Over the past week it was hard to ignore Lance Armstrong. Interviews, articles, threats from the USADA, Armstrong’s “I give” statement. All of it was a constant reminder that heroes are capable of failure or worse that heroes might not even exist. I still felt sad and I never wore a yellow LIVE STRONG bracelet.
Doping isn’t new. An athlete disappointing his fans isn’t new either. But the moral and ethical dilemma of an event like this is a good place, as many of you begin the year, to have your students discuss the role of sports and “heroes” in our culture. It offers students the opportunity to read, critically think, construct essential questions and wrestle with their own opinions.
Use Lance Armstrong to frame the discussion. Ask that they construct their own essential questions about athletes, sports and our cultural relationship to both. Then have them read Linton Weeks’ piece on NPR entitled “When a Hero Lets Us Down.” Ask that they SOAPSTone and then discuss as a class the “complexity” of sports heroes within our culture.
Later this week we’ll talk about how to take this opening discussion and turn it into a writing assignment, classroom debate or AP Language and Composition style exercise. For now, poll your students. Determine if moments like this really still make us feel sad.