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On God and Faith

I hope there is a God….

First, let me give you some background….

I was raised to believe in God as a Catholic because my mother, her mother and her mother’s family back to our ancestors who came from Wales (I was told the family once owned a castle named “Hughes Castle” before World War II), England and Germany were all Catholics. My father was raised Protestant, not that I ever saw him practice his religion.

My brother, sister and I all went to Catechism Class on Sundays, received 1st Holy Communion (reception of the Communion host symbolizing the “body of Christ” it symbolizes the bread which Christ broke at the Last Supper saying “take this, all of you, and eat of it…for this is my body which shall be given up for you…do this in memory of me”),  and Confirmation (reception of the Holy Spirit) attended mass on Christmas and Easter Sunday.

I remember feeling a strange sensation in my chest when we entered the church as a child…a feeling in the center of my chest of fear and awe…feeling that, though “God was everywhere”, as I had been taught, He was definitely in his house, and that made me believe.

As I grew older however I began to question the existence of God. It wasn’t “cool” to believe in God as a teenager in high school, especially in the late 60’s and early 70’s, where social values and morals were changing so drastically.

In addition, I had some doubts about Cannon Law and how it pertains to Catholics. My grandmother, who I dearly loved, was a devout Catholic yet her first marriage was not a happy one, I do not know all the details but I get the impression that it was “rough” at times. She got divorced and later married a man who I knew as my grandfather. He was a good husband to his wife and a good father to my mother. However, my grandmother was excommunicated for remarrying and though she did not speak of it, it was my impression that this hurt her very deeply.

I am personally against abortion but believe that it is not for one human being to tell another what to do with their own body. I believe these decisions should be between that person and their maker. I would also challenge those pro-lifers to each personally back up their words with action and take on the challenge of adopting and raising an unwanted child or the child of a drug addicted mother. There are many arguments that can be made about abstinence, sex out of wedlock, etc but it is not my intent to debate them in this article.

It is for these reasons that I began to question my beliefs, or, at least those beliefs as taught by the Catholic faith.

During my 20 years in the Navy I waffled in and out of my belief in God. For one thing, the majority of behaviors in port of most of the “sailors” I knew (present company included) ran contrary to how I believe the good Lord would have preferred we behave, particularly concerning women and alcohol. It is said that God offers absolution for those who repent (multiple times) and regret their sins.

During the periods when I put my own selfish thoughts and practices aside (somewhat), I studied different religions, Mormon, attended a Pentecostal service, and Baptist services, though I admit I was doing it a little more for the girls I was dating at the time then for matters of the soul. I did attend a Presbyterian church for quite a few years as I really enjoyed the service and the people of the congregation seemed more genuine than those of other religions.

Throughout the rest of my Naval career and after retirement I would go through periods where I would attend services on a regular basis. During my last 2 years in and my subsequent retirement in the Groton, Connecticut area I attended Catholic services at the Shepard of the Sea chapel, which was one of the two chapels for the U.S. Submarine Base New London.

I attended Catholic services for a number of reasons. I enjoyed the Catholic chaplain. He lived right around the corner from me in Groton and we had talked from time to time. In addition, I was impressed in the way he conducted Mass. I have seen many priests who have conducted Mass by just going through the motions, no passion, no joy, some priests who have acted like they wanted to be anywhere else but at Mass that morning and then those priests who like to scare the hell out of you. They preach the fear of the wrath of God to enforce obedience, rather than teaching people to come to God through love and encouragement and to seek God in times of trouble. The chaplain at The Shepard was one of those priests who took the love approach. That man gave the perception that there was no calling he’d rather have then teaching the love of God and no place he’d rather be on a Sunday morning. Though I haven’t always agreed with ALL the teachings of the Catholic faith, I deeply admired the depth of his personal faith and his willingness to discuss other religious points of view.

Though I had always questioned the sincerity of a service that pretty much uses the same prayers in the same format every Sunday, I did enjoy the sermons and have always strove to listen to the priest’s homily and truly meditate on what was being said. In addition, I could see how the ritual of the same prayers in the same order during the Mass could be comforting to many. I’ve always looked at christian religions as teaching everyone the same thing in different ways. You go with what speaks to you the best.

