Decked out in yellow, Lance Armstrong enjoyed an illustrious career in the Tour de France. He beat cancer, trained his ass off, became one of the world’s best-ever cyclists and then made a comeback, eventually losing to rival Alberto Contador in the event’s grueling final stages. Sporting the famous Yankees pinstripes, Roger Clemens threw bone-shattering fastballs, head-hunted hitters and took New York on multiple World Series runs. Yes, both players might have likely cheated, but the statistics speak for themselves. Drugs or no drugs, Armstrong and Clemens are some of the best-ever athletes in their respective professions.
Obviously, pro athletes live their own lives, just like anyone else. Just like you and me, they make mistakes. And life goes on. But I’m always baffled by both Armstrong and Clemens’ Texas-sized egos, which characterizes them just as much as their records on French and Swiss mountains and across American League stadiums. Athletes are placed under tremendous scrutiny, and in Clemens’ case, the New York media is notorious for keeping a close watch on the pros. Moreover, there are countless people that are jealous of top athletes’ success, who resent these men and women that are tremendously fit and wealthy. However, for these Texans, it’s simply unimpressive. Their egos taint much of the great things that they have done.
On one side of the equation, you have athletes like Curtis Granderson, Chrissie Wellington, George Hincapie, Andrew Luck and Craig Adams that not only excel in their sports, but lead exemplary lives by championing philanthropic initiatives, working within the community, speaking intelligently to the media and maintaining their humility despite outstanding athletic performance. These are the types of people that the media should focus on. They inspire others and can strongly influence the next batch of pro athletes.
Clemens surely does his fair share of charitable work and Armstrong founded a great organization, Livestrong. Moreover, there’s no doubt that both of these men have inspired thousands, if not millions, of young athletes. That’s commendable; few people can affect others with such magnitude. My only issue is that they have squandered much of the positive influence that they could have had. Today, Armstrong’s official records are no more, and Clemens is making yet another baseball comeback, with the Sugar Land Skeeters.
Though I don’t count on this happening, I hope that Armstrong and Clemens turn the media focus from the ugly to the good. It doesn’t take long to forget bad habits and build effective ones. If they do this, their influence will grow exponentially bigger than it is today.