In major international sports contests, a country's dreams of strength and victory become embodied in the performance of athletes; and so the American dream is riding with Lance Armstrong in the Tour de France.
Like Armstrong, four years ago America was the reigning world champion. Like Armstrong, we were seen as a strong, wealthy superpower that many other countries denounced as arrogant, bullying and willing to do anything to dominate and win -- we would even, they claimed, lie and cheat
But just below the surface of this resentment and slander by rivals was jealousy, insecurity over their own lack of success, and the typical desire of losers to see a repeated winner not only fail but be humiliated.
Armstrong retired in 2005 after winning the Tour de France an unprecedented seven times in a row. His first victory came two years after he beat testicular cancer. His current comeback attempt is like America's comeback attempt after the economic cancer that has struck us.
The Tour de France ends on July 26 and despite Armstrong's incredible performance so far (at 37 he is considered old to be so competitive) it would be astonishing if he finished anywhere near the top. It would redefine miraculous if he won.
But, regardless of the outcome, we Americans would vastly improve our chances of recapturing our former greatness if we adopted the following attitudes and beliefs included among these quotes from Lance Armstrong:
- Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.
- Anything is possible. You can be told that you have a 90-percent chance or a 50-percent chance or a 1-percent chance, but you have to believe, and you have to fight.
- Winning is about heart, not just legs. It's got to be in the right place.
- There are no secrets -- hard work wins it.
- I think it's better we downplay our chances. I think we should cherish this role as the underdog, because it's the perfect way to ride this race.
- You have to live with the crashes, and hope you don't get into one.
- The riskiest thing you can do is get greedy.
- A boo is a lot louder than a cheer. If you have 10 people cheering and one person booing, all you hear is the booing.
- Patience is a polite quality and often appropriate, but it rarely gets things done. Impatience, however, is the hunger for results and intolerance for excuses and delays.
- Two things scare me. The first is getting hurt. But that's not nearly as scary as the second, which is losing.
- Giving up was never an option.
The solution to what now ails America is the message engraved on Lance's famous yellow wristbands:
Communications consultant Jon Kraushar is at www.jonkraushar.net.