Bikezilla

Ride the Puddles

Pirates and Good Men

Posted by bikezilla on May 11, 2011


There’s something I’ve noticed over the past few months that I find interesting and perplexing.

Fans of professional cycling are so sick of and sickened by the stream of dopers and doping enablers that they spend a lot of time looking for and hoping to find, the “good people”.

But the string of disappointments has been so long, and so compounded by the complicity of teams, managers and UCI, that it has left most of us so jaded that we exclude anyone with the slightest smudge against them.

We’ve stopped looking for “the good people of cycling” and focused on finding the perfect people.

We’ve set a standard that can only lead us to disappointment.

I’m going to regurgitate what I still find to be one of the most profound movie lines ever, from the first “Pirate of the Caribbean”.

“Now as long as you’re just hanging there, pay attention. The only rules that really matter are these: what a man can do and what a man can’t do. For instance, you can accept that your father was a pirate and a good man or you can’t. But pirate is in your blood, boy, so you’ll have to square with that some day. And me, for example, I can let you drown, but I can’t bring this ship into Tortuga all by me onesies, savvy? So, can you sail under the command of a pirate, or can you not?”

We’ve forgotten that all of us have our own battling “pirate and a good man” and that the heroes we seek are going to have some portion of both, as well.

For instance:

Jonathan Vaughters.

On one hand his career as a professional cyclist was tainted by an association with doping, and he’s at least twice hinted at his personal use of PEDs. On top of that he’s never come out and named names, dates, times, places, so he seems to be protecting dopers and perpetuating professional cycling’s doping culture.

And, oh yeah, he’s not above bullshitting us when it suits his needs.

On the other he does more to promote professional cycling, to unite teams, to gain some measure of equality for them in their own governance, to restructure anti-doping controls so that they’re fair and meaningful, to promote a culture of anti-doping, than any other player in the game, and he does most of it for no remuneration at all.

But instead of balancing that and damning him where he deserves to be damned and applauding him where he deserves applause, we bitch slap his azz every chance we get.

There is not a shortage of reasons to question and berate JV, but we tend to see him as all “pirate” and totally lacking in “good man”.

In doing so we deny ourselves the very thing we’re looking for, the identification of a guy who is overall a pretty decent human being in addition to being good for professional cycling more often than not.

Or what about Paul Kimmage?

True, his passion is so often untempered that he goes overboard in his pursuit of witches. But why is he really so distained? Because he dared to question Lance Armstrong, because he saw the truth and had the guts to say so out loud, and because we were so busy worshiping Lance that we allowed him to vilify Kimmage in our minds.

And it turns out that Kimmage was right all along, yet he’s still tainted by Lance’s damnation of him.

Then there’s Greg LeMond.

Again we have a guy who saw something wrong and who had the courage to tell us about it openly, though he had nothing to gain from it and quite a bit to lose. Again we have a guy damned and tainted by Lance Armstrong’s malice against him,and we don’t seem to give a damn that AGAIN we have guy who was RIGHT.

Or how about Bill Strickland.

I can completely understand the view many hold that he wasn’t honest with us about his knowledge of Lance Arstrong’s career long love of PEDs, especially for those who disagree with my conclusion that he didn’t lie to us, but instead was misguidedly trustful.

But just like with Vaughters, Strickland isn’t damned where he deserves damning and praised where he deserves praise. Just like Vaughters he’s taken to be entirely “pirate” with no “good man” in him at all.

He isn’t seen as wrong, or stupid, or misguided, but as evil, lying and conniving.

Our standard is not merely one of goodness, but of perfection. We’re desperate to find the good men of professional cycling, but we constantly cheat ourselves because we refuse to see beyond the pirate inside of them.

No one deserves a free pass, especially no one in a position of power and influence. But we shouldn’t allow our judgments and prejudices to keep from us that thing we constantly strive to find.

The question has been asked, “How do you / we decide who’s really evil and who’s just a good guy with some unpleasant shit?”.

Well, it’s hard to set absolutes, but here are some basic guidelines.

They like meringue, or if you prefer, meringue. Right, that disgusting stuff made of egg whites and sugar.

They do not love Oreos.

They like brussel sprouts, lima beans, boiled onions, liver, biscuits.

They are my ex wife.

They do not love Dr Pepper.

They think their pie crust is as good as or better than my Nan’s.

They have names like Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Lance Armstrong, Johan Bruyneel, Pat McQuaid, Hein Verbruggen and Patti.

They . . . never mind, too much information and this all just gets too hard to follow. But you get the basic idea.

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