That does not, however, condone those who practice prejudice and prejudgement against others. These are not christian principles. Christ has been quoted having said “Judge not, lest ye be judged”, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” and ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

I must also point out that these principles are not a solely christian province just as God is not a solely christian province. And there are many other non christian religions, along with agnostics and atheists who practice these principles as well. “God loves kind Atheists over hateful Christians”….

I’ve been married twice. The first marriage broke my heart and when I first started dating my current wife I told her that I never wanted to get married again and that I didn’t want to have a child. Then, 9 years later, we had a child.

When my son was born I wanted him to be brought up to believe in God. I believe that I would raise him with up with the same foundation I had and that when he was old enough to form his own opinions he would follow his own council. I too raised him in the Catholic faith as both my wife and I had been.

At the time my son was old enough for baptism, though I attended Catholic church, I did not consider myself Catholic. Because I wanted my child baptized and raised as a Catholic, I spoke with the chaplain and told him of my first marriage, my current marital situation and my feelings on getting married. But I also told him of my desire to raise my son in the same faith and, that because of my deep respect for his conviction, I would like him to perform the baptism. I said that I thought the Catholic church should be happy that we wanted to bring my son up Catholic and that my son should not be punished for MY actions in living with a woman out of wedlock. The chaplain agreed and performed the baptism.

Later on, I finally did decide to get married. It was my intent to get married in the Catholic church which I had received Communion and Confirmation in as a child but the parish priest made such a big production over the administrative requirements of having my previous marriage annulled and his whole attitude was one of annoyance that he had to go through the policies and procedures, rather than one who should be happy that “a lamb was returning to the fold” that I decided instead to get married in an Episcopalian church. That priest was more than happy to perform the pre-marriage counseling required, eagerly assisted in ensuring that, though I was previously married, that I met the current requirements to marry in the church. He was very pleasant and welcoming and did an excellent job in officiating over the ceremony. It seemed he viewed performing the marriage as an honor…not an onerous chore.

As my son became old enough to start attending CCD in preparation for his 1st Holy Communion we switched from attending the Episcopalian church to the Catholic church my wife had attended in her childhood. In deference to Cannon Law and out of respect for Catholic rules I did not accept communion as my marriage was not recognized by the Catholic church, even though, for me, Communion is the central and most meaningful part of the Mass. However, my wife was concerned about how our son would feel walking up to accept communion alone while I sat in the pew. The Monsignor was very pleasant and helpful in counseling us on the procedure for annulment within the Catholic church. We submitted the paperwork

Another reason is that to be able to accept Communion in the Catholic faith is that you must observe the Sacrament of  Confession and reconciliation. This requires you to confess your sins to a priest. In Catholic theology it is believed that priests are the liturgical(?) ancestors of his original disciples, in who Christ is to have given the authority of absolution for sin, “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained,”. However, I have an issue with having to confess my sins to anyone else but God. I pray to God frequently, everyday and multiple times throughout the day.

One of the issues I have with confessing to a priest is that they are men…and no man is perfect. witness the antics of various “men of the cloth” in various religious sects, not just Catholic, throughout most of the history of religion. Though I believe that a majority are devout in convictions and take their holy orders seriously some of them have proven to be absolute stinkers…and why should I have to confess my sins to someone like that?

Another issue is that if you truly believe then you must believe that the priest does have the divine power and authority of absolution…and that by his actions your sins are forgiven by God. If you don’t believe that then you are just going through the motions. It’s one thing to be comfortable with the ritual and framework of the Mass…it’s another to be going to Confession just to check off a mark on your holy requirements list…kinda like showing up every week for Mass, but showing up late, leaving early, or cursing and cutting off people in the parking lot after Mass…like your “punching your ticket” that pretty much makes you a hypocrite and God’s not that stupid.

But, as I did want to be able to accept Communion, for myself as well as my son, I finally did go to Confession  figuring that the odds were pretty good that I would get a priest who was good and truly believed in his faith. And if he truly believed then perhaps there was something to absolution after all, and that, regardless, God was listening and he was the one who was going to have the final say anyway.

