8.24.2012

That yellow band: does it stay or does it go?


It started about two years ago, during the aftermath of a sales meeting far far far away.   I was wearing a yellow rubber band, as I have for the most part of the last 6 years, and I got called on it.  "Livestrong, man ... Live STRONG."

It wasn't said in an encouraging way.   Not like it used to be.   Instead, it was accusative.   It was the way Newman talks to Jerry.   Or Archie to Meathead.    An extremely pointed comment, wet with sarcasm, implication and collusion.

As I live and work on the periphery of the cycling world, it's probably natural to assume that the yellow bracelet on my wrist is a rah-rah-Lance thing.   There are certainly plenty of folks who sport the Livestrong band for that reason, and I've had numerous conversations over the years with people who see mine and immediately jump into a bicycling conversation ("... so, you're a cyclist?"..."looking forward to the Tour?").   

But the band for me ... and for many, many others ... is a cancer thing.    It's a subtle, almost invisible reminder of the things you've been through, or the things other people have been through.   It's an everyday reminder to not sweat the small stuff.   A quiet encouragement to squeeze in that run after all.   A tiny cheerleader that says "go for it."

As quantifiable as Lance's impact has been on cycling (increased ratings, increased sponsorship dollars in cycling, road bike sales, etc), it's nearly impossible to measure his true impact in the cancer world.   Yes, the Livestrong Foundation has made -- and given away -- a lot of money.   But in the chemotherapy wards and the oncology waiting rooms,  there are a lot of people -- like myself -- who encounter a stack of his books on nearly every table and end up reading it with a different kind of filter.   A filter that honestly won't ever bother to watch him on Vs., or give a rat's ass whether he ever won one, two or twenty Tour titles.   A filter that sees the world as truly not being about the bike.   A filter that helps to make peace with the cancer process.

Don't get me wrong.   I'm not a Lance groupie.   The fact that he's being stripped of Tour titles and banned from cycling doesn't mean squat to me.    And while the allegations against the Livestrong organization have certainly gotten my attention, that part of things really seems like a witch hunt.

Selfishly, at this point, it's about me.   It's not about the bike, and it never has been.     But this somewhat private, just-noticeable-enough token has become much more conspicuous today.

At times I've tried other mental reminders ...  things around my neck, different types of wristlets ...  but they get lost, or they don't seem to work quite as well on my aging brain as a flash of yellow under that suit sleeve, or they just feel too heavy, too obvious, too wrong.     And the cycling conversations aren't horrible, it's just that any guy with shaved legs and a half a Michelob Ultra in his bloodstream seems really eager to cross a major freeway to lecture me about doping.

As of this morning, the yellow band is still on.  It feels more right than wrong, more personal than public, more me than him.

But the day after tomorrow?   It'd be cheating to say for sure.

    

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