong says, "enough is enough".
Well he's right about that. Enough is enough. Two things about stories like this make me shake my head, and I don't know how I'd rank them. It's not only the obvious sadness and disgust we feel as fans from having sports trampled on by athletes that cheat. It's also the pathetic extent to which that athlete's fans defend him, ignoring evidence and logic in the name of wearing your hero's yellow jersey.
This country is so in lust with celebrities that not only are we not put off by their wrongdoings anymore, we act like we're applauding them. Critical thinking is dead like dinosaurs.
The names from sports that come right to mind: Pete Rose. Barry Bonds. Mark McGwire. Joe Paterno. Lance Armstrong.
If you're as old as I am and you've been paying attention, you've heard all the crappy arguments. Rose really didn't do anything wrong because he said he only ever bet on the Reds to win. Bonds? There's really no proof steroids help you hit a baseball. McGwire? Steroids weren't illegal in his day. Paterno? Oh, he didn't know. Armstrong? He never failed a test.
Cycling fans say that last point is far from true, that it's merely Armstrong's take and because we love him we'll settle for what he says and pass that off as educated. I admit, that does sound like us.
I'm not sure there's any reason to think that cheating in sports won't get worse. Think about it. Don't most of these people land on their feet? So they're taking Armstrong's titles away. So what? And he won't get to compete in his sport anymore. What's a good name worth in a sport with no good name?
I hate that I've become so cynical about sports, but I don't blame myself either. These days you're either a cynic or a fool.