So, at present, I do attend church on a fairly regular basis and have faith in God…but I also question that faith on a daily basis…

For one thing, many would argue that there is no quantifiable scientific evidence proving the existence of God…

I have my best friend, who is a good man who is suffering in the last stages from TWO very aggressive forms of cancer. These cancers normally affect those who smoke yet my friend has never smoked and has always been in good shape until he got sick. He will leave behind a wife and two sons who are grown, but my heart almost broke when his wife told me about him saying that he regrets that he will never see his sons get married and never hold his grandchildren…why, God?

I’ve lost two other friends and shipmates to cancers, who were also good men, who left behind wives and children of various ages…why, God?

I have a friend and shipmate who lost his young wife, a woman who worked as an oncology nurse helping cancer patients. She died of cancer and left behind a son and a daughter who are transitioning from high school to adulthood…why, God?

I read this evening, on Facebook, a post from a woman who I know is a devout Christian, who prays and gives praise and works hard. She’s suffered some medical problems and as recently as yesterday has suffered major hits to her financial situation and her income. She has not lost faith but she is scared for the future…why, God?

All I’ve ever prayed for is to be worthy of my sons and to be able to support my family. I have always strove to be good to others, to treat them fairly and with respect and to do no harm, physically and emotionally. I haven’t always succeeded but I still try, everyday. I’m not asking God for a handout (though I wouldn’t say no to hitting the lottery) just that He guide me in my endeavors to build a secure and comfortable life for my family. Yet, despite my prayers, lately it seems that the “challenges” have become tougher, with very bad outcomes and have multiplied greatly. I’m really struggling not to give in to despair and hopelessness and I ask…why, God

When I read stories of children who are abused, tortured and murdered and think of them scared, in pain and knowing that monsters are real and no one will save them I think…why, God?

I know about the teaching that the greatest gift God bestowed upon man was “free will” and that the crimes against each other are due to man exercising that free will and the evils of one man against the other but still have to ask…why, God?

On the other side I see stories of people saved from situations they should not have lived through. People who have recovered from illnesses or injuries that should have killed them, people who were pronounced “clinically dead” who have come back to life.

I myself, lived through a motorcycle accident that probably should have killed me…when I got catapulted off on my head at 70 miles an hour.

A few decades ago, when I was at a very low point in my life, I remember getting into my car and praying…I asked “why, God?”…and as I turned the car on I heard Mick Jagger sing “you can’t always get what you want…but if you try sometimes…you just might find…you get what you need”

I believe that math, sciences and logic display the mind of man…but that arts and music display the soul…which is God’s province.

I hope there is a God because I don’t want to think that I spent all those years of my life praying and believing in something that wasn’t there.

I hope there’s a God because I want to believe in miracles. In things like love, loyalty, friendship, honor, consideration and caring for one another…these things carry no logical, practical, monetary or material value yet a majority of us choose to practice them anyway.

I hope there’s a God because if all we have to look forward to is this life of toil and struggle, the machinations and rule of current world governments and the kindness, civility and charity of the current world populace to look  forward to for the rest of our lives then we are well and truly screwed.

I hope there’s a God because I do truly wish to be reunited with those I love in an afterlife….

So there you are…my personal treatise on God and Faith. But I believe that beliefs and faiths should be questioned and examined from time to time…not just followed blindly.

and, perhaps, the main tenet of faith is choosing to believe though you don’t have all the answers….

So I hope…and pray…there is a God….

“The Mouse That Roared” The 1966 Honda CB77 305 Superhawk

Dynamite can sometimes come in small packages. Kind of like the little guy in a fight who can hit the big guy 15 times before the big guy lands a shot. And so it is with the Honda 305 Superhawk. The motorcycle that ended the dominance of the big British twins in roadracing and was a precursor to the failure of the British motorcycle industry.

