Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
Perhaps foolishly, I am going to try to take on the downfall of a pair of local icons this week: Lance Armstrong and The Aspen Times building.
And, no, I don’t think there’s any connection between the two – but, hey, let’s see how it goes.
So … did seven-time Tour de France champion Armstrong cheat?
Since I was never inside his hotel room, his training facility, his mind or his bloodstream, I can declare that I have no idea.
Some of the evidence certainly looks bad: All those confessed and convicted cheaters lined up and ready to swear, “He was just like us.”
Some of the evidence looks good: all those drug tests he never failed.
So I don’t know, but here’s the thing: I don’t care. I don’t think it matters.
Look, let’s take the naysayers on their own terms. If Lance did “cheat,” what that means is that he was the fastest among the many “cheaters” who made up the vast majority of the world-class pro racers.
It has been pointed out that virtually all the top riders in the races he won were at least as guilty of doping as he was – in most cases a lot more guilty.
I read an article from The Melbourne Herald Sun arguing that the Aussie rider Cadell Evans should be considered the “moral” winner of the 2005 Tour de France – even though he finished eighth.
According to the paper, every other rider – from Armstrong in first to Michael Rassmussen in seventh – had a career marred by doping of one kind or another.
So if they do strip Lance of those seven Tour victories, they’re going to have one hell of a time trying to find someone to proclaim as the new “winner.”
Perhaps it’s sad, but that’s the way it is with bike racing.
Do I wish it were different?
But if you’re going to clean up the sport, clean it up completely. Burn all the cockroaches. Don’t just step on one and pretend you’ve solved anything.
The way the races were actually run, with virtually everyone in the top ranks “doping,” what we had was a level playing field, which is the point of the rules, isn’t it?
Lance won on that steeply uphill level playing field.
And, on the evidence, I’m pretty clear that if none of the racers had taken any banned drugs, then he still would have won.
And beyond all that, Armstrong still qualifies as some kind of super-human for fighting his way back from Stage 4 cancer – and then going on to win the Tour de France.
From everything I’ve read, Armstrong is a deeply flawed human being.
Just like all the rest of us.
He may be combative, egotistical and selfish. But his flaws led him to do extraordinary things. As opposed to most of the rest of us.
He may not be a hero, but he’s a champion.
Or look at it another way: He may not be a champion, but he’s a hero.
And any way you look at it, he’s been an inspiration to millions – athletes and cancer patients alike. No cheating there.
And, talking about tearing down icons, leaving only a battered shell, that brings us to The Aspen Times building.
People have asked me if I’m outraged about the newspaper moving out of that historic wreck, which I have considered my second home for almost 40 years.
Perhaps oddly, my answer is no.
I am, of course, outraged by the destruction of the heart and soul of the newspaper. Not the building, the newspaper.
The editorial staff has been savaged. Reporters and editors, photographers, proofreaders and designers have been fired, retired, forced out and transferred. Jobs have been moved out of town, out of state – maybe even out of the country or off the damn planet.
As always, there have been “good reasons” for those little murders: the local economy, the national economy, the fate of the industry, simple greed, sheer stupidity. Whatever.
But the result has been that the building at 310 E. Main is already an empty echoing shell.
It depresses the hell out of me to even set foot in the place.
Once upon a time, there were scores of people who worked there, clattering in and out of the joint at every hour of the day and night.
Reporters with dirty minds, editors with dirty consciences, pressmen with dirty hands.
And don’t forget the dogs – a dozen or more dogs, from dachshunds to pit bulls, scaring the customers and peeing on the carpets.
Now there’s barely a handful of reporters and a flock of ad sales reps. (And – time out to mourn the most recent major loss – the great Su Lum has retired from selling ads. A real body blow.)
So what’s left?
Really. Tear down the damn building and replace it with something fancy hiding behind a spiffy new “historic” false front. Why not?
At least the new Aspen Times offices will still be downtown.
And maybe I’ll be able to walk in there without my heart breaking a little bit.
But what I will still remember is the doorway into my old office, upstairs in the back of the building.
The walls were white, but inside the door, that white paint was coated black. It wasn’t the usual grime – a thin coat of which covers everything in the building.
It was the black ink from the pressmen’s hands when they came by to hang out and tell me how things were going in the pressroom – what had broken down, who had shown up drunk, who was in jail or who had done an incredible job, working long, hard hours to keep things together and get the newspaper out on the street.
That coat of black ink was a badge of honor. It was proof that we were real, a real newspaper in a real community.
Now the building’s mostly empty, and the press is 65 miles away.
The dirt’s still there – but now it’s just dirt.
So, hell yes, tear the place down.
OK, let’s see – any connection to Lance Armstrong?
Nah. Didn’t think so.
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