I had the opportunity today (Saturday) to sit back and think about legacy. I was thinking of my own, that of my family and friends, and those individuals in society who hold exalted positions and roles. The reason I had this opportunity for introspection was because I attended a service for a friend who passed away 20 years ago.
I still think about Mike. A great student, athlete and musician, he coupled those talents with an endearing personality. When all was said and done, he was an overall good guy. And twenty years later his legacy remains strong. While Mike was not “celebrity famous,” he still impacted the lives of many around him and many more who never actually met him, e.g., his nieces and nephews, the numerous students from Yale who have won scholarships named in his honor, and those just lucky enough to hear us talk about him and how he lived a very full 21 years.
So legacy is important because we don’t know how much time we will have on this earth. And let’s be honest, we all want to be remembered, to “live a life worth living.” We are given one shot to make the world a better place, whether our influence is limited to our family and friends, or whether we get to touch the lives of others in our communities and around the world. Professional athletes are no different in that regard. The difference from the not-so famous lies in the fact that fame is attached to their job. They may not want the responsibility that comes with influencing so many, but the reality is that responsibility is there and must be embraced to some degree. That responsibility at the very least, should take the form of actions defined by integrity, by honest effort.
The Lance Armstrong saga, and after all these years of accusations and denials, it is qualifies as a saga, highlights an individual who embraced the influence he had on others but achieved that influence through dishonest means. And that is the rub. The end – one’s influence and by extension, legacy – must be achieved with honest effort. We respect that, even when the results are not what we hoped for.
So I finish today with the satisfaction that I had the good fortune to celebrate Mike’s life and legacy, a legacy that is clearly intact and probably has grown stronger over the years. For Lance Armstrong and others who disrespect the sport they play and the fans who support them, their legacy fades and ultimately is lost over time. And that is as it should be.