Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A world without limits.

So it would appear that Lance Armstrong has been stripped of his Tour De France titles and that the UCI is going to abide by the decision of the USADA.

I was a little bummed out at first. After all, with Lance single handedly getting Americans excited for a sport that usually posts worse TV ratings than hockey here, and with a sport that translated well into people buying bicycles and being more active, and to top it all off was a cancer survivor, it was hard to want to accuse the guy of being a cheater. The accusations seemed to channel away from him like the way you see water channel away from the surface of a rain tire in the Michelin commercials.

The more that I learned about it, though, the more I wondered about how somebody could win the Tour seven times in a row under the competitive pressure that there was at the time. Jan Ullrich who won the Tour in 1997 is now recently banned from cycling because of doping. Marco Pantani, who won in 1998, suffered a long downhill slide in his mental state after being disqualified from the Giro d'Italia in 1999 for an irregular blood result and was accused of doping for the rest of his career. Pantani subsequently died in 2004 from a cocaine overdose.

Looking at humanity as a whole, we love competition - it's what makes us go. It's what got America on the moon when we got scared by Sputnik and the Soviet's perceived capability. It's what makes our cars on the road better every year when we get innovations spurred by NASA and NASCAR. It's what makes you check your leaderboard scores on your favorite game, or to see how your football pool is doing. In a way, I try to tap into that competitive urge when I talk to somebody about cubing, since some people see something and say to themselves "I gotta do that". Under the right circumstances, it's a great motivator, and it can spur on the innovations and new ideas that we might not see otherwise. That's not to say that competition is not without its perils. Would we be ready for a world without limits? If we removed all restrictions on cycling, how long would it take for someone to have a stroke on live TV during a race? If we removed restrictor plates from NASCAR, how long would it take for the cost of the accidents to be a deterrent to going to a race?

The thing is, some people need some competition once in a while to make them feel alive, but there's little value in it if it's just going to kill them.

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