Lost among the scandals of Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong is the fact that both were spokespersons for Nike, and both were true to the motto of their corporate sponsor. “Just do it” is the slogan of the corporation Nike, named after the winged goddess of war and victory. “Just do it” represents the mindset of Spartans throughout history. When success itself becomes the goal, we fail to consider whether the activity itself is worthy of a human being. It was true in ancient Greece, it’s true in modern America.
It’s like that old line by Lilly Tomlin, “The worst thing about the rat race, is even if you win it, you’re still a rat.” Lance and Tiger both succeeded in a culture that has many rewards for victory, but few for virtue. Cheating by our sports heroes is trivial compared to belief that our masters of industry, our political heroes, our cultural icons all seem to cheat. We have reached a point where we secretly know that anyone who wins the race is probably a rat. And so like some ancient culture that holds athletic competitions and then eat the the winners, we turn on our heroes at that inevitable moment when we realize they are as rudderless as we..
Punishing Lance and Tiger does not change the nature of the system that lured them to follow the false goddess Nike, and that lures us as well. There’s a saying on the street, “Don’t hate the player, hate the game.” It is time to consider whether our culture of competition, acquisition and conquest is worthy of a human being. Will continuing to amassing wealth and weapons make us the greatest nation on earth, or will it just make us the biggest rat?