People sometimes view athletes as superhuman. Sometimes they go as far to view them as gods.
By doing that we sometimes forget that they are human and they make mistakes. We also forget that they do good things and some bad things.
They are just like everyone else.
In the past couple of months we have seen the very good in sports and some of the very bad.
Last week Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France once again, breaking an American record by winning it three times in a row. Armstrong is probably the best example of what is good about sports not only in this country, but in the world. He has received a lot of notoriety because of his battle against cancer a few years ago and the subsequent victories since then. But more than his battle against cancer is his stature as a gentleman.
During one of the middle sessions of the Tour de France he was riding at the front of the pack when the man in second place ran off a bridge right behind him. He turned his bike around, went back and helped his competitor up and made sure he was okay and then crossed the finish line with his rival for that day hand in hand.
What class this guy has.
It is a far cry from many of the antics we see athletes, at both the amateur and professional, often portray.
While it is true Armstrong had a big overall lead in the race at the time how often is it that an athlete does such a noble thing, even if he has a commanding lead?
Isn't it great when we see a football player help someone from the opposing team up after a big hit.
Isn't it great when an athlete, even in a heated contest, can go over to an opposing player laying on the court injured and lend words of encouragement.
Isn't it wonderful when baseball players congratulate someone from the opposing team for setting a milestone, even though at the time they are getting routed by the award winning players squad.
We always hear athletes say things like, "I have to give them credit," and "They didn't give up," about the opposing teams play. But in a sense these trite expressions are really meant to pat themselves on the back by saying that the other team put out their best and we still beat them.
Actions mean a lot more than words, especially when they take place in the heat of competition.
I once played basketball in a league against a team that had a guy I knew who was the most mild mannered person one could meet; except on the court. You didn't want to be in the way of this guy when he got the ball; it was like facing Jekyll and Hyde. But the minute the play was over, he was the first to pick you up off the floor (where he had put you), and to congratulate you on your fine defense (which he had just shredded). He was a real competitor and a real gentleman at the same time. His name was Don. A couple of years after I initially met him, I got to play with him instead of against him. Just like everyone, in the heat of battle, he would lose his cool and sometimes could be pretty hard on his teammates. But he never forgot to tell anyone what a great effort they had put in; even if it wasn't up to his personal standards.
Athletics are about competition; competition with others and with ourselves.
We need more Lance Armstrong's. We need people who are competitive, and are winners at all aspects of life, not just on the playing field.