Saturday, August 25, 2012

Obit / Orbit


My copy. December 1969.

To say someone has “balls,” means they have gumption, courage, insane bravery, perhaps. It means they step up to the plate and take that pitch knowing it might knock them flat on their ass.

This week we saw the end of two trajectories of men lauded for their balls, both named Armstrong. Lance, because he famously only had one, and Neil, because he had enough for a whole team.

Neil Armstrong, test pilot, standing next to the sexiest of creatures, the X-15
While it would be apt to note their accomplishments, it is for how they disappointed many with their post-career actions that contributes to their fame. Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon, shied away from the spotlight he could have basked in to return to being a private citizen. Lance Armstrong all but ceded what many have long believed: that he (like many) cheated to achieve his goal of getting out in front of the pack, higher, faster, than anyone else.

A few weeks ago, I came across one of the more bizarre exhibits in a museum full of oddities in Cincinnati’s Museum Center. Among the display cases of Ohio’s various rodents and chunks of meteorites, there looms one of Neil Armstrong’s spacesuits, posed as if the man were still inside. It looks disarmingly primitive and out of place unless you know that he came from Ohio and lived in Cincinnati.

In the museum
When asked who the first man on the moon was, many of my former college students replied “Lance Armstrong.” They weren’t thinking about the cyclist, however; just the legacy of the name.

Goodnight, Mr. Armstrong. Good luck and Godspeed. 

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