Column by Loretta Redd
I’m amazed at how many sports writers have offered at least something of a ‘mea culpa’ to Lance in their articles following the Great pseudo-Confession. “Lance Armstrong had a tough go of it this year,” they write, “seven Tour de France titles stripped, sponsors jumping the ship, and being forced to give up his position as head of Livestrong.”
But I don’t feel sorry for him in the least, except to say that I don’t believe he has fully confessed, and may not be innately capable of actually telling the whole, ugly truth. Well, not unless a media icon like Oprah Winfrey is seated across from him. Maybe he should have started in a Catholic confessional first, but my guess is his last opportunity will be in front of a judge.
How does a man who was diagnosed with testicular, brain and lung cancer in 1996, underwent surgical and chemotherapy, then declared cancer free in 1997, take that miracle and warp it into a blood doping, performance enhancing drug empire?
Where is a man’s soul who owns a business in Texas named, Juan Pelota Cafe (a play on the Spanish translation: one ball,) who goes on to father five children, then uses their innocence for a photo op on stage with daddy dearest as he accepts the Cup of a winner in Paris, France?
During his recent Oprah Winfrey ‘save my butt’ interview, our cycling hero tears up during his recollection of telling his son to stop defending his fathers’ record to his school yard chums…
unfortunately, his son and the rest of us are still waiting for the truth about offering a representative of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency a “donation” of roughly $250,000 in 2004. So many confessions, so little prime time.
No, I have no sympathy for Lance Armstrong, or any of the other cheaters in major sports today…most of whom confessed not out of consciousness, but in an attempt to save their financial empires. The Olympic Committee plays cat and mouse every four years with the newest cocktail of injectable gold medal enhancement; Bud Selig struggles to keep the Barry Bonds, Melky Cabrera and Mark McGwires of the teams from unjustly claiming that their hard work and genetic talent caused a baseball to almost sail over the stadium wall and into the parking lot.
Money. That is the source of the travesty; the real growth hormone of so-called professional sports.
Lance Armstrong’s net worth is assessed at $100 million, but that is chump change in an era where illegal wagers for professional sports top an estimated $380 Billion, not including product endorsement and advertising. Whether it is the marketable Olympic gold medal around the neck of the flying squirrel, Gaby Douglas, or Tiger Woods’ six hundred million dollars in endorsements, the amount of money in sports is totally out of control, and we have only ourselves to blame.
December 18, 2012 LA Times wrote an article outlining the salary inflation in pro sports, referring to it as “Bank-Breaking Work.”
Major League Baseball: 1985, Dale Murphy was paid $1.6 million. In 1995, Ken Griffey, Jr. got $7.6 million. By 2005, Mike Piazza was claiming $16.1 million, and today, our ‘Angel’ outfielder, Josh Hamilton has an average 5 year contract of $25 million.
Want to try the National Basketball Association? Start with Larry Bird in 1985 at $1.8 million, then Hakeem Olajuwon’s $5.3 million in 1995, to the Laker’s Kobe Bryant in 2005 at $15.9 million, and LeBron James will beat that at $16 million this year.
Maybe you’re a National Football League fan…let’s start with Joe Montana in 1985 at a paltry $1 million, the Brett Favre at $2.9 million in 1995, to Tiki Barber with the 2005 Giants’ $6 million contract, and finally Peyton Manning (with his 1-4 start this year) still took home $18 million.
I would be naive to pretend that gambling and money haven’t been a part of sport since before the days of Greco-Roman wrestling; but like so many areas of influence today, it is the amount of money that is destroying the pillars of our national character.
From the time of Pee Wee competition, parents and coaches all hope for a winner, and push those with sufficient talent toward ever more lucrative rewards. High schools are tempted to socially promote players into college while being offered money for product endorsements; college stars choose professional contracts over educational degrees, while their alumnus cram money into athletics rather than intellect; and the pros seem willing to do anything from withstanding irreversible brain damage to secretly injecting themselves with growth hormones like heroin addicts in order to attract an agent.
Money in sports has made whores of us all- both as competitors and as fans- we are selling the art of physical agility, strength and agility for the thrill of a dollar, and we- like Lance Armstrong- should do more than just confess.