I can’t think of a time in recent history where falling could be used as both an inspiring metaphor while at the same time describe a spiraling ride to shame, and dishonor. Both have been stunning.
Of course I’m talking about Felix Baumgartner, and Lance Armstrong. Both of these men achieving stunningly detailed, and witnessed falls. Yet, one is the absolute polar opposite from the other. Once again I can’t think of such ever happening like this before.
Heroes and the need for them is part of the human experience. Sometimes in our own trying hours we’ll look for guidance or inspiration where one can say; “Yeah, you did and so will I.” Sometimes we find it spiritually. Sometimes from a fictional character in movies or books. However most times it’s an actual person in pursuit of some quest. Whether they ever achieve it or not isn’t always the end all be all. Sometimes it’s the effort that matters more.
The problem that arose in the case of Mr. Armstrong is not so much in the results that we found out he actually did the things that were accused. It’s in the case that for so long, after all the denials, the court cases, and more. They were never able to prove it. So many like myself and others rooted for him.
We discussed at water coolers how it was just the jealousy of nationalistic judges just wanting to dishonor the accomplishments. After all it has been nearly 10 years, and never so much as a misdemeanor type charge ever stuck. The more he fought, and accused all comers as players of an inquisition; the more people stood beside him.
The difference with this case as opposed to the baseball steroid fiasco was this: Once the show trials started you pretty much knew from the get go what transpired. With Armstrong it had all the signs he was in the cross hairs of jealous inquisitors hell-bent on damaging his repute for spite’s sake. The more they accused with no proof, the harder we defended him. Most were “all in” only to find 10 years of defense crushed in a near week.
It wasn’t as if after years they finally proved say in 2001 he used some borderline substance that could be argued legal or illegal at the time and lost his argument. That would be inconsequential for most. The issue is that we learned in near stunning detail collaborated with team mates, eye witnesses, doctors, emails, financial records, and more. It was all a lie. Not them, but from Lance himself. That is what turns a hero into a pariah. No more hero-worship to be bestowed. Now just scorn, and branded as a disgrace to sporting itself. My my how the mighty can indeed fall.
On the other hand we have Felix. His fall into grace was captured live on both the web, and television with breathtaking results. The details that are emerging on what this man had to do, and the unknowns he faced, is nothing more than what heroes are truly made of. Simply amazing.
Just two facts that in of themselves are bewildering. One: They had no idea what would happen to him or his suit once he broke the sound barrier. Two: In order to reach the altitude of 128K plus feet he would need to endure nearly 3 hours strapped into a capsule the size of a dog house. All the while wearing an all enclosing suit, and helmet. Why so impressive? He’s claustrophobic! The only thing more impressive would be: Oh yeah, and he’s afraid of heights.
Today we look at two heroes. One we’ll scorn and lost everything in which it seemed he would do anything for. And did. The other we’ll look, cheer, and hold in our highest regards as challenging the unknown and being brave enough to risk it.
However in the case of Felix Baumgartner, many will only be further impressed if we find he stood on that platform 24 miles above the Earth ready to jump, and wasn’t on any drugs.
© 2012 Mark St.Cyr