Thursday, June 07, 2007

FLOYD LANDIS COMFORTABLY NUMB

Bill Hue

Floyd Landis posted this excerpt from the Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” shortly after he first appeared on the Daily Peloton Forums, now lost as a result of the infamous server crash. The song is from the album and film entitled “The Wall”.

When I was a child,
I caught a fleeting glimpse
Out of the corner of my eye.
I turned to look but it was gone.
I cannot put my finger on it now.
The child is grown.
The dream is gone.
I have become,
Comfortably numb.
"[more]"



Landis was recovering from his hip surgery and had some time on his hands while he mended. The public only knew him from a distance …… the backward hat wearing, syntax mangling, embattled Tour de France winner who had been declared a drug cheat by the powers of his sport and the media.


“Floyd” began posting under his own name at the Daily Peloton. He showed a very different side there given what we thought we knew about him. His observations were sometimes sharp, sarcastic and even sardonic, as exhibited by his postings concerning Greg Lemond. Some of the others were quite complex, as illustrated by this particular quotation from “The Wall”. Many expressed literal rather than figurative points.


Floyd knew the song well enough to post its lyrics. It meant something to him. He may have felt “comfortably numb” after his hip surgery. He also may have felt “comfortably numb” as a result of his recent experience; catching a “glimpse” of the Tour de France title, finding it quickly withdrawn and his life-long dream vanished. He had achieved his childhood dream for a moment but from a world-weary adult perspective and an adult acquiescence to reality, he had become “comfortably numb” to the inevitability that the powers of cycling could take it away from him before he even had the opportunity to appreciate his achievement and accomplishment. Life is complex, interesting and often ironic.


Floyd’s spontaneous posting of these song lyrics might be a little more intriguing if you know its genesis. “The Wall” is a musical reflection of a rock star named Pink’s life, premised upon the metaphor of emotional wall building stemming from his childhood and adult experiences of psychological isolation. Was Floyd’s reference more significant than literally feeling emotionally detached from his predicament?


Pink sought freedom from his isolation through hard work and perseverance in his talent; writing and music. Floyd had also become isolated from his strict religious upbringing and to at least some significant degree, his very religious family, through hard work and perseverance in his talent; cycling.


Unfortunately, after Pink achieved success, the wall of his isolation did not come down, it continued to grow. As Floyd continued to move through the professional cycling ranks, he moved from team to team. He progressed from protégé to lieutenant to co-captain to team captain. In that sense, did he isolate himself from previous leaders and mentors? Did a “wall” of isolation continue to be built, as well?


At the point in the musical where “Comfortably Numb” is performed, Pink has become numbed by his celebrity and his past. The song is a conversation between the world-weary rock star and his physician. Pink tells the physician that the devastated person he is seeing “… is not who I am”. He feels isolated from society and the achievement he sought, fame, has had unforeseen consequences so severe as to render him helpless. He enters an almost catatonic state, unable to function until the physician injects him with a drug, to bring him out of his exhaustion and able to keep “going through the show”.


Hello?
Is there anybody in there?
Just nod if you can hear me.
Is there anyone at home?
Come on, now,
I hear you're feeling down.
Well I can ease your pain
Get you on your feet again.
Relax.
I'll need some information first.
Just the basic facts.
Can you show me where it hurts?

There is no pain you are receding
A distant ship, smoke on the horizon.
You are only coming through in waves.
Your lips move but I can't hear what you're saying.
When I was a child I had a fever
My hands felt just like two balloons.
Now I've got that feeling once again
I can't explain you would not understand
This is not how I am.
I have become comfortably numb.

O.K.
Just a little pinprick.
There'll be no more aaaaaaaaah!
But you may feel a little sick.
Can you stand up?
I do believe its working, good.
That'll keep you going through the show
Come on it's time to go.

