Armstrong is human after all – we have proof!
Lance Armstrong, currently America’s most famous athlete, announced on Thursday that he will not compete for the United States in the Athens Olympics later this summer.Good for him.Armstrong, who was named to the team earlier this week along with, among others, Colorado connections Tyler Hamilton and Bobby Julich, said he’s passing up the trip to Greece to spend more time with his kids. We should all have such level heads on our shoulders.True, it would be easy for the rest of us to ridicule the Lone Star State’s brightest star; after all, the Olympics are a dream for so many but attainable for so few. The common man might wonder how on earth a blessed athlete like Armstrong could decline such an invitation. He might stare at the story announcing Armstrong’s decision on his computer screen at work, look around at his sorry little cubicle and damn ol’ Lance to Antarctica for turning down the life he would do anything to live.
Then that guy might walk out of his office, get in his car and drive home – peeved only until he sees his kids’ smiling faces. Then he would be happy again.In a weird sort of way, Armstrong wants to be that guy.Say what we may about the envious lives of superstar athletes and celebrities, about the riches they have and we want, I think there are quite a few of us just as rich – if not richer – than many of them.Armstrong has three children. He dates a woman, Sheryl Crow, as sexy as they come and a world-famous superstar in her own right. AND HE RIDES BIKES FOR A LIVING! Something the rest of the world does after work to escape to fantasyland, and Lance Armstrong gets paid millions to do it.Yet he wants what we have. Ironic, no?
It must be noted that Armstrong is by no means passing up a guaranteed gold medal in Athens. He finished 13th in the road race at the Sydney Games in 2000, and the bronze medal he won in that year’s time trial was his first medal in three Olympics.Still, he is the sport’s biggest name, and would no doubt be treated like royalty if he chose to attend. With the Games in mid-August, he could bring his kids with him to Greece (which kid wouldn’t want to go to the Olympics?) and compete in between lavish Olympic Village meals and experiences.Yet again, all he wants is to be at home with his kids, watching them run around the backyard – a privilege most of America’s dads are afforded on a daily basis.Children of superstar athletes hold a powerful presence in the lives of their parents, because to them the athletes are ‘Mom’ or ‘Dad’ before anything else. We saw Emmitt Smith, the NFL’s alltime leading rusher, cry in a postgame interview last fall after his daughter said his not-so-hot performance was fine by her. Even to immortal athletes whose names will likely live forever, that stuff still counts the most.
When asked Thursday by The Associated Press about her son’s decision not to go to Athens, Armstrong’s mother, Linda, backed him 100 percent. “That’s what makes me so proud of my son,” she said. “His family means more to him than his life.”Much has been made of Armstrong’s quest to achieve an unprecedented six straight Tour de France wins, a feat that would more than likely put him right up there with the greatest athletes of all time – especially because he’s an American competing in a largely foreign sport.The way he talks, though, you can’t help but think his greatest reward, should he win, won’t be the recognition that comes with it, or the untouchable place in history he’ll etch even deeper than he already has. Rather, it will be the privilege of seeing his kids on a daily basis once again. The privilege of being one of us.Devon O’Neil can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 231, or at email@example.com.
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