Sunday, July 24, 2005

Mighty Merk on Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong - 7 Time Tour Winner, Texan and American, originally uploaded by mightymerk.

He has done it!!

Lance Armstrong has officially won the Greatest Race on Earth, the Tour de France, for the 7th time !!
(in a row no less)

I want to first congratulate Lance, his family, Team Discovery and all of the Tour riders. It this truly magnificent sport, where the peleton flows like poetry on the road (instead of paper), where sacrifice and selflessness conquer all, and where the man-machine relationship is at is pinnacle you have all proven to be champions.

Merci Beaucoup!!

As some of you may know, I spend a great deal of time travelling, especially to Europe. I am fortunate enough to have some very good contacts and friends in almost every country (yes friends I could depend on). I also have met and formed relationships with hundreds of people. Very often business and general politics are discussed, but occassionally the conversation will turn less formal and two topics often come up. Lance Armstrong and 'Being' an American.

When you are an American travelling abroad you often get asked strange questions. Sometimes the questions are asked out of genuine curiousity, and other times it is a sort of game that might be best described as 'Let's see how foolish/dumb this American is'. People will ask you if you can name the president/prime minister of their country. If you know the capital of every state in the United States (believe me many Europeans know this), which states in America support the death penaty, and the all time classic....
"Did you vote for George Bush?"

That said, one of the more puzzling questions I get is "Why are American so proud?", to which I generally ask back "Proud of what?" The answer almost 100%of the time is "Proud to be an American". The point of this post is not to provide an answer to this question, but I do see having pride in one's nationality as having some true meaning...and this leads me back to Lance Armstrong.

Lance Armstrong was born in a trailer park. Jokes aside, this is tough living. He was not born into a life of privilege, nor did he have any state body on the lookout for potential cyclist the way say perhaps Jan Ullrich did (in former East Germany). Lance had to make this mark and make his way himself. Lance was also born in Texas. I live in the Jersey Shore, so I am the farthest thing from being a 'Texan', but as with all 'different' people, there are some qualities that I very much admire about people from Texas. I have known/met quite a few people from Texas in my life. In general these are very confident folk. They don't suffer from low-self esteem, lack of confidense, or even allergies as many 'coastal' people might. For every 'other' American that may poke fun at them, or makes a joke suggesting that Texas is its own country, you will have a Texan that shamelessly agrees. Texans are the type, that even the most incapable one of them will stand toe to toe with the best, get knocked down, down right let somebody get the better of them and they still will wake up feeling as confident as ever in the morning.

Lance Armstrong is an American and that is even a bigger reason why he has done what he has. Now don't get me wrong, every country is capable of producing a champion, a hero, someone to emulate. Americans do not have the monopoly on this. But I do think Americans have (for whatever reason) the monopoloy on allowing themselves to dream the highest dream, sample every bit of life (not matter how high or low) and yes, be proud of who they are and what they have done (or are trying to do). It's the reason why Greg LeMond, the first American ever to win the Tour de France did not settle on just one victory, even after being shot and almost losing his life. It is the same reason why Lance, who at one point was told he had about two months to live did not stop after his first race post recovery, or his first Tour victory. See Americans also like the underdog. The guy who came from nothing only to win it all. After all that is many of is also the story of our nations birth. Lance Armstrong, like many Americans, does not take himself so seriously (don't mistake this for a lack of confidence though), but believe me he takes his work, in this case cycling, and everything he does very seriously.

Americans are to able love their country even when, in the case of early African-American athletes, their country may not be so loving back. Even when you disagree with a policy, a government, or even a war you perform as the best American Athlete possible. You do it for America as much as you do it for yourself. You are proud not because America or Americans are so inherently great, but because we achieve so many dreams despite the fact that we are a flawed people. The privilege is not what we were born with, it is about what we pick up throughout life.

Now many of you may not believe all of this (even many of my fellow Americans). It might appear too self serving, and does not provide a rounded enough approach to Lance and what being an American is (and this I will admit).

That is ok.

There are no guarantees that another American will win a Tour de France, though the fact that 3 Americans did finish in the Top 10 is promising. That said if another American wins the Tour you can be sure he is not out to win just one. He is out to win 8, or 10 for that matter, and Lance Armstrong, the brash Texan from the United States will be a big reason why.

Congrulations Lance!

Posted by mightymerk, 3:59 PM


By Blogger Mark

Great post, merk.

A lot of Canadians have a knee-jerk negative reaction of the US, which I do understand but don't really agree with. American culture is obviously unavoidable in pretty much all areas of the world, and our inability to define our own identity has left us fairly confused, and resentful of this encroachment. Especially since we are such a close neighbour. Sadly, many people in Canada define themselves by what they aren't - American.

My father was born in the states, and gets extremely frustrated that we as Canadians pride ourselves own understanding other cultures and being tolerant, yet we freely allow ourselves to be intolerant or blind to the US mentality per say. It's easier to pretend that you're dumb and we're smart. A good example is the missile defense shield. For us, it is an easy project to mock, shoot down (no pun intended), and use as a point of pride and sovereignty.

My dad describes these monumental 'decisions' (landing on the moon is another) that you guys make as not only an important way to push the envelope but as a means of advancing technology, and allowing the investment in these projects to trickle down into all areas of the economy and advance many areas of the country. That concept is completely lost on a country that is passive for the most part.

Don't get me wrong - I love Canada...just wish more people up here would give you guys a break! And realize that the US is responsible for most advancements in the world (be they pharmaceutical, industrial, medical, athletic, etc...).

Congratulations Lance !

@ 8:31 PM  

By Blogger mightymerk

Hi Mark,

I always appreciate your comments.

I will be the first to admit that Americans have a bad habit of sometimes resembling the worst criticisms made about them, but that said I know we are decent folk.

I like Canadian people very much, no matter how many 'people' will deny it, on both sides of the border, we are more alike then different. I too am puzzled though, as why so man Canadians get so much more excited when they announce they are 'not American' as opposed to when they state they are Canadian. I have seen/heard this on the road several times. These people seem to wear it like a badge of honor. I'm puzzled.

As I stated, the every dayAmeican likes the role of the underdog. If we are 'dumb' and 'ignorant', so be it. You still have to compete with us in the market and in the Tour!! ;)

@ 5:57 AM  

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