IMG_22061966 Honda CB77…the 305 “Superhawk”

In the 1960’s British motorcycles were the most popular bikes being sold. Brands like BSA, Triumph, Norton, Matchless, AJS etc were ruling the racetracks with their big British 500 and 650 twins, in roadracing and in Tourist Trophy/Hare Scrambles. The British motorcycle firms had been around since the late 1800’s. AJS built it’s first motorcycle in 1897, Matchless in 1899, Royal Enfield in 1901, Triumph in 1902, BSA constructed it’s first experimental motorcycle in 1905. Compared to the British bikes Japanese motorcycles were “cute”. Sochiro Honda had started out putting 50cc motors that would run on kerosene or poor octane fuel in bicycles as a form of cheap transportation after the war. How could a motorcycle company with such humble beginnings and being a late comer to boot (Honda started building motorized bicycles in 1946) even begin to compete with the storied, established firms of the British empire?

In addition, anything “Made In Japan” was considered “cheap” and poorly made. Japanese motorcycles started at 50cc two strokes and went up to 305 while the British bikes ranged from the BSA 175cc D7 Bantam “Super” to the BSA 650 MK III “Spitfire” the “Thunderbolt” and the Triumph 650 “Trophy”. And, as I stated above, they were considered “cute” where British bikes were considered “bold”. British bikes had Marlon Brando on a Triumph “Thunderbird”….Honda had the Beach Boys with a 305 “Dream” and “You Meet The Nicest People On A Honda” campaign.

The 1966 BSA 650 Mk III “Spitfire”

But the Japanese are nothing if not quick studies….especially when it comes to engineering. They are masters at taking something and making it faster, lighter, and more powerful. Also, the same people who were responsible for making “cheap” toys were also the ones responsible for one of the finest swords ever manufactured…the katana. And during the war had also manufactured some of the best aircraft and ships and were technologically advanced. A great example is they were the nation building the first submarine that could launch and recover a seaplane.

In addition the British motorcycle manufacturing higher ups had lost sight of the purpose of building their machines in the search for more money. These executives weren’t motorcyclists, they were “financial experts” and “marketing experts”. They didn’t listen to their engineers, customers and the people who raced their machines. They didn’t invest in new manufacturing tooling to replace the existing tooling, or invest in innovative styling or performance. They stated that there riders would prefer “tradition” above all else. There are stories such as when one engineer told an executive that American riders were unhappy with valve tappets constantly needing to be adjusted because they would vibrate out of specification due to sloppy manufacturing tolerances because of worn tooling. The executive’s response was that a “true motorcyclist” preferred to spend his Saturday mornings readjusting the valves (instead of riding?). There is another story that when American owners complained about British motorcycles puking oil all over their garage floors because of poor case mating surfaces once again due to old manufacturing tooling….their answer was to send the owner a chrome oil pan to place under the motorcycle. A running joke with late 60’s and 70’s British motorcycles was that it was when you DIDN’T see oil under the bike that you should start to worry…..because that meant the motorcycle was out of oil….

In roadracing, though the big British twins were powerful and had a higher top end speed, they were heavy, had around a 7500 rpm redline. Their brakes were woefully not up to the job of adequately stopping the motorcycle. As my father says, “after two laps you would grab the brakes…there’d be a puff of smoke….and goodbye brakes”. The 1966 BSA Mk III Spitfire weighed 408 pounds wet and was rated at 53 hp at 7000 rpm.

DSCF0499By comparison the,  Honda 305 Superhawk weighed 351 pounds wet and made 28 hp at 9000 rpm. it had an advertised top speed of over 100 mph and one road test at the time had clocked the bike at 104 mph. In addition it had twin leading shoe brakes both front and rear. It also had electric start in addition to kick start, was dependable, well built and didn’t leak oil. It had a tubular frame rather than the pressed steel of the commuter bike, the Honda Dream, of which the engine was an integral part. You could also order optional roadracing equipment such as a “bumstop” seat, megaphone mufflers, low bars or clip ons, different ration rear sprockets and the footpeg mounting plates offered 3 different mounting positions for regular upright riding to rearsets which included optional shifter pedal linkage. You could pretty much take your motorcycle out of the crate, remove the lights, install number plates and go racing. The motorcycle in the photo above displays this optional equipment.

