Lance Armstrong

You have probably heard or read about Lance Armstrong’s latest troubles.  If you haven’t, here’s the story: he is now accused, on the basis of very credible evidence (including the testimony of his teammates), of using illegal methods to win his various championships. He still denies it. Since the publication of the report a few days ago, however, even more acquaintances and teammates have come forward to corroborate the report’s conclusion.

All right, I’m giggling a little bit. Lance has always seemed a little smug to me, and a little too good to be true. I remember seeing a TV program in which they tested the physical endurance of normal human beings, and then gave Lance the same test; his results were off the scale. He just wasn’t human. And he just smiled secretly and allowed us to admire him.

I’m not crazy about self-promoting athletes: Lance Armstrong, Michael Phelps, Peyton Manning. I like a little modesty. (I make an exception for Tom Brady, because he’s adorable, and we’re all New England Patriots fans up in here.) I remember fondly seeing an boxer named Barry McGuigan on Irish TV back in 2007; he was on the Irish version of “Celebrity Iron Chef,” and he made no bones about not being able to cook, but he could mash the hell out of those potatoes, and he ended up winning the show. (Also he was sort of adorable, in an Irish featherweight boxer kind of way.) He seemed modest.

Most likely Lance was doing something called blood doping. This entails taking a drug called erythropoietin, which makes your body produce more red blood cells than normal; you then drain some of your blood off, have it processed and frozen, and reinject yourself with your own blood cells when you need some extra energy. “I don’t see that as doping,” Partner said. “You’re using your own cells. Why not?”

This is an excellent point. Why not indeed? It’s like saying that a weight lifter can’t lift weights between meets, because he might build extra muscle, and that wouldn’t be fair.

Except that the rules of cycling forbade it. Lance knew this, but broke the rules anyway. And then he lied about it.

He might have come out as a brave proponent of blood doping, pointing out – very fairly – that using one’s own blood cells isn’t the same as using a drug. He might well have won the argument, and the exception might have been made in the rules.

(Of course, then everyone would have been using the stuff, and Lance wouldn’t have been Superman anymore.)

There have been a few supporters jumping up and down to defend Lance. He’s a cancer survivor! they say. He’s done so much for charity!

Oh well, ho hum, and Stalin was very good to his momma. (No, seriously, he was.)

Lance used illicit methods to get to the top of his métier, and then he profited from it.

If he gave a little back to charity, well, that’s terrific.

But he cheated to do it.

So let’s just not talk about him anymore.

Super Bowl XLVI


As you are probably aware, New England lost the Super Bowl last weekend.



Partner retreated into the other room immediately after the end of the game. He does not like losing.  He is a born New Englander, and he is used to losing, but he prefers to win.  The Red Sox have finally broken their losing streak – twice over the last decade – and the Bruins won the Stanley Cup just last year, and the Patriots have won the Super Bowl three times.



But not this year.



Here’s the thing: New England teams are not terribly attractive to the rest of the nation.  When the Patriots last lost the Super Bowl, the Onion headlined: “Patriots’ Season Perfect For Rest Of Nation.”



We are hated, we know.  When our teams lose, we have to put up with a lot of gloating by fans of the other teams, who now feel that their hatred is justified.



And now we sulk in defeat.



But you just wait!  We’ll be back.



And as a recent issue of the Onion so cleverly put it, in a piece written just before the playoffs: “NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: Opponents may think they’re not what they were when they were younger, but have they considered Tom Brady might get even more handsome with gray hair?”



(He will, you know.)

The effect of Tom Brady on middle-aged women and gay men


The day after the big Patriots-Ravens game, everyone was talking about the Patriots victory, and about Tom Brady. 



This is an approximation of the conversation between me and my workfriends Cathleen and Apollonia:



“I didn’t think he was cute before.  I’m sort of coming around to him.”



“Oh, he’s just fine.”



“Meh.  Not my type.”



“Well, but he’s growing into his looks, finally.  He used to look kind of gangling and boyish.  He’s filled out very nicely.”



I’ll say.”



“Do you remember when he hosted Saturday Night Live ten years ago? He was cute.  He did a sketch about sexual harassment, and he just wore his underwear, and none of the women in the office considered it sexual harassment.”



“What kind of underwear?”  (Okay, that was Apollonia.)



“Tighty whiteys.”  (This was me. The vision is stamped on my memory.  See the above photo if you’ve never seen the sketch itself; I couldn’t find the clip online.  NBC guards its property jealously.)



“Oh,” said Cathleen (okay, we’re all out of the closet now).  “I would have pictured something more elegantYou know.”  She gestured downward.  “Not boxers, but something really nice and form-fitting.”


“These were mighty form-fitting,” I said.



“Oh my God!” Apollonia burst out.  “What are we doing?  What kind of people are we?  Why are we having this conversation?”



Cathleen and I paused for a moment.  Then we both smiled.  “Because,” I said, “we find the subject fascinating.”



(And to think I spent all those years not caring about sports!)


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