There is no pain you are receding
A distant ship, smoke on the horizon.
You are only coming through in waves.
Your lips move but I can't hear what you're saying.
When I was a child
I caught a fleeting glimpse
Out of the corner of my eye.
I turned to look but it was gone
I cannot put my finger on it now
The child is grown,
The dream is gone.
I have become comfortably numb.



Floyd had suffered a massive meltdown stemming from dehydration and lack of nutrition, on Stage 16 of the Tour de France (the show) having earlier regained only to lose, spectacularly, the pinnacle of cycling success, the Tour’s yellow jersey. With hip replacement surgery set for after the Tour, the 2006 race was perhaps the last and best chance for him to achieve the ultimate success in his chosen field. At that point, physical limitations and their catastrophic results might have left him exhausted and beaten. Many believe that Landis may have had a similar conversation with his doctor at that time and by plan or desperation received a “pick me up” that worked for him to “keep him going through the show”. If so, innocence had been lost and one might have become “comfortably numb” to sportsmanship, fair play, honesty and other such naïve notions in the harsh and real world of competitive cycling at its highest level, while also expressing that the “shattered” human being was “not who I am”.


After “the show”, “fascist” Pink took control of his life and surroundings and acted rather than being acted upon. Floyd took control of his circumstances after the 2006 Tour de France, forming the Floyd Fairness Fund and declaring “war” on the powers of cycling. He became proactive in his Wiki Defense strategy as opposed to reactive, the unenviable position those accused of sports doping in North America had been in before him. He vowed to bring that system down instead of him or with him, in the event that became necessary.


At the end of the musical, a metaphor “trial” occurred. It was not a trial of law, but rather one man putting himself on trial for the events of his life and coming to terms with the decisions he had made. Pink’s sentence, at the end of his trial, was to “Tear down the Wall”.


Floyd Landis has been put on actual trial not only for events in the 2006 Tour but also for decisions he made; to fight the powers of cycling, to defend himself publicly, to form the Floyd Fairness Fund, to demand an open and public hearing and for his choice of friends and words.

The events in the 2006 Tour were the actual subject of the disciplinary proceedings in Malibu. His decision to fight the powers of cycling have been fought in the press through comments by WADA head Richard Pound, UCI President Pat McQuaid and USADA General Counsel and soon to be Chief, Travis Tygart. His decision to demand an open hearing and defend himself publicly has caused his character to be challenged through the bizarre twists and turns of events involving Greg Lemond and Will Geoghegan. USADA has demanded the names and addresses of contributors to the Floyd Fairness Fund, potentially subjecting thousands of people to scrutiny simply for supporting Floyd Landis.


Ultimately, we are left with questions and no answers. Was Floyd subconsciously identifying with Pink’s life and story by posting the lyrics? Were his observations literal rather than allegorical? Is he a simple or complex man? Is he Machiavellian or forthright? I suspect that like most of us, he is some of each.


Finally, what is “The Wall”? If in Floyd Landis’ case, it is a metaphor for the monolithic anti-doping system (rather than the psychological weakness of a man), tearing it down will fulfill one of his goals in combating it. If it is psychological weakness, it will only come down once the truth is told, truthfully. If it is the self-serving, psychological weaknesses, bias and world view that are part of everyone’s life, it will never come down and then all in all, we’re just another brick in the wall.

12 comments:

Dan said...

Man...he confessed again...I'm surprised the USADA did not bring this up in their case in chief...so much more compelling than the lab work they got stuck with. And how about Floyd singing"Badlands" on his way to Morzine? Chorus:

For the ones who had a notion,
a notion deep inside
That it ain't no sin
to be glad you're alive
I wanna find one face
that ain't looking through me
I wanna find one place,
I wanna spit in the face of these badlands

You don't have to be Dick Pound to see the relevance here ...but it helps

strbuk said...

Geez Bill, warn me when you are going to post deep stuff like this!! :-)

str

bill hue said...

I love that song and I love that part of the song, especially. So you can imagine how interested I was to see this "Floyd" post the best part at DPF!