DSCF0496footpeg mounting plate with 3 position mounting and gear shift pedal linkage

The end result was that, though the larger British bikes had a higher top end speed and would catch the smaller Japanese bikes on a long straight, the smaller, lighter higher revving Japanese bikes would accelerate faster, reach their top speed quicker and, due to their superior brakes, wait much longer before braking into the next turn. Most road tracks only have two long straights, one at the start/finish and one somewhere in the backfield, the rest of the track consists of short straights and twisty turneys. It was on these tracks that the Honda’s excelled and you had motorcycles with less than half the displacement of the big British twins winning the races and often taking 2 or more of the top positions. And, as the old adage states, “win on Sunday, sell on Monday”.

DSCF0498a look at the well engineered guts of the 305

As a result of the better engineered, dependable package, constant updating in both performance and styling coupled with winning over and being less expensive than the big bikes. Japanese motorcycle sales soared and British motorcycle sales tanked. The higher ups in the British motorcycle industry (remember those “experts”) never woke up, believing their larger (“size matters”) motorcycles would appeal to the more manly motorcyclist and that their history would be more appealing to the motorcycle market….so much for “resting on your laurels”. They tried to save the British motorcycle industry by merging manufacturers but due to continued shortsightedness they only succeeded in having the lesser performing brands bring down the better brands and the whole industry collapsed in the late 1970’s. Thankfully, the Triumph brand returned in the 1990’s and high end, well built Nortons appear to be making  comeback in a niche market.

My father restored this particular 305 about 9 years ago from the frame up, Other than the powder coating on the frame he hand sprayed the painted pieces of the bike with spray paint in cans, much as he did back in the 60’s with his old race bikes. The restoration has held up well. The motorcycle is a little cranky when cold but starts and runs well when warmed up. It more than adequately carried my 230 pound ass in this years Philadelphia Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride and kept up with the bigger machines at speeds up to 60 mph. as my father has a habit of naming is bikes, due to it’s diminutive size and unbaffled megaphone exhaust, he named this bike “the mouse that roared”. And I think the name fits quite well…..IMG_2207

 

 

Tested…..

Today I will take my 3 hour Black Belt Pre-Test at Action Karate Newtown, one of the final steps and a culmination of 4 years of study and effort towards the goal of achieving a Black Belt Rank in American Kenpo Karate.

Achieving a Black Belt in a Martial Arts discipline, though I have never spoken about it,  is something that I had hoped to achieve since I first studied Aikido at the age of 11. Unfortunately, at that time, after about a month of study, my brother came up behind me one day and startled me and I wound up using some of my technique on him (hadn’t grasped the “self control” aspect yet) and Mom decreed that was to be the end of my practicing karate.

I have never seemed to find the time until my son Nicholas, who will also pre-test today started taking karate 5 years ago. 1 year after he began I was awaiting the start of classes for the Department of the Navy Security School. At that time I was 53 years old, 250 pounds. I had JUST barely passed the physical screening requirements for the school (getting over the 6 foot chain link fence was a BITCH and lets not even talk about the diving(?) through the window part) and was badly out of shape. In June of 2009 the karate studio was offering a free month for dads’ so in order to inspire my son and to get in better shape I enrolled.

I get my White Belt June 2009

Receiving my white belt at the beginning of my training, June 1979

Today I will test at 218 pounds and am in better shape than I was at 45.

Trophys won at last tournament before Black Belt pre test

T8rophys won at last tournament before Black Belt pre test

I do not have many achievements in my life that I personally believe are notable. I left high school after 11th grade and did not graduate. (I obtained my GED 4 years later.) I did not go to college. My achievements that I do consider notable are my completion of Rescue Swimmer School at Coronado Naval Amphibious Base in April of 1975, my qualification in submarines aboard the USS Memphis (SSN 691) in September or 1979 and my successive service aboard 7 other submarines afterward

688 at Periscope Depth

and my retirement after 20 years of naval service 31 July 1994. If I obtain the Black Belt rank this achievement will rank with those others as one of the proudest personal moments of my life.

