When I read that Oscar Pistorius (aka The Blade Runner) had allegedly fired shots through his bathroom door, killing his girlfriend to death as she sat inside, I felt yet another ping of disappointment. There’s been a whole string of disappointments lately. I guess that’s life, but it certainly is an unpleasant feeling. No one enjoys being let down by those that they look up to and admire.
I have a special interest in sports stars, probably from my athletic background. Like many others, I cherish the comeback stories and relish the tales of determined people who make it happen despite the incredibly huge obstacles that they face. I keep these people and their stories in a special place in my heart, and feel the heartache when things suddenly don’t go well.
Like Oscar, for example. He stood out in the most recent Olympic games in London. Since witnessing his performances at the Games, I have pulled up those images in my mind as I would have a particularly challenging run, and used those images to give me strength to continue. With two artificial legs, he was able, with his drive and determination (and some good genes), to run alongside well-bodied athletes and compete at the elite level.
I discussed him with my oldest son Devin as recently as a month ago, when he saw Oscar on the TV and wondered what the heck that guy was wearing on his legs. I told him that I really look up to that man, because he always tries his best. I tried to relate having that disability with some of the challenges that Devin might face in his particular situation (i.e. with two gay dads, as an African-American), and told them that if he focuses and tries really hard, he can make his life great too. I’m not sure how Oscar now being a murderer will fit into my neat little story. Forever the optimist, I always hope that in the end the truth will show that the death of his girlfriend was unintentional. The jury is still out on that case.
More cut and dry is good old Lance Armstrong. More than almost any other athlete in recent history (or ever), he lived a fairy tale story of winning the Tour de France, being brought down to his knees by testicular cancer (which spread), and then making the ultimate comeback to win again. I told my sons that I had competed against Lance in a triathlon many years ago, and I was so impressed by his athletic prowess and work ethic even when he was a teenager. I was never able to beat him, but I felt honored to be in the same race as he. Now, since his tell-all on Oprah recently, I had to tell my sons that another one of my heroes had not only cheated to enhance performance, but had lied right to my face and the American public. Since I was an avid cyclist, I had many people ask me over the years if I thought that Lance was using performance-enhancing drugs, and I had his back 100% of the time. Can you say “sucker”?
Recently my son’s kindergarten class learned about the challenges faced by Martin Luther King, Jr. in his time, and my son came home and spoke highly about the fact that MLK felt so strongly about not being judged by the color of his skin, that MLK paid the ultimate price. At that point Devin felt so proud to be the same color as MLK. He wondered aloud if some day he could stand up for something and speak the truth just like MLK did, or even be President some day, because “I’m sure if you’re President you tell the truth.” I’m not sure how I can break the news to him about former President Bill Clinton and his lies to his wife, his friends, his family, and the American public, or Richard Nixon and his famous “I am not a crook” statement to the faces of the American public, both of whom lied so convincingly to an audience of millions.
I admit it. I’m especially sensitive to the fall of a hero or the crumbling of a relationship. Brad & Jen, Heidi & Seal, and Madonna & Guy have all left their scars. I cry hard when I find out I’ve been lied to by someone I love. I give people the benefit of the doubt. I stand behind them until the bitter end. So I’m in a quandary as to how to approach my boys with the truth: nothing lasts forever, don’t believe everything you hear, and other sad idioms. For now I’ll let them believe in the happily ever after, love will conquer all life, because they are so young and fragile. And I too will be lying through my teeth.