I sit with “It’s not about the bike” in my right hand, with my left one wrapped tightly over a recently read copy of “Every second counts”. I frown as I keep turning both the books and see the man on both covers; he is smiling. I am not.
I sit thinking, deeply disturbed about the USADA’s decision to strip Lance Armstrong (follow @lancearmstrong) of his 7 Tour de France titles and ban him for life. And why shouldn’t it be disturbing? It’s not easy seeing the man you admire caught up in a controversy that embarrassing. It breaks my heart. This is not how I want to see my hero – frustrated, tired & finally giving up without a fight! He refused to give in to cancer, then why the hell is he refusing to fight now? Some, feel for him. Others think, his refusal to contest against the USADA’s decision is a testimony of his guilt. By now, in 2 days, you might have seen several of these stories doing rounds. The world is understandably divided. Fans are supporting him, critics are demeaning him while others on the sideline are just going with the flow. I don’t know whether Lance Armstrong is guilty or not. It’s a question that will be best answered by him. People might speculate a thousand things but in the end what we feel for him in our hearts is not going to change. Can you erase the memories of all the times he won those titles? Can you erase those smiles he put on peoples’ faces? Can you erase every word you read from his books? And can you forget what his foundation Livestrong represents?
This isn’t a stigma on a normal sportsperson. It is a stigma on a hero, on the sport and above all on the rosy picture we create around ourselves. So, suddenly, is Lance Armstrong the villain now? The cheat, The bad egg, The liar?
You have seen this cricket’s bad boy number of times. But as all bad boys, there is something irresistibly sexy about him – the tattooed arms, lean body, messy haircut and smoldering hot attitude. And although he would not be the guy you would normally like to bring home to meet your parents; he certainly is the one for late night bike rides. Kevin Pietersen (follow @kevinpp4) is all that and much more. Lately, he has been under a lot of flak from the ECB, team-mates, coaches for sending smses to his South African counterparts. Makes you wonder, since when did sending smses became such an unpardonable crime.
2011 was the year of the English cricket team. They created records, topped rankings, won cups and Pietersen had a large role to play in England’s rise. In the recent series against South Africa, England lost and had to give up their “No.1 team” title. However, that didn’t discourage them from sending KP packing off in wake of the final test. England lost, as expected. The one dayers’ also are not their best bet. South Africa just have to win one match to topple the rankings once more. And so they will, as expected. And although, England does have a lot of quality players in their side, it will be a miracle if they are able to defend the T20 Championship title next month.
Some say, KP’s career is over. Some say, he still has an outside chance. Some say, the ECB will keep him out of the team long enough to teach him a lesson & then take him back. But, who is an expert on the English pride? KP did make a sincere video apologizing for his behavior. But, bad boys never look the part of a “meek apologizer”. Who would expect that of them? For the authoritarian English people, this certainly must have sounded hollow & phony. It is difficult being a bad boy!
From purely cricketing point-of-view, keeping all the moralities aside, you would be a fool if you don’t admit the fact that when you have seen Mr. Kevin Pietersen batting, you have seen one of the best batsmen batting on the current international scene. As a fan, this fiasco deeply saddens me again. There will always be this looming dread that we might never see KP bat again for England. (Thanking IPL at this point). KP’s switch-hit – it became a rage earlier this year in IPL, KP’s sixes – something to die for, KP’s effortless batting – a treat to watch. The way he carries his 6 foot 4 inches frame, proudly flaunting his biceps, that cool look on his face, that cocky ‘too-sure’ attitude suits him perfectly right down to the confident swagger of his walk. You never want to be on the opposite team when KP’s batting. You just want to gaze from afar and be mesmerized. A hero or a villain? A hooligan, you say…
Two larger than life Heroes. People I have looked up to. For different reasons, yet for the same purpose – inspiration!
Even if you keep the cancer part apart, Lance Armstrong’s story in itself is a perfect storybook material. An ordinary boy with extra-ordinary talent went on to win 7 Tour de France titles and became the master of cycling. You come across thousands of such examples. People from a humble background making it big on the basis of their unquestionable determination and talent.
Now add to it the fact that, here was a guy who got testicular cancer that had metastasized to his brain & lungs at the young age of 25, he fought it, emerged victorious, came back to race again and win Tour de France. With this, the story has the making of an international bestseller. It is a story that makes you cry, that makes you smile, a story that tells you hope’s never lost. A story that gets etched on you brain and on your heart without any extra effort.
Cancer is not only a disease, it is also a curse. A curse so profound that it drags the person suffering from it to the depths of hell, while still alive. A curse so profound, that it condemns not only the unfortunate person, but also his or her loved ones as well. Cancer attacks one person, but destroys families! Still, many people fight it and survive. But Lance Armstrong was your no ordinary survivor, he was a ‘winner’ – through & through. His foundation – Livestrong today inspires and uplifts so many cancer affected people. In him, we found a hero who was much worthy of genuine accolades & love than the mere on-screen ones.
KP’s story still does not have a concrete ending. It is left to hang in uncertainly, poised in between unsure & undecided. A South African who felt intimidated by the quota system back home, migrated to England and earned a place in the national squad. Relinquished captaincy for a short while, faced critics audaciously, yet never compromised his game. Who cares if KP is not a team player? Who cares what he is as a person? One thing is true, what he is – is right there out in the front. No pretenses! He doesn’t wear those fake masks. Do you believe every other person in the English dressing room is a saint of magnanimous proportions? Or for that matter – are all players currently playing the game, crusaders of kindness, virtue & morality?
There are so many good players all over the world today. But, KP is something that only a few of them are – Entertaining!!! His batting can best be summed up as hypnotizing. OK, so we don’t have a hero with the best attitude in the world but we do have one with an attractive reckless streak.
The problem with us is that we always have believed that world could be divided into good and bad, right and wrong, yes and no. We, who are swathed into blankets of everyday frustrations search for heroic figures to look up to. Pure genius they say is something bestowed upon few. God might be generous in squandering talent around but when it comes to giving the brains & a hardworking will to utilize those talents, God is cruelly stingy. So, some of us, who are the unlucky lot look up to the one’s in the lucky lot.
Ever since humanity came into existence, it has taken upon ‘worship’ as it’s ultimate redemption tool. Any person, however conceited needs an idol to look up to. A seemingly perfect figure that serves as a benchmark for attesting self-achievements. A revelation, a motivation, an influence.
But, blind are we to the faults of the ones we deem as great. We do not realize that these people are mortals like us, living breathing mortals who drink & eat to live. When I wrote, Heroes are People too 3 years back, I expressed similar sentiments regarding the unusual predicament common people always find themselves in.
Heroes are people with their own past – none too different from your own. A past; that has regrets, embarrassing situations, mistakes, lies and secrets.
I have a friend who is allergic to eggs. Now you know as a general fact, that eggs are a rich source of proteins. Doctors, health professionals will recommend it as a part of our daily diet. Yet, if a person allergic to them happens to ingest some, they could be life-threatening. Are the eggs bad then???
How do we decide what’s good or bad? Based on the age-old moral values that we have been following all life? How do we know for a fact what is true and what is false? What is right or what is wrong?
Should we condemn Lance Armstrong now if tomorrow he admits his guilt? Should we abhor KP, just because he isn’t a team player?
Will we ever realize that people cannot be divided as Heroes or Villains? Will we ever realize that we cannot categorize every person between two extremes of black or white?
Will we ever realize that the best of men, famous or infamous, are always cloaked in subtle shades of grey…
(This is a personal account with no intention of causing harm. It is my view on two people that I greatly respect & like. For further insight into my life, I can be followed on twitter here @pillya)