If you are uncomfortable due to the chaos, corruption, and falsehood firehose that is the Trump administration, I can offer a minuscule bright side. Now you can understand how I feel about professional cycling and Lance Armstrong.
Consider the similarities.
They’re Both The First Thing People Outside Your Circle Want to Talk About
There was a time when riding a bike of any kind on any street in America would invite someone to scream out of a passing car window, “GO LANCE!” That has faded somewhat as Lance’s 7 Tour de France non-wins recede into history, but Lance is still the person a non-cyclist is likely to bring up at a cocktail party if they find out you ride bikes.
Similarly, if you have the good fortune to travel abroad and the bad fortune to be discovered as an American, everyone wants to talk about Trump and his supporters. What can you say about him? The same thing we could say about Lance: No, I don’t know how this happened. No, I don’t know why people support him even though he’s so clearly corrupt. Yes, I still love cycling/America.
Their Success Reveals the Entire Game as Flawed
In a 2018 CNBC interview with Lance, speaking about Trump, Lance dismisses the president as a “loudmouth,” but then goes on to say about himself and his professional cycling contemporaries, “We all lied.” Right, Lance, but you were the Lance of lying.
Lance and Trump are similar personalities. They rise to the top of their fields not necessarily because they are best at the overt pursuit, but because they are brutal, efficient, and unencumbered by guilt. They no more regret their slashes than does a knife.
So why are we letting knives in here?
They Both Cling to Achievements that Don’t Make Sense
Trump loves his wall. Even though the idea has been debunked and rebutted ad infinitum, the guy just can’t let it go. It’s like he’s Ahab and the wall is his white whale, except that Ahab had greater success. Sure, Ahab lost his ship and his life at the end but I can respect that a lot more than a man declaring success while visibly, repeatedly harpooning empty air.
So too does Lance love his much-vaunted fight against cancer. This is the part that galls me the most because of the family members I have lost.
The moral flotation device Lance so enthusiastically throws himself is still his advocacy efforts with Livestrong. You remember the yellow bracelets, right? So does Lance: “A-Rod didn’t raise half a billion dollars and try to save a bunch of people’s lives.”
But it’s not clear that Livestrong used that money to save lives. In fact, it seems to have focused more on “awareness” than giving money to, for example, “research.”
I’m not saying Livestrong did no good because there is evidence they did. I’m also not saying there’s no fence between Cuidad Juarez and El Paso because there is. But the Trumpstrong bluster does not match the actual wind.
The questions, “Wait, why are these people fleeing their homes in the first place?” and “Wait, why don’t we spend some of these billions on research?” are both good ones for which neither Trump nor Lance care to offer an answer.
They Both Make America Look Like an Inept, Success-Mad Joke
What else can I say about the above? These men make us look like a snake so blindly desperate to eat its own tail that it accidentally ate its own feces.
Sure, they both now bear their undeniable asterisks, but they still won’t give up being themselves. Why not? Because they can’t. And in that way, they are very much the same.