Landis. Why I love the tortured whacko.
When I was young and impressionable, gonzo writer Hunter Thompson was one of my favorite authors. He wrote drunk, stoned, whacked on acid but usually with brilliance. I’m having a Thompson moment.
I love Floyd Landis and I still do in light of his drug admissions and revelations. His story is such profound Hollywood that I could never help but fall under the spell from the first moments.
An escaped mennonite farmboy who didn’t want to bail hay for the rest of his life, he just wanted to ride his bike fast. The throw-back iconoclast who questioned everything and had his unique take on how the world worked. The odd-ball funny man with a quick wit always ready to deliver the unexpected. I’m a sucker for these things.
He was a one-in-a-million bombshell that went off in the uptight, tradition bound world of cycling. Not just a breathe of fresh air, a whole new bottle of oxygen. He was a savior, a fresh page, a wild hair, a freak flag, he was a bike rider with the silly name Floyd and he did things his way hell or high water.
I loved him like I love a movie with a novel premise and blindside brilliant ending. Floyd was never dull, played his music loud, told his own bizarre truth and beat the crap out of the other lycra poseurs. How can you not love the man? He had a silly pointy beard, a sclerotic hip and an addiction to riding hard.
I screamed and ranted with nationalist pride when Armstrong won his seven tours. I screamed with pride that such a uniquely American freak had continued the tradition. Drugs or not, I will count Landis’ stage 17 comeback ride in the Tour de France as one of the most inspiring athletic achievements I’ll ever see until I die. I will carry the goose-bumps to my grave.
So I hold Floyd Landis in high esteem despite his momental stupidly, his extraordinary blind spots, his clueless and pointless and angry pursuit of false justice. Yes, he is flawed and not surprisingly, so are we. We all tell lies that become complicated despite our best efforts to compartmentalize them with a weak rationale.
I will always view him as a uniquely flawed American character. But I will never side with anyone against Floyd despite his relentless, misguided failure to fool the world. Like Lance Armstrong, his view of life is black and white with zero grey. The difference is that Lance knows the rest of the world sees gray and therefore needs an explanation. Armstrong wakes up each morning thinking about grey control
I am glad for cycling that Landis came clean, overjoyed that his conscience can now find some piece and hopeful that from this point on his anger will not drive his entire view of life. Angry Mennonites are not a happy group. You either drive a whip and buggy or a Chevy Truck, no in between. Grey again.
Floyd is a man with profound, obvious character flaws and predictable angers. Setting aside the questions of his facts, figures and motivations, it will be easy to paint Floyd as a loose cannon, an angry, vindictive man — and nothing, once you get past the surface, could be farther from the truth.
I’m guessing with all my heart and intuition that Floyd is an open book with a protective cover. He can’t help himself — eventually the truth will come out. And all the money and Livestrong lawyers in the world will not shut him up once he decides to speak the truth.
Floyd is a man of absolute principle and the fact that he’s had to disobey those principles for many years makes him a very extreme man to have in the confessional booth. Intimidation and the possibility of financial ruin do not phase him — he’s already been through several Hells and there’s nothing left to scare him with.
Many people will question his motives, timing and sanity but I don’t. This is a man of principle, sometimes warped, that wants to wipe the slate clean. It would be wise to question any argument calling him crazy.