One guy was among the greatest losers in the history of politics, the other, one of the biggest winners in all of sports.
They were unalike men who shared little except recent headlines. But there was, in that brief juxtaposition, an object lesson for those who cared to see it.
The loser -- George McGovern -- made headlines by dying at age 90. He is famous for having been on the rump end of one of the most thorough election shellackings in history, cobbling together a measly 17 electoral votes in 1972 to
Mr. McGovern, a decorated
Yet, though he took controversial stances and paid for it politically, Mr. McGovern is remembered today as a man of uncommon decency and principle, a man who was true to himself. When he died, former
If you've got to be a loser, there are worse ways to be remembered.
And that brings us to the winner --
And that was the final straw. Mr. Armstrong was formally stripped of his titles, banned for life, and dropped as a pitchman by Nike. He also stepped down from the
Remember, once upon a time, when our parents told us, "It doesn't matter whether you win or lose. It's how you play the game"? But the spirit of the nation, the spirit of the age, is probably better summed up in the motto embraced by
There is nothing wrong with competing hard, with wanting to win, or with sacrificing to get there. Except when the thing you sacrifice is your own humanity.
So one hopes the object lesson here is not lost on us, that it is taken to heart -- not simply by athletes using banned substances, but by "journalists" committing plagiarism, by kids scamming their way through school, by politicians who stand on both sides of every issue, by the whole inauthentic, cut-and-paste culture wherein appearance browbeats reality and cheating is so ubiquitous that, as a student caught up in a cheating scandal once put it, "it's almost not wrong."
There is something to be said for simply being who and what you say you are. In juxtaposing these two lives, these two fates, we learn that our parents were right, once upon a time. Better you lose with integrity than win seven times without.