Many years ago, a preacher and friend gave me some of the best advice I have ever received: Never put your faith in a human being. Sooner or later, an individual will always disappoint you.
In the nearly four decades since I received that advice, I have been reminded of the accuracy many times. More times than I care to count, I have been disappointed by the failing of men and women of whom I had had great faith. Even more times, I have been disappointed in myself.
When Lance Armstrong was winning seven straight Tour de France races between 1999 and 2005, I had great admiration for him and thought he must be one of the most amazing athletes ever. I can’t think of any more physically grueling athletic event than that long bike race throughout France. The fact that Armstrong could win it year after year despite being a cancer survivor made his accomplishments that much more amazing and admirable. What an inspiration had to be for others battling cancer.
As the world now knows, Armstrong won because he cheated. While he continues to be in denial, the rest of the cycling world — including many of his former teammates — admit Armstrong participated in the illegal doping that was widespread in cycling during the period. Armstrong now has been stripped of all of his titles and the hero that millions admired now is scorned.
Armstrong is hardly the first athlete to disappoint me. I used to have great admiration for Tiger Woods. I admired that even when he clearly was the best golfer in the world, he continued to strive to get better. He also had a beautiful wife and children and projected the image of being a great husband and father.
Of course, it was all a sham. Just days after he ran his vehicle into a tree outside his home, we discovered Woods didn’t just cheat on his wife one or two times, but did it on a regular basis with many different women. Amazingly, as soon as we discovered the real Tiger Woods, his ability to play golf took a nosedive. Well, as far as I am concerned, he got exactly what he deserved.
As a Cincinnati Reds fan in the 1960s and 1970s, I loved Pete Rose. I loved the way he played the game of baseball and how he used his God-given talents to the fullest. Many other athletes have more athletic ability than Rose, and no one used their talents as well as Rose did his.
However, Rose lost his luster when he was banned from baseball for gambling. While I still can’t believe he ever bet against the Reds and still think he should be in the Hall of Fame, there is no question he bet on baseball, and that’s a cardinal sin that tarnishes the integrity of the game. I still think Rose played the game the way it is meant to be played, but I no longer consider him an admirable character. To listen to him, he comes off as an arrogant jerk who has no remorse for what he did. He’s not the “Charlie Hustle” I once admired.
Not all those who have disappointed me over the years have been athletes. In fact, most have not been athletes. As a young reporter in Bowling Green, I had great admiration for the head of the water, sewer and sanitation commission, which in Bowling Green was separate from the city commission. I considered him a great source who I could depend on for good accurate information. That is until he was indicted and later convicted for stealing from the water, sewer and sanitation fund. He was the first public official to disappoint me. Unfortunately he was not the last. Far from it.
When I was the lay pastor of a small church, I shared my old friend’s advice about not putting one’s faith in humans and also told my congregation to not put too much faith in me. That’s because like everyone else, I also fall short of what God expects of me. Many times over the years, I am sure I have disappointed my wife because of my actions, and there have even been a few times when she has disappointed me.
So be it. None of us is perfect. We are all sinners. That’s not excuse. That’s just the way it is. I will continue to be more like God wants me to be until the day I die, and I probably will continue to disappoint God and my fellow man.
No doubt Lance Armstrong did what he did because he was convinced everyone else was doping up and the only way he could compete was to also do it. Maybe without the drugs he would have been just another cyclist, but that’s no excuse for cheating.
I can forgive him for what he did, but I never again will admire him.
JOHN CANNON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (606) 326-2649.