Monday, October 22, 2012

"The Levi Effect," Hero Worship, and Lance



Watching the trailer to this film I'm at once impressed by the cinematography and what appears to be a high quality production and compelling story, and left wondering where we are as a society as far as hero worship.  There is an old saying about cultures getting the heroes they deserve and in light of the recent implosion of professional cycling and doping (although I don't know anyone who was really surprised by the extent of the "doping program") I'd say that this is certainly true.

Having sports heroes has always been somewhat puzzling to me.  I'm very much in awe of some of the physical acts that you can see the human body perform on any given week in sports around the world.  To not be impressed by what the human body is capable of seems odd.  I'm not sure how that is truly different than being amazed by Noam Chomsky's work in linguistics or Hugh Everett's many world's work in quantum physics.  Of course, to enjoy some of the great intellectual giants I don't have to endure the ridiculously crass commercialization that surrounds sports.

Where we get into trouble seems to be with going beyond the appreciation of an amazing physical feat and somehow investing ourselves in the human performing them.  That has been the very thing that made Lance Armstrong such a cultural icon.  It was greatness of his physical achievements wedded to his very personal story of cancer and recovery that made him so compelling and gave him the "Q rating."

For years I've been saying when asked, "Lance probably did dope but until they have definitive proof you have to give him the benefit of the doubt."   I'm kind of hung up on the seemingly antiquated notion of innocent until proven guilty.   Well, it appears that the fat lady has sung if you don't mind me mixing my sports references.

In the end I'm still going to appreciate the way he and others were able to drill those pedals and ride away from their competitors.  Frankly, I feel a bit bad for all those second tier or domestique riders who got swept up in the doping culture.  The pressure must have been intense and it's not like those B level riders were making much money.  Professional cycling is big business but the big money only goes to a select top-tier of riders.  If you had the choice of going back to living on $15,000 a year, working a day job, traveling in a van or camping as you tried to race the U.S. circuit and perhaps win a bit of prize money or jumping to a larger team with a "program" and you could make hundreds of thousands of dollars what would you do?

This is a long-winded way of getting to a new that is screening Tuesday night all over the country called, The Levi Effect.  Levi Leipheimer was never the household name that Armstrong is but he's a respected and formidable rider in his own right.  After the screening there is a panel discussion.  Considering that his name came up in the recent report on Lance's doping program I'd be curious about where that discussion goes.  It screens at the Riverside and Summit Sierra on Tuesday.

Screening and ticket info here.

"Having to face this part of my career on camera was one of the most challenging moments of my life. But in order for this story to have integrity, I had to open myself to the makers of this documentary and step well outside of my comfort zone." ~Levi Leipheimer

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