August 27, 2012
Dear Marketplace Friend,
Lance Armstrong: dead at 40.
He isn’t really, but that headline might have been easier to handle – for some people – than news that Armstrong had abandoned his efforts to counter charges by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) that he had cheated by using performance-enhancing substances during the era in which he had dominated the Super Bowl of bicycle racing, the Tour de France.
Evidence and witnesses were cited by the USADA; denials and repudiations had been Armstrong’s response, until last Thursday. His decision to forfeit the battle was not, he said, an admission; he simply resigned himself to the situation.
The result? His victories in athletic competition – going back to August 1, 1998 – are no longer recognized. His record seven Tour de France titles? As if they never happened. He is also banned – immediately – from participation in any elite-level sporting events, for life.
For some people whose accomplishments exceed those of mere mortals, death would be an easier bump-in-the-road than the loss of their trophies. For Armstrong, his brush with destruction was seasoned by his potentially-fatal fight with cancer – first testicular, but spread to lungs, abdomen and brain – which proved his ability to fight when it really matters. His return from surgery and chemotherapy – to compete in his sports supreme challenges – was an inspiration to people who needed the will to fight that disease when the odds are stacked against life.
Heroes are tough to handle. Human experience hungers for heroism, but there’s something about the mighty that incites us to seek hypocrisy and expose compromise. Part of us wants to build them up… and another part of us wants to tear them down.
David was a man in the crosshairs of history. Saul – Israel’s first king – was a hero whose image was bigger than life, but who mishandled his mission and lost God’s favor. Young David was identified as God’s handpicked successor to Israel’s throne, which put him on top of Saul’s Most-Wanted List. The palace intrigue was even messier: the Crown Prince, Jonathan, was David’s closest friend.
Years pass, and the intense hatred of Saul toward David keeps David on-the-run, for his life… but God has a plan. In a battlefield mismatch – far from David’s involvement – Saul and Jonathan both fall as casualties in a hostile skirmish with the Philistines. When David receives word of the deaths of father and son, there’s no happy-dance; he laments their passing, with equal grief: “Oh, oh, Gazelles of Israel, struck down on your hills, the mighty warriors – fallen, fallen! Don’t announce it in the city of Gath, don’t post the news in the streets of Ashkelon. Don’t give those coarse Philistine girls one more excuse for a drunken party! No more dew or rain for you, hills of Gilboa, and not a drop from springs and wells, for there the warriors’ shields were dragged through the mud, Saul’s shield left there to rot. Jonathan’s bow was bold – the bigger they were the harder they fell. Saul’s sword was fearless – once out of the scabbard, nothing could stop it. Saul and Jonathan – beloved, beautiful! Together in life, together in death. Swifter than plummeting eagles, stronger than proud lions. Women of Israel, weep for Saul. He dressed you in finest cottons and silks, spared no expense in making you elegant. The mighty warriors – fallen, fallen in the middle of the fight! Jonathan – struck down on your hills! O my dear brother Jonathan, I’m crushed by your death. Your friendship was a miracle-wonder, love far exceeding anything I’ve known – or ever hope to know. The mighty warriors – fallen, fallen. And the arms of war broken to bits” (2 Samuel 1:19-27, from The Message).
There is no celebration that follows the humiliation of a hero; no party is called when the medals are recalled and the statues are sidelined.
We need heroes; and, we are heroes, to someone. Do everything you can to keep the details of your victories headline-ready: finishing well – especially, in the Kingdom – is entirely up to you.
Finish Well Heroes
August 27, 2012