I've been mulling it over for a long time. I don't have an answer to the questions I ask.

I don't think it was a confession and I know that he isn't as "simple" as the main stream media makes him out to be.

Still waters run deep.

Bill

strbuk said...

Indeed they do, they run deeper than anyone can imagine.

str

cam said...

Dan,

you were quite subjective in your quoting of lyrics and trying amusingly to be literal. when asked, Floyd told us that this was what he had running through his head on Morzine. he did not quote specific lyrics, he merely mentioned the song.

if you're going to quote, give the body of the song, give the the heart, warts and all:


Workin in the field till
you get your back burned
Workin `neath the wheels
till you get your facts learned.
Baby I got my facts learned real good right now.
You better get it straight darling:
Poor men wanna be rich,
rich men wanna be kings,
And a king aint satisfied
till he rules everything.
I wanna go out tonight,
I wanna find out what I got.
Now I believe in the love that you gave me.
I believe in the faith that could save me.
I believe in the hope and I pray that some day it
Will raise me above these

Badlands...


Floyd worked hard, damned hard, and he got lucky, the dream was within his grasp. but his all too human body betrayed him. rather than give in, Floyd worked harder, got even luckier (come on! no one chased him???), brought in all the love and faith surrounding him and added a goodly dose of sheer determination to make his dreams come true.

to be rich? no. to be a king? no. to rule the world?no. all he wanted was to wear the yellow jersey.

and you know what, Dan? no matter what you think, no matter what you say, you just can't take that away from him.

cat2bike said...

OMG, the comments are as beautiful as Bill's post!
Bill, even tho I'm part of that generation, I never saw "The Wall" or really listened to Pink Floyd. I get more and more attached to you! What a thoughtful post, and cam, you almost made me cry!

Theresa

N.B.O.L. said...

Cam,

Reread Dan's post. I don't think he was trying to take anything away from Floyd, I think he was being sarcastic about the USADA case.

At least that's how I took it.

Ken (EnvironmentalChemistry.com) said...

This has been really interesting. I remember the first time I heard the Wall on the radio back around 1979. I've even seen the movie a few times. The funny thing is I've never sat through the movie in its entirety in one sitting, but I have seen the whole thing over time. It is a seriously messed up movie.

Richard said...

Floyd,

If you're reading Bill's comments, as well as Starbuck's and David's, I hope you'll remember that you are NOT alone like Geffen's character, that you DID tear down the wall of deception and ignorance, and that you successfully exposed those who would taunt you and hurt you 'within inches of their lives'.

I continue to find it ironic that so much energy has been spent on prosecuting Floyd's case, and yet some of the 'Real' cheaters or cheating systems continue to smolder like smoke-house hams.

Keep your head up, your chest out, and your rooster tail high - with friends like the three mentioned above, you have powerful, just, comrades.

daniel m (a/k/a Rant) said...

Bill,

Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall are two of my all-time favorite albums, not least for the incisiveness and spot-on observations about modern life.

Thanks for reminding us of what Floyd wrote and quoted, way back when. I'm sure that despite the appearances, there's a deep character to Floyd. One that we don't often get to see.

That was one excellent piece of writing. Well done.

- Rant

cam said...

N.B.O.L., thank you for pointing that out... Dan, my apologies. confusion at two a.m. i lost the post more than once, and got more irate and emotional as i rewrote, listening to the songs in question.

Bill's beautiful post (which i still have yet to absorb completely) got me emotional. and, after learning about Frank Vandenbroucke's suicide attempt, people were still obsessing and bickering about who doped, who didn't, and surely drugs were responsible for the attempt yet life goes on. even though it almost did not for VdB.

so many people have lost sight of the fact that even elite cyclists are human beings as well, with feelings and foibles. the Landis case should have been about the science, true, and that we can dissect. but it wasn't and the outcome affects a person, Floyd. and perhaps many more. yet still the bickering goