I always thought that those yellow bracelets everyone was wearing for a while were lame, to be honest. You know the ones: remember? Then the trend somehow became even more unlikely, with people wearing all different shades of rubber on their wrists. Yeah, all lame, I thought. Also, I don’t know if Joakim Noah is homophobic, or otherwise bigoted. Related things. In fact, the latter explains the former. How?
Well, Lance Armstrong is a cheater. Maybe. I don’t know. Neither do you. You may know that Lance Armstrong is a cancer survivor. I personally am less sure that he’s one then that several people who I do know, personally, are. You probably know a cancer survivor. I bet they never asked you to wear a yellow bracelet.
So why did people do so when Lance asked them to? Because they enjoy bicycle racing? Of course not; the one thing that practically all North Americans agree on is that bicycle racing is not a spectator sport. Whatever the reason, I hope it is not because they assumed that Mr. Armstrong had made his spectacular return to competitive athletics without benefit of biochemical technology. This would be naïve. Competitive cycling is one of the several sports in which steroids and other performance enhancing drugs became normal, before our society’s collective feigning of shock.
Noah called somebody ‘fag’ or ‘faggot.’ He yelled it at a heckler. It may have just been my imagination, but in the next moment I thought I caught a glimpse of young Joakim catching a glimpse of himself in the cosmic reflector (in this case personified by a television camera directly across from him), and wishing he could hide under his chair, before he realized that the past could never be undone and he was just going to have to hope no-one was paying attention. Well unfortunately, lots of people were paying attention. And that’s what’s really sad. Not the slur. Not the cheating. Those are just people doin’ stuff. People not doin’ stuff, while claiming they’re doin’ stuff, is actually worse.
It is not sporting to associate someone with their worst moment, particularly if it seems isolated, has unusual context, or some other mitigating factor. Furthermore, obsessing over an individual’s transgression is not the same as doing something about it. Just like wearing rubber bands and, all too often, ‘raising awareness,’ are not the same as doing something about a problem.
Cancer and homophobia are problems worth our time and effort. Cheating in sports, obviously less so. Ought we to endorse or disavow misters Armstrong or Noah for their actions? Of course not. We don’t know them. What possible relevance could our endorsement or disavowal have? It is relevant only to ourselves, as a method of avoiding the issues.