As a testament to Miss Anne, Mr. Ogborne, the Head Instructor Mr. “C” and all the staff who helped me at Action Karate Newtown I truly hope that I am worthy enough to earn this.

Follow on to “Writing Sucks”….Self Editing and the Perception of Others.

Recently, Justin Timberlake released his new song  (bringing) “Sexy Back”. The link to the video is here:

http://youtu.be/ofFSXKk5yhQ

In addition the last Super Bowl XLVII,  featured an ad from Calvin Klein featuring a very handsome toned young man in nothing but a pair of Calvin Klein briefs.

Calvin Klein underwear image One for the ladies!

One morning, after I had finished my shower and was getting dressed, my wife was breaking my chops over my appearance and I made a statement along the lines that if she was so impressed she should take a photo…..which she did…with her iPad. She then threatened to put it on Facebook. Since I have no ego, or pride, I like a good laugh and I like embarrassing my wife, I posted the image on Facebook…….

Bringing sexy back III
forget Justin Timberlake….I’m bringing sexy back….

In addition to poking fun at myself for laughs I thought I would put an image out there that signifies the inherent sexiness of your average, middle aged “Common Man”. We work hard and raise families….we don’t all have time to go do the GTL…the “gym, tanning, laundry” routine that young guys with no responsibilities have. (Yeah….I’m dead sexy!!)

After posting the photo I received some comments that, while not necessarily condemning, were inferences that the post might not be appropriate. And, as one who is involved with children at various civic and social organizations, I began to worry about what others may perceive of the post and the impression they may have of the organizations I volunteer at.

But then I thought “hold on, my clothing in this photo is no more inappropriate than the bathing suit wear in the summer”. In fact, as I wear a pair of my old Navy diving trunks, which have been in use since WW II (and which my wife absolutely hates), those trunks are shorter than the boxer jockeys in the above photo.

Navy diver trunks II

Viggo Mortenson in Navy diving trunks from “G.I. Jane”….

I then began to ponder other similar examples of dress and subsequent exposure of the human body available in today’s media. Movies, television shows and print advertising. Let me show you a few examples to provide some perspective:

Rowan Atkinson from "Black Adders' Christmas Carol"
Rowan Atkinson from “Black Adders’ Christmas Carol”

Above we have Rowan Atkinson in a “posing pouch” taken from the British television program “Black Adders’ Christmas Carol”…

David Beckham underwear ad II

David Beckham in an H&M underwear ad…..

Playtex underwear ad

this is a Playtex ad….

Dove ad

and a Dove ad…

Marky Mark Calvin Klein

Mark Wahlberg in a Calvin Klein ad….

and finally….I submit the following…..

Fat Bastard
“Ah’m ded sexy….”

Addendum to “The End Of “Heroes”…The Persecution Of Lance Armstrong.”….. I Eat Crow…

Lance Armstrong apologizes to the staff of the Livestrong Foundation

A few months ago I wrote a blog entry about “the persecution of Lance Armstrong” in which I defended him passionately. I have also defended him just as passionately in verbal face to face conversation.

After Lance’s confession to Oprah Winfrey it is time for me to “eat crow.”

I have been an admirer of Lance when he was a talented, brash young cyclist, before his bout with cancer and his multiple Tour de France wins. His overcoming the disease and his subsequent “domination” of what I believe to be the worlds most grueling sporting event was an inspiration to me as well as many others throughout the world. I followed and cheered him through his victories and bought and read, multiple times, a few of his books. In addition, regardless of his curt style with the media and his brutal retribution of those who questioned his ethics I believed him to be a decent person and fair competitor. A prime example is a Tour de France stage and his actions as leader of the peleton during a crash by his closest competitor, Jan Ulrich. Instead of “putting the hammer down” and increasing his lead, he waited until Ulrich had caught up to the front, inquired as to if Ulrich was okay, THEN continued racing.

His philanthropic efforts in establishing the LIVESTRONG Foundation were also inspiring. Finally, a professional athlete who didn’t put his ego ahead of decency. Who realized that the true measure of a sporting event was in the effort you put into training and the skill you portrayed in winning the event based on your own natural strength and endurance. And who was willing to share his talents, celebrity status and finances to try and make the world a little better place. I believed him to be a good example of what we COULD be if one trained hard, was candidly honest and be willing to help his fellow man.

