Rabbi Sol Solomon’s Rabbinical Reflection #53 (1/20/13) – LANCE ARMSTRONG

 Aired January 19, 2013 on Dave’s Gone By.  Youtube clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksF769ibSjk&feature=youtu.be

Shalom Dammit!  This is Rabbi Sol Solomon with a Rabbinical Reflection for the week of January 20th, 2013.

I never understood the appeal of bicycle racing as a spectator sport.  Oh sure, it’s fun to pedal a Schwinn through the neighborhood while running errands, looking at the scenery and zipping past poor bastards in cars who have to stop for red lights.  It’s healthy exercise uphill, and it’s a mechayah downhill.  Granted, the man who invented bicycle seats must have worked for the Nazis.  I ask you: if they can design a chair cushion that makes you feel like you’re floating on a cloud, why can’t they make a bicycle seat that doesn’t mash your testicles halfway up your groin.

But be that as it may, watching people bicycle is about as much fun watching people roller skate.  Twelve seconds and you wanna shoot yourself.  Thirty seconds and you wanna get on a bicycle and run the skaters over.

So the whole Tour de France mystique is lost on me.  Cyclists spend day after day for three weeks riding two thousand miles just to put on a yellow jersey.  Sorry, but I can give Jet Blue some money, fly two thousand miles in half a day, and they give me a free headset.  No contest.

But I do not deny the skill, athleticism or endurance of those who compete in these races, especially Lance Armstrong, who survived cancer to win the Tour de France for seven consecutive years.  (It was testicular cancer, by the way, for which, as I said – I blame the bicycle seat!)  Anyhoo, Lance Armstrong represented everything great about athletics.  Training, discipline in body and mind, healthy diet, the will to win, grace under pressure and battling back against all odds.  He was one of those athletes parents could point to on a cereal box and say, “You could be like him, if you eat your Wheaties.”  What we didn’t know is that you had to sprinkle your Wheaties with corticosteroids and substitute the milk with Red Bull.

Now, believe it or not, I’m not categorically against performance-enhancing drugs.  Who’s to say what’s a natural additive and what’s going too far?  If one guy makes a morning shake out of a special secret recipe of wheat grass, crushed vitamins and horny goat weed, is he getting an unfair leg up on the guy who’s just eating pancakes?  And what if – just what if – Lance Armstrong decided to race competitively while he was still recovering from cancer?  Not expecting to win, but just to prove something to himself and to the world.  So his body is all full of these chemo chemicals that are keeping him alive – and, perhaps, enhancing his performance.  Where does therapy stop and doping begin?

I cannot answer these questions.  These are questions for doctors, chemists and Ozzy Osbourne.  What I can say is that Armstrong’s behavior has been reprehensible.  Not only did he lie for years, he discouraged, harangued and even threatened others who wanted to tell the truth.  He was a bully, and one of those people who breathe such rarified air, they imagine rules that apply to everyone else don’t apply to them.

Finally, when his back was against the wall – and his tuchas impaled on a banana seat – and there was nothing else to tell besides what we already knew, Armstrong allows himself to be cross-examined in prime time by Oprah Winfrey.  Because criminality is so much more palatable when it’s packaged and sold as entertainment.  And because for Oprah to get ratings, it’s either this or getting Dr. Phil and Mehmet Oz to french each other.

As for the special itself, Armstrong admitted to some things, denied others, and looked for all the world like someone who’s about to lure you into a scientology booth.  One day Christopher Walken will play Armstrong in a movie, and he’ll actually be less creepy than the real thing.

Should we expect remorse?  I know that’s big with defense attorneys – “Ooh, he feels really bad, let’s be nice to him.”  But Armstrong’s ego is such that he seems almost proud of getting away with cheating as long as he did.  Sure he’s sorry – sorry he got caught.  Which makes him little different from all the baseball players who turned the 1990s into a home-run derby.  They sure gave us a lot of thrills while the commissioner looked the other way.  But try telling kids, “Don’t do drugs!  Always play fair!  Drink your juice!” when their heroes are juicing in a very different way.  As for punishment, well, what will all those steroids will do to their bodies when these guys turn 60 or 70 – if they even get there?  It’s like a chemical  version of “Faust”; one day, you have to pay back the devil.  Or Vince McMahon, take your pick.

But I do have a confession to make:  I myself, have a problem with `roids.  Hemorrhoids, and they’re killing me.  Oprah would you like the scoop?

This has been a Rabbinical Reflection from Rabbi Sol Solomon, Temple Sons of Bitches in Great Neck, New York.

 (c) 2013 TotalTheater. All rights reserved.

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