As I sat down to write this column, a million ideas went through my head: a few blistering responses to some of my colleagues’ columns, why being a miserable sports fan is reserved for Cleveland only, why special teams in college sports just don’t matter anymore, and many other OK (but not great) ideas for a sports column. I wrote out treatments on a few of these columns, but none of them really stood out and popped at me. I decided to take a break and peruse Facebook to try and beat the writers block I had attained, then I saw the date. It was Oct. 2.
What is the importance of Oct. 2? Well, to some it was just a regular Monday afternoon, nothing particularly special. For others, it was a test day, maybe the start of mid-term week. For others, it was a day to wear yellow. Oct. 2 was the day that Lance Armstrong was diagnosed with testicular cancer. It was a day when the sports world truly changed.
Lance Armstrong is, in the simplest terms, an American hero. He won seven straight Tour de France’s, known around the world as one of the toughest endurance challenges of all time. To win simply one will put you in a league that not many people are in. To win two is to etch your name in glory. To win seven … in a row? That will make you a man of myth and legend. No American had won the race since Greg Lemond 20 years earlier, when Lance entered in 1999 on a fleeting U.S. Postal Service team that was filled with the rejects of other squads. Mostly with other Americans around him including George Hincapie and Tyler Hamilton, Armstrong would go on to win the Tour in 1999, after having survived an illness that nearly killed him. This illness caused Armstrong to not only quit a sport he loved, the art of cycling, but also stare death in the face.
In 1999, Armstrong returned to the sport of competitive cycling with a new lease on life. The former world champion had never before finished in the top 25 of the Tour, but he would win and he would not look back until he had changed the world.
Twelve years later, a bigger race then the Tour de France remains for Lance Armstrong. It is the race to save lives and find a cure for cancer. On Oct. 2, 1996, Lance Armstrong was diagnosed with cancer. On Oct. 2, 2011, he still rides on. Armstrong has become a symbol of hope and perseverance for not only cancer patients but for people around the world. Armstrong’s story continues to generate attention today. Cancer affects everyone in one way or another: whether a family member contracts the illness, your neighbor gets it or you just hear about it in the news. Lance Armstrong is living proof that sometimes things transcend sports. That sometimes we forget that in the grand scheme of things, sports doesn’t really matter. Seven times Lance Armstrong rode around the Champs Ellyse in Paris wearing yellow and he’s not done yet.