Apparently my admiration was misplaced and I was wrong.

Being a little more than a casual cyclist I still admire Lance Armstrong, or any professional cyclist. It takes a lot of discipline and will to get up every day, in all kinds of weather and put the miles in on the saddle. Bike seats are hard, handlebars don’t give and every imperfection in the road is transmitted directed to your groin, hands, wrists, lower back and neck. Somedays you’re roasting and sweating like a hooker in church, others you’re wet, cold, miserable and you can’t feel your fingers and toes. Skinny tires do not do well on wet roads and worse on wet roads with icy patches. Hills are depressing, headwinds are depressing, hills with headwinds can make you contemplate suicide just to end the mental misery. And that’s just the training.

The Tour de France is 21 days and approximately 2100 miles. The average speed during a stage in 2012 works out to almost 25 MPH for 6 hours (I think I’m doing good when I average 18 MPH for 20 minutes).  The terrain ranges from flats to hills to honest to God mountains with incredible heights and inclines that will make strong men cry. You go from oxygen rich sea level to oxygen starved mountain peaks, hot humid temperatures in the lowlands to freezing rain in the heights and sometimes in the same day.

Being human, with my own foibles, I can understand anybody’s weakness to take advantage of unfair tactics to do well in a sport where the payoff is in millions of dollars of sponsorships. But I do not condone it. There is no excuse for cheating. If you win a sporting event by cheating you didn’t win….you just cheated.

I may have been able to forgive if Lance had only committed one sin, cheating, one time. But he has committed multiple sins. Lying about his cheating to his accusers is bad enough. Misleading those who look up to you and believe so strongly in you is worse. Doping during one race is bad. How many of your multiple victories are a result of doping?  Bringing suit against those who rightly accused you is wrong. Accepting monies from those rewards when you know the suit was falsely brought is worse.

Lance Armstrong’s credibility is totally destroyed. In addition he has destroyed credibility for future athletes. If someone managed to game the system for so long while professing and apparently proving his innocence how are we to believe any future athlete who manages to exceed what we thought was the pinnacle of human achievement? There will now always be the question of “did they cheat? Sure the drug tests are clean but have they found an undetectable way to dope?”

The damage done to the LIVESTRONG Foundation is incalculable at this stage. Though a good foundation with an admirable goal the fact is that there are a lot of people who will disassociate themselves simply because it is a legacy of Lance Armstrong. And changing the name will not bring the organization the same recognition and marketability it would have continued to enjoy had this all not come about. It is still to early to determine the fallout from Lance Armstrongs misdeeds. It would have been bad enough if he had confessed after the first true accusation. The ramifications are far worse after years of denial.

However there are a lot of weasels coming out of the woodpile. For those organizations and companies who are trying to regain monies payed for past promotional fees, forget it. Though there may be a case for misrepresentation here the fact is that you people reaped the financial gain from your association with Lance Armstrong at the time so you don’t get to sue now. I, for example, bought two bikes from TREK based on their association with Lance.

For those of you who wrongly paid rewards for defamation suits brought against you, if it is found that your specific allegations did have merit at the time you made them then you should be entitled to recompense.

I have held Lance Armstrong out as an example of what you can achieve and overcome if you just work hard. Now I find myself having to explain this mess of an example to my 9 year old son. Personally, that may be the hardest thing of all for me.

I still admire Lance Armstrong for his successful battle against cancer and the hope for other cancer victims his example may inspire. I admire him for the discipline that he has brought to his sport. Regardless of the advantage his doping brought in the more efficient use of oxygen in his blood the fact remains that cycling is a physically painful and grueling sport and it takes a lot of courage to climb on a bike every day in all kinds of conditions and ride the miles he has.

It his his perceived character and the example of that character that are the biggest casualty in this whole mess. I hope he can redeem himself…..

