The yellow rubberized wristband on my left arm caught the attention of the women scanning all my of Ben & Jerry’s frozen yogurts containers in the supermarket check-out stand Saturday morning.
“Hey, live strong!” she blurted out, holding up her own left arm to display her yellow bracelet.
A few seconds after I swiped my ATM card, I figured out what provoked this band-bonding moment — she was implying that we both were in public support of the “LIVESTRONG” slogan to fight cancer on behalf of cycling marvel Lance Armstrong.
I didn’t have the heart to correct her.
“CHEAT TO WIN,” it said on my piece of silicone.
I slip this one on once and awhile for a reminder — don’t believe everything you read, don’t get sucked into everything that seems to be the perfect solution, don’t be surprised when athletes fail to live up to the ridiculous standards we often expect of them.
I shouldn’t be caught off guard with others still don’t get the message.
Back in 2006, after Floyd Landis was stripped of his Tour de France victory, the “CHEAT TO WIN” parody bracelets were produced by The Onion, the satiristic and savvy “Nation’s Finest News Source” that seized upon the opportunity to make fun of the Armstrong phenomenon that had become a Nike-induced fashion accessory.
The Lance Armstrong Foundation and Nike were behind cranking out these $1 scraps of rubber into a mult-million dollar fundraiser in the name of cancer-curing research.
Presidential candidates sported them, as well as all the top-flight actors and actresses, Olympic athletes and anyone else who wanted to be on part of Team Armstrong.
Wikipedia even has a page for it (linked here).
It led to spin-offs of different colors, raising awareness upon awareness of other diseases that needed our funding.
Yellow fever must have been one of the causes we failed to fully acknowledge.
While we were kept aware that Armstrong had to keep fighting off doping allegations that came with every one of his seven Tour de France titles, his tests kept turning up positively negative.
This past week, something snapped back.
The latest “overwhelming” evidence produced by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency forced Armstrong to decide it was time to step down as chairman of this charity he founded 15 years ago. Nike was one of several who dropped him as a corporate sponsor quicker than a chain coming off a sprocket.
What a nice strong-arm tactic by the uber-company that had created this global marketing icon. Phil Knight might has as well have been leading Armstrong away to shame jail with wrists bound by “LIVESTRONG” bracelets.
So, Phil, what do you propose we do with all these Armstrong bands of support now?
At the Livestrong online store (linked here), the thing that comes in three sizes continue to sell — 10 for 10 bucks, 100 for $100. Because the hundreds of millions of dollars already raised isn’t enough.
At the Onion store, the “CHEAT TO WIN” bands aren’t around any longer. Try eBay.com.
Which one speaks louder now?
The one athlete who may have changed a huge segment of the sporting population into believing that he could power through against the C-word makes any us now mull over our own C-words: Conflicted, confused and probably even more cynical.
Wendy Adams of Manchester, Penn., told CNN (linked here) this week that she and her sisters wore the bracelets when their dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2004. He died a year later. The family respected his wishes by having him cremated wearing the bracelet.
But Adams said she can’t wear hers anymore. She now refers to the seven-time Tour winning* (to be determined) Armstrong as “a liar, a manipulator.”
Some have taken to adjusting their bracelets to darkening out the “V” so it reads “LIE STRONG.” A few years ago, some guy started cranking out black “LIVE WRONG” bands. Not to mock those who had cancer, but have a laugh at the expense of those who dropped out of Corporate America to get on their bikes and live in the mountains.
With mountains of evidence now apparently sending Armstrong to retreat from Corporate America, there’s a larger mountain of yellow wristbands that must be dealt with.
Use them to hold the trash can liner in place? Stretch them around the stack of Armstrong biographies on your book shelf as you donate them to the local library, to be shelved under “sports,” “history” or “supernatural occurrences”?
Scrap that. The stupid thing is Nike actually has a program on its website (linked here) that could help here.
It has been soliciting used or broken “LIVESTRONG” bracelets for years as part of its “Reuse-a-Shoe” program. They’ll crush ’em up and regenerate them into material used to resurface a playground.
The best answer is to recycle, at a time when our most notorious cyclist will soon be trying to reinvent himself and restore his image in the court of public opinion.
Of course, those who want to keep the bands as a reminder that they or someone they love actually beat cancer, more power to you. Let the grieving process continue as you read more about Armstrong’s legacy.
Those of us who keep our “CHEAT TO WIN” band nearby as a reminder of things we can’t fix, maybe more compassion for us. Our grieving process is a daily issue.
That, and the skin that thickens around the band just makes it tougher and tougher to slip off each time.