Greetings! You are reading an article from The Mudville Gazette. To reach the front page, with all the latest news and views, click the logo above or "main" below. Thanks for stopping by!
July 30, 2003
LANCE ARMSTRONG, THE ANTI-AMERICAN BOY?By Greyhawk
The greatest individual sports hero story of recent decades is Lance Armstrong, cancer survivor and now five-time Tour de France victor. Add the personal issues and life challenges that he's faced and conquered to the unavoidable world geo-political backdrop of this year's Tour and you have a compelling story indeed. Would you believe a summer blockbuster movie or book with these plot elements:
Hero beats cancer, then wins four straight Tours, angering many French (and other European) fans of a sport that does not traditionally include successful American athletes. He is frequently accused of taking performance enhancing drugs (the sport is notorious for it's drug abusers) in spite of the fact that he has never tested positive for such.
Wife and hero separate but they reconcile and are determined to improve relationship.
The hero's main antagonist tests positive for the club drug Ecstasy, is suspended from racing and not able to compete the year the hero wins his fourth tour. He mounts his own personal comeback and will challenge the hero's attempt at a record-tying fifth consecutive victory.
The hero's team mate and fellow American departs to become lead rider of another team. He is considered a contender, but crashes early in the race and fractures his collarbone. He continues, however, and eventually wins a stage and completes the 2000+ mile race in overall fourth place. What might have been?
Meanwhile, in addition to disliking him for winning, the French are expected to resent him for being American in a time when the French government is opposing America's war on terrorism at every opportunity.
Then: Hero leads as expected. Antagonist chases as expected. Race is closest ever for hero. He crashes in late stage and antagonist (along with hero's former team mate) in astounding display of sportsmanship slows to allow hero to regain position. (Hero had done same for antagonist in previous race.) Hero then wins that stage. Race ultimately comes down to an individual time trial held in the rain! Antagonist crashes, thus ending slight remaining hope for victory. Hero takes closest overall Tour victory of his career.
Is that enough drama? Thus case closed on "greatest sports hero of modern era."
Of course everyone wants to be the hero, or at least to claim common ground with the hero. Small wonder then, that some in the media want this man to be an anti war droolbat just like them.
This is Ground Control to Major Tom
On the other hand, Armstrong has tried in recent years to shed his image as distant, learning passable French and giving interviews on French television in French. And before the Iraq war, he was quoted in interviews saying he was opposed to a military conflict -- comments hardly noticed back home, but which made the headlines here (France).
The Guardian (UK) 6 July Headline: Serena got the message, now it's Lance's turn as French cheers become jeers for US stars
For Armstrong there is an irony in this hostility. He was also against the war in Iraq, so much so that he told George Bush.
However, as has been noted here before, Lance's own website presented a slightly different perspective:
"...In my opinion it's not really the place of an athlete to take a position here. And I do think there should be a strong delineation from sports, war, diplomacy, and politics. I am getting asked this question repeatedly over here because a) I'm an American like the President, b) I'm a Texan like the President, and c) I am a friend of the President's. The war seems to be very unpopular here (lots and lots of protests) and it's normal that the press tries to get a quote regarding this. "What I will say, and have said many times, is that NOBODY wants a war. Not me. Not President Bush. Not Tony Blair. No one... but sometimes it may be unavoidable. I absolutely support the President and absolutely support our troops."
I would not claim to speak for Lance Armstrong, and have no compelling need to twist or obscure anyone's words to support my personal opinion, but it would seem Lance is "anti-war" as much as any reasonable person is anti war. A realist as opposed to an idealist. One who knows the tragic necessity of war as a last resort, and certainly not a man to use such a thing to his political advantage. Lance did not make sensational comments about the war to generate personal publicity. In fact he avoided teh limelight on this issue as much as possible and did not seek to use his celebrity to espouse his personal views for all the world.
Perhaps the more accurate portrayal is from this article:
Armstrong, the highest-profile U.S. athlete living and competing in Europe, tried to walk a tightrope. He expressed reservations about going to war without broader international support while affirming his support for Bush. But he wearied of being put on the spot.
Never simply content to make vague and incorrect claims that Lance was one of their comrades-in-arms at the anti-war rallies, the same reporters often went on to make faulty predictions of the reception he would get from the French. A description (and prediction) from the Guardian story referenced above describes:
There was tension in the air at football's Confederations Cup in Paris as the US players took to the field. Boos spread around the stadium as America's national anthem was played, jeers that did not quite finish until the team left the pitch.
These stories follow the "everyone hates America now because of George Bush" storyline. The media is eager to sell this story to an American public, but a growing body of evidence from Iraq and elsewhere disputes these fables.
Surprisingly, perhaps, this NY Times article, (which avoids the Lance Armstrong position on war issue other then to note that "...he spoke, as he often did before the Tour, about the need to repair French-American relations strained by the war in Iraq.") details the reality:
Asked a few days ago about his reaction to the horde of fans with American flags along the route, he said, "Many times you get next to them and it's a French person. It's strange but many times it happens. I can't complain about the kind of support it is, it's much appreciated."
Posted by Greyhawk / July 30, 2003 7:06 AM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
Furthermore, I will occasionally use satire or parody herein. The bottom line: it's my house.
I like having visitors to my house. I hope you are entertained. I fight for your right to free speech, and am thrilled when you exercise said rights here. Comments and e-mails are welcome, but all such communication is to be assumed to be 1)the original work of any who initiate said communication and 2)the property of the Mudville Gazette, with free use granted thereto for publication in electronic or written form. If you do NOT wish to have your message posted, write "CONFIDENTIAL" in the subject line of your email.
Original content copyright © 2003 - 2011 by Greyhawk. Fair, not-for-profit use of said material by others is encouraged, as long as acknowledgement and credit is given, to include the url of the original source post. Other arrangements can be made as needed.
Contact: greyhawk at mudvillegazette dot com