This week, Floyd Landis began another uphill journey.
Landis won the Tour De France last month — a win primarily attributed to his performance in the uphill win of 17th stage of the race. Now, after twice testing positive for synthetic testosterone, Landis must wage another uphill battle to prove he wasn’t faking.
True, the stakes were high for Landis, but if we’re honest, most of us would have to admit faking when the stakes have been far less.
This was a lesson I learned at 7 when my Uncle Lowell set my brother and me up for fishing alongside his lake home. Just before leaving us, he dropped bait fish traps off the pier and then settled with my father in rusty lawn chairs out of sight from the pier.
After what was likely 20 minutes in the afternoon Texas sun, we decided we had enjoyed all the fun we possibly could stand. So, shamed by our pitiful first-time performance, I stumbled upon a plan to impress.
I pulled my uncle’s fishing trap from the water and took the largest fish I possibly could and forced him onto my line. Then, with my pole propped over my shoulder, I paraded past my father and uncle like a proud soldier on the review field.
Now, 40 years later, I remember a conversation something like this:
“I see you got a fish,” called my uncle.
“Yup,” I said, “a big one.”
“How’d you catch him?” my father inquired.
“With this fishing pole,” I replied.
“Did he fight much?” my father asked, as the two shared a chuckle.
“Kind of,” I said unsure of how deep I intended to dig this fishing hole.
As best as I can remember, an early supper called a cease-fire to the questions. At the supper table, I sat silently as it seemed unwise to encore the story. In my effort to bypass the work to gain the prize of my father’s pride, I also had bypassed the real prize — the prize of telling my story.
Fishermen lean toward a propensity to fake results. I guess that’s why it’s a bit surprising that Jesus picked so many of his disciples from this lot, particularly one named Nathaniel. Jesus said he “was a man without guile,” not a false bone in his body.
But beyond that, the holy book has precious little else to say of the man. Maybe that’s as it should be. Maybe there was nothing else left to explain. For when you live your life as an open book, you’ve shown yourself to be exactly what you are. I think that’s what 20th century psychiatrists would call “self-actualization,” meaning Nathaniel was exactly who he intended to become.
And I guess the biggest tragedy of faking something is that we are exchanging who God created us to be for a synthetic image of ourselves, rather than a God-created image of us. It always will be this synthetic image that will cause big trouble in life’s race.
And what about my fishing foolery?
Well, the following week my Uncle Claxton took me fishing in Lake Abilene. It was there I realized what had roused the suspicion of my father and Uncle Lowell. As I reeled in a little sunfish from the last cast of the evening, I realized this fish dangled very differently than my previous “catch.”
Unlike the Brownwood “catch,” which I had impaled with worm and hook through his side, this fish actually was hooked through his mouth — a detail unlikely missed by the farm-raised duo of my father and uncle.