 

The Morning After Election Day 2012 – Observations from a Common Man on a National Political Psyche that’s as battered as the New Jersey coastline…

Mr. President,
I congratulate you on your reelection. I address you not as a registered Republican but as a common American citizen who loves his country and as a retired member of the United States Navy who took the oath to “support and defend the Constitution” multiple times. As you have been reelected in accordance with the laws of the Constitution I fully recognize, respect and support your position and authority as President of these United States. Having won by both the Electoral and the popular vote you have a mandate by the American people. That mandate is to find the strengths that unite us and lead this country to a position of prosperity and security. Not to exacerbate the differences that divide us to ensure your party has a deeper hold on political power. I beg you sir, not to squander that mandate, to use your leadership to truly work across both sides of the aisle for the good of the country. May God Bless you and your family during the next 4 years and May God Bless the United States of America.

To the elected members of Congress I address you not as a registered Republican but as a common American citizen who loves his country and as a retired member of the United States Navy who took the oath to “support and defend the Constitution” multiple times. I remind you of the fact that as a representative you “represent” ALL the constituents in your district, NOT just those of your party. Stop being politicians and start being statesmen. Stop the insults, the hearsay, the innuendo, the fighting and the backbiting that has come to personify American politics and start working together. Democrat and Republican are not dirty words, character flaws or criminal organizations. They are differing philosophies on how to govern the country we all claim to love and how best to serve the COMMON GOOD. Instead of being the revered institution it should be, thanks to your actions, Congress is now viewed as a group of lying, greedy, criminal brats who have so little in common with their constituents they might as well be on another planet. Stop using hate to divide us. In the words of Benjamin Franklin “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately”.

 

And as for the rest of us…..we get the government we deserve. For those of you who did not vote you have squandered your right to complain about the elected representatives…..so shut up. For those of you who did vote, congratulations, half your responsibility has been discharged. Now pull your collective heads out of the Kardasian’s, Jersey Shore or whatever other idiotic crap is out there to distract you and start paying attention to what our elected “representatives” are REALLY doing down in Washington. Let them know how you feel about the issues, regardless of whether they are of your party or not. Or one day you’ll wake up to find your job, your beer, your TV, your guns and your Barco lounger gone, your kids shipped off to some foolish God forsaken war in BFE and your left holding the astronomical tax bill for the whole “effing” mess. Candidates run on a party platform in line with their personal philosophies. Once elected to office however they do not just represent Democrats or Republicans, they are to represent ALL of their constituents, regardless of political party. You could elect the most honorable man in the world to office but if he doesn’t know how YOU feel about the issues he’ll vote his conscience…. If he is a dishonorable man, he’ll figure nobody’s watching him and he’ll vote in accordance with whoever pays him the most.

 

For all of us, stop being so stupid as to be manipulated by all the negative 5hit put out there. Start using your head instead of your HATE. Stop believing the lies and innuendo. Get your information from a source other than a 30 second commercial or a 2 minute soundbite on the news. Stop buying into the hype that drives us apart!

Remember “United We Stand”????

We don’t need a foreign influence to come in here and drive us apart…..we’re doing a good enough job of that on our own already. It is time we put aside the insults and the bull5hit statements…… You’re not going to move to Canada because your candidate didn’t get elected…Hell, in this economy, which is the fault of BOTH political parties, you can’t even afford to move to a tent in the neighbors’ backyard. So stop bitching and start figuring how you’re going to work with your fellow AMERICANS, how to bring together the strengths that unite us, to make this a better country for you and your kids.

 

A final note…. For those of you who will undoubtedly say “He’s not my President”, “He’s not my senator”, “He’s not my Congressman”, we could all debate popular vote, the dissolution of the Electoral College, etc, etc….The fact remains that our representatives were elected in accordance with the Constitution as it currently stands, the law of this land. As a free citizen of this nation you agree to be subject to this law. However you have some choices… Unlike some nations, you can vote to allow a constitutional amendment to change the voting process or, unlike some nations,……you are free to revoke your citizenship and move somewhere else…. But if you claim to be a citizen of the United States of America…then Barack Obama is your President and should be accorded the respect the office deserves.

 

P.S. I would be writing the same observations had Mitt Romney won……