Thursday, January 10, 2013

Et tu Brute...

I encourage all of my friends, neighbours and casual acquaintances to look up in the night sky on or around the 21st of January, 2013. On that night the Moon and Jupiter should be holding hands in the night sky directly in between Orion and the seven sisters of the Pleiades. In fact, Orion will have his bow and arrow cocked and ready if either of the two planetary objects decide to make a move on the constellation of lovely ladies. Personally, I wouldn't put it past them.

The other slow moving, huge, planetary object you may have seen in Canberra this week was the sight of me on my bicycle trying to navigate the city streets on my way to work. The downhill ride to school is a wonderful 8km journey down the mountain with the cool morning air blowing in your face. Of course by 2pm in the afternoon the office is too hot for gainful employment and then it dons on me that my decision to ride my bike in the morning was short sighted at best. Uphill all the way home, the journey can only be managed by stopping at every lemonade stand on the way. Canberra literally sizzles in the summer as temperatures soar towards the 40 degree mark. The danger around here lately has been grassfires which have been smouldering around the town. It is a natural occurrence in the Australian summer and for the most part it can be contained, however when the cocktail of weather conditions includes hot temperatures, no humidity, not a drop of rain in sight and high winds then the fire brigade goes on high alert. In fact, if the conditions all come together to create the perfect fire storm, they list the danger as catastrophic which means that the firemen really can't help if something sparks. The last time it occurred in Canberra was 2003 when many homes were lost in a series of blazes. The threat is real, but I suppose its much like blizzards in Canada we downplay the danger because we learn to live with it. I remember many a winters night when a sane person wouldn't have taken to the roads in the freezing rain but there I was whooshing down the 400 highway to get somewhere altogether unimportant with 15,000 similarly insane motorists.

This morning on my ride down Mount Taylor my thoughts turned to one Lance Armstrong, the devil that won 7 Tours of France while overcoming cancer and was vilified by all concerned for doing so while under the influence of performance enhancing materials. I find it amazing the capacity that we have as humans to suspend reality when it stares us directly in the face. Does anyone really believe that an athlete can excel at their sport without the use of performance enhancing drugs. Do those of us that watch sports really believe that people can climb the alps on bicycles, throw balls 100 mph, play 200 games a season, run like cheetahs and lift 1000's of pounds without medicinal intervention. I just watched a playoff football game where two 35 year old men played with broken hands and torn shoulder muscles. These are the kinds of injuries that would render humans incapacitated for extended periods. Yet, we cheer on these gladiators in anticipation of the glory of our favourite team uniforms, towns or countries; never considering what they may have sacrificed or what they have done to their bodies to get ready for the contest. Athlete's know and accept the trade. They give up their bodies and their well-being for the rest of their lives for our entertainment and glory, knowing that if they do it well enough and long enough they will make a good amount of money for reaching the pinnacle of their sport. Of course we rarely mention that that they make money for a whole pile of hangers on along the way. Those that cheers them to their glory while selling beer to the spectators. I am not saying that taking performance enhancing drugs in the context of a competitive sport is the moral choice, but from my experience in athletics, I believe it is the only choice for athletes. We make the stakes too high. I feel for the Australian swimmers who failed to live up to expectations at the London Olympics or the fourth place Canadian Junior Hockey players that missed out on a medal and will be tarred with the national shame for their lives as a result. We allow the media to create the expectations and the pressure associated with the pursuit of results, and then we are shocked when athletes make questionable choices. And when Lance Armstrong is caught we plead innocence, as if we never knew.

So I end my blog the way I begin, out looking at the stars. After all I believe it was an English poet who once reminded us that " the fault, dear Brutus is not in our stars, it is in ourselves".  We look at our superstars and heroes closely and often see their faults, but we do not consider that the seeds of their downfall is in all of us. Remember that when Lance has his interview with Oprah. He'll cry on her couch and try to salvage his celebrity with redemption. Should we buy it? I say we should never have bought it in the first place. We all know the choices we made if we we are honest enough with ourselves.

Wow! It's obvious that cycling leads to blogging, hopefully I'll remount soon...but when it's cooler.