Athlete’s comeback not necessary to fight cancer

Buried last week underneath actual news, such as an approaching hurricane and a certain vice presidential nominee’s first big interview, was this gem: Lance Armstrong is coming out of retirement for 2009.

That’s right. The seven-time Tour de France winner announced last Tuesday that he’s going to compete in several races after three years away, and Armstrong hopes to win his sport’s most prestigious title for the eighth time. Armstrong said he’s coming out of retirement to increase cancer awareness – no doubt a noble act.

Still, the 37-year-old is adding his name to an already mile-long list of athletes who said they were done but, for better or worse, decide it’s time to re-enter the workforce.

I would love to hear the conversation in which Armstrong let his children know the good news, but I can only imagine:

“Kids, ever since 2005 I’ve sensed a window closing on my noncareer. You know, your dad can only play the game so long, and I’ve thought long and hard about it. Rather than let that window close on its own, I’ve decided to retire from retirement.”

Surely Brett Favre had a nearly identical conversation this summer. He, however, doesn’t seem to have a sound grasp of the concept of unretirement. Favre should have known that he needed to be away for at least one year.

Whatever the case, Armstrong isn’t in bad company with names like Michael Jordan (twice), Magic Johnson (thrice), George Foreman (twice), Marina Navratilova and Roger Clemens, to name a few.

God love ’em; they just adore their respective games so much they can’t stay away. That doesn’t mean they’re making the right decision, though.

Unretirement hardly ever turns out well. At a certain age, athletes just aren’t who they used to be, and it shows. Sure, Michael Jordan came back and led the Bulls to three more rings, but he’s the greatest athlete ever. And let’s not forget the whole Washington Wizards thing.

Yes, George Foreman came back and won the world heavyweight championship. Of course there are exceptions. I’m willing to bet Armstrong has some success in his unretirement, but it won’t even come close to his already accomplished feats. If he wins on his comeback Tour (and it’s not unthinkable – A Belgian named Firmin Lambot won the 1922 race at age 36) he’ll have eight. Great. He already won seven in a row.

Just what are these people looking for? I don’t think they’re trying to rediscover themselves. They should feel pretty comfortable with who they are at this point. They don’t appear to be going through a mid-life crises, but you never really know with those. It doesn’t seem like they’re trying to break records either, and Armstrong doesn’t really have any to break.

I just want to know why. Raising awareness for cancer is great, but Armstrong has been doing that for a long time and he could do just as much without racing.

The whole process of unretirement seems a bit dishonest. It’s a long-distance relationship that’s already well past its expiration date, yet it goes on. Neither party is truly interested, though one might still be hoping to rekindle some of the relationship’s former magic. Why not just end it?

God bless Lance Armstrong. He’s doing what he loves and I suppose he deserves everyone’s full support. I suppose I’ll eventually give it to him, and only hope that he won’t come back at age 62 to win his 16th Tour.

Max Landman is a senior news-editorial journalism major from Uvalde.