Roger Marolt: Roger This
August 14, 2009
Lance Armstrong Day in Aspen? Give me a break. Better yet, give him a break.
So, our mayor comes up with the helmet-headed, hair-brained idea of designating one precious summer training day in Aspen, Colo., to the tribute of the 7-time Tour of France winner who happens to have moved to town last year. That was idiotic.
No, it was not ridiculous because Lance Armstrong is undeserving of the honor. It is ludicrous because I am certain that he doesn’t want it. I mean really; put yourself in his chamois for a moment. Remember, this guy won the most prestigious bicycling event in the world seven more times than all of the residents combined in Aspen’s entire history have. He came back this year after an extended retirement from the sport and placed third. Yes, that is a huge deal … to us.
Frankly, I doubt if Lance is so easily impressed. Say what you want about what an incredible accomplishment it was for this man to show in the Big Race at age 37 after not racing in France for four years, but I am guessing that he is steamed about it. I guarantee that, for him, standing on the lowest platform of the podium in Paris in July was more painful than all the mountain stages combined during the three preceding weeks.
Think about what made Armstrong so great. Is it his incredibly high VO2 max? Is it his naturally low heart rate? His abnormally powerful legs? Low body fat? The answers to these questions are: partially, somewhat, to a degree, and probably not; in that order. But, the thing we forget in discussing all of these incredible physical attributes of his is that more than a few of the top riders that he beat like oeufs in all of those Tours are similarly gifted. These traits merely put him in the game.
What made him legendary is his belief that third place stinks. Second place isn’t any better. To Lance Armstrong a silver medal in the battle against cancer wasn’t good enough. In life there is only winning and losing, nothing in between. Black and white. Cut and dried. That’s what we love about him! So, why put him through the ignominy of celebrating something less than what he’s content with?
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“Oh”, we mumble contritely now that we’ve dragged him into this stupid controversy about whether or not our town should honor him with his own special day. “Too bad we didn’t think of that earlier.”
People have argued vehemently why he deserves the honor: He’s the greatest cyclist in history! He’s an inspiration to cancer patients everywhere! He’s an Aspenite! Cycling is Aspen’s most popular summer sport! We love the color yellow! It will give tourists something to do besides splash around in the mall fountain! Others are just as adamant and vocal as to why he doesn’t deserve it: There are lots of famous people in Aspen who don’t get similar recognition! He’s only a part-time local! He’s cocky! He doesn’t pay ACRA dues! He’s a Texan!!!
The mayor started this whole silly escapade. Other City Council members have gone on record about it. The county commissioners have debated it in their regular meeting. The Aspen Times printed an editorial. They’re talking about it at the Main Street Bakery joiners’ table. I’m talking about it here!
For Pete’s sake. We’re treating this man like The Entrance to Aspen debate or the Burlingame Employee Housing fiasco. We have demeaned Lance’s local existence to that of the question over Toni Kronberg’s residency status. All he wanted to do was move here for the beautiful surroundings, the awesome training, and the camaraderie with the fitness-minded local population.
Whatever favorable impression we may have made on Lance over the past year or so has to be in jeopardy. Suddenly our nice manners are gone and there’s oil cloth on the table. What we have feared all along is happening. Lance is being exposed to the real Aspen – the place where nothing can be left alone. None of us should be surprised if he suddenly tests positive for having a Lake Tahoe realtor on his speed dial.
Now, I’m guessing that no matter how this thing turns out, Lance is gentleman enough to stand tall in the corner that we’ve painted him into. He’ll smile, wave, shake a few of our hands and tell us once again how nice we are and how much he loves this town. Remember, the guy can endure extreme suffering.
The thing I really hope is that the next time something like this happens, it doesn’t happen. Proclaimed days of honor in small towns belong to kids who win state spelling bees or return little old ladies’ lost purses to the police station with every dime accounted for. International stars that win international awards and who are recognized in every nook and cranny of this planet need a parade down Main Street Aspen like they need a pinch-flat in the last kilometer of a time trial.
We have embarrassed ourselves enough in this matter, and worse yet we have undoubtedly embarrassed the person we hoped to honor. Let’s drop the whole thing before it gets any uglier and simply honor Lance in the ways that made him love our town to begin with – Let’s go for a ride. If we happen to see Lance, we’ll give a quick wave and watch him pass by. If not, it’ll be just another great spin up to the Bells.