NOBODY WANTS TO BE LIKE LANCE

Lance Armstrong's sad legacy hits new low

Photo via: WikiCommons

Like so many others time and again, I gave Lance Armstrong a second chance. I watched Part 2 of ESPN's documentary on Armstrong, certainly one of the greatest athletes ever produced in Texas – maybe the greatest. I know, that's sounds weird, the greatest, but it's true. Or was true, until the 7-time winner of the Tour de France bicycle race was caught using illegal, performance-enhancing drugs and his accomplishments were wiped from the cycling record books.

Part 2 of Lance proved Armstrong even more despicable than Part I. Every time he opened his mouth, he was a bigger ass than 10 minutes ago, than a week ago.

I was looking forward to the Lance Armstrong documentary on ESPN. After all, The Last Dance, the series about Michael Jordan's final championship season, was amazingly captivating and reaped record ratings for ESPN. The premiere episode drew 6.1 million viewers.

One week after The Last Dance concluded, the premiere of Lance, about the life and time trials of the serial Tour de France champion, stunk up the Nielsens, blew a flat tire, with fewer than one million viewers.

Why the difference? The Last Dance revealed that Michael Jordan is a bit of nut case obsessed with winning, but never cheating. The Lance Armstrong documentary merely confirmed that Armstrong is a narcissistic jerk equally obsessed with winning, but always cheating. At one point in the show, Armstrong was asked if he wished to be relevant again. His answer: "I am relevant."

No, you're not. Next stop: Dancing with the Stars.

Another reason The Last Dance was a bigger hit than the Lance Armstrong documentary - in America, the NBA is a thousand times more popular than professional cycling. Love him, or, let's say not love him, James Harden is a superstar in Houston. LeBron, Steph, Giannis, Luka, Kemba, Kawhi and others are household first names in the U.S.

Nobody, in any sport, was more famous than "Michael" or "MJ" for even shorter. He was the brightest sports star, worldwide, of the past half-century. Yes, The Last Dance exposed his personality flaws and personal failings. He wasn't the most-liked teammate. Some suffered his acid sarcasm, one his fist. That only made the documentary more compelling. He won fair and square through talent and insane commitment to greatness. Most of the public, especially young people, really did want to "be like Mike." And when the dust cleared from his playing days, Michael Jordan came out the other side a billionaire, or close to it.

Another thing, Jordan never left the public stage. He is still one of the most successful brands in sports, and his logo is the all-time biggest sneaker-seller. There have been 26 different models of Nike Air Jordans. Last month, a pair of Jordan's game-worn sneakers from his 1984-85 rookie season sold for $560,000 at a Sotheby's auction. That's an all-time record for sneakers, but only slightly less than a pair of Air Jordans at Foot Locker today.

Lance Armstrong once graced a Wheaties box. He once was Barbara Walters' "Most Fascinating Person of the Year." Now, with the exception of himself, nobody wants to be like Lance. While cycling may be a popular spectator sport in Europe, here it's a non-starter, relegated to cable channels you have to pay extra for. The most interesting thing about professional cycling is listening to our local sports anchors pronounce "Tour de France" like Pepe Le Pew.

Come on, name the winner of the last year's Tour de France. I'll make it easier, name one person who competed in the Tour de France last year. Or the past 10 years.

I watched both parts of the Lance Armstrong documentary on ESPN. His claim of still being relevant … really? If Lance Armstrong were standing behind you at Target, would you recognize him? The documentary showed Armstrong crossing the finish line at the Tour de France over and over. Lance Armstrong today, at 48, doesn't look like that guy. It's been 15 years since his last yellow jersey, and except for a confessional with Oprah or a news story about settling a lawsuit, he's been out of the public eye, vacant from the sports pages. He's graying on the sides, heavier and his hair is longer and slicked back. He's still is good shape, better than anybody I know, but no longer that steroid-powered, pedal-pumping, steel cable of muscle from his racing days.

Taking nothing away from conquering cancer, Lance Armstrong simply is not a compelling figure. He's bitter that former rivals, who also were caught doping, are more celebrated in their countries than he is in America. After being discredited, he lost his endorsements and much of his fortune. He was fired from his own Livestrong charity. His legacy isn't cherished. He doesn't get a hometown discount in Texas.

In the documentary, Armstrong complained that every mention of his name usually is preceded by "disgraced." That just proves how disliked and unloved he is. Pete Rose cheated baseball, most of America thinks he should be in the Hall of Fame. Ric Flair, the "Dirtiest Player in the Game," is in the WWE Hall of Fame. Alex Rodriguez was suspended from baseball for the exact same reason that Armstrong was banned from cycling. Today A-Rod practically is the face of baseball.

Lance Armstrong was the best ever, now he's a never was, I'd say "you can look it up," but you can't. His triumphs have been erased from the cycling record books. He's just a famous liar, former cheater, and current awful person. Years ago, Trek told Armstrong he couldn't sell its bicycles. In 2020, nobody was buying his documentary.

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The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

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