Golf legend Tiger Woods cheated on his wife, Cyclist Lance Armstrong cheated
his Sport and Tennis great Roger Federer has cheated "father time". It is no
longer a question of who is the greatest athlete of a generation, but who will
be the most forgiven.
Football players say they cheat to rid themselves of pain, while in Baseball they
cheat for immortality in the Hall of Fame.
Sport Cheating Scandals is not a new phenomenon, - but cheating to win is!
In 1919, when the Chicago White Sox became the "Black Sox" by deliberately
losing the World Series, - it was cheating to lose!
When Sonny Liston went from invincible to invisible with a phantom punch
that floated like a butterfly instead of stinging like a bee, by the soon to be
named Muhammad Ali, - its was cheating to lose!
And when 5 college kids from the City University of New York decided to shave
points and not their 5 o'clock shadow, at what should have been College Basketball's
finest hour, - it was cheating to lose!
As gambling changed the scandalous playing field for players from winning in the
arena to intentionally losing at the gambling hall, Performance Enhancing Drugs,
changed an athlete to be less focused on the outcome of the game and far more driven to care about his own individual performance that could garner an 8 figure endorsement deal from the streets of Madison Avenue.
Winning may not be a sure thing...but a good Nike Sneaker deal sure is!
Today's athletes, are now under the microscope of detection by more stringent
drug testing, passionate sports writers and the most loyal and ardent fans.
And they are certainly being judged by a jury of there peers...not by other
Superstar athletes but by a society who has made cheating such an every day
part of our lives, that it is hard to distinguish the playing field from the difficult
road in life.
Statistics say that more than 50% of the people we know have either cheated on
their spouse or lied on their taxes. Banks that are to big to fail seem to be to big
to follow the law and insider trading has become a sport unto itself.
College kids at West Point and Harvard have been embroiled in cheating scandals
and even the High School kids that are trying to get into those Universities are
being accused of cheating on their SATs.
Our athletes may be a reflection of who we are some of the time...but Lance Armstrong seems to be someone...who we don't want to be most of the time!
His moment of epiphany and mea culpa with Oprah Winfrey this week didn't come
because he failed to succeed in threatening and intimidating those that knew of his guilt and have already testified against him.
It didn't come when his charitable cancer organization, "LiveStrong" was under siege and he was forced to resign as Chairman of the Board.
It came, when his former teammate and friend, Floyd Landis, a former Tour De France winner himself, who was also stripped of his title due to performance enhancing drugs, refused to drop his 30 million dollar whistle blower law suit against Armstrong and he would be forced to either testify or take the stand and plead the 5th Amendment for more days than it takes to ride 126 miles.
Since there would be no drugs that could help this performance...he was not willing to win or lose a game where justice maybe blind...but they are not stupid!
So if you can't beat them...join another game! Armstrong decided to control the message, if he couldn't control the outcome! His appearance on Oprah Winfrey caused her to say that "Armstrong didn't come clean in the manner I expected."
Over the next several years, Armstrong will navigate the court of public opinion the way he drove through the French Alps...cautiously when called for, aggressive when needed and always relentless.
This is not a race to contrition, but a carefully conducted campaign that wasn't designed to restore an image but save it from ridicule and oblivion
When Sport is at its best, it is a metaphor for a society that can cherish the best that we have within us, when we thought there was no more to be found. There is more to be found than what Lance Armstrong had to offer.
And whether I am playing Tennis on Saturday or cheering for my favorite team on Sunday,
...I will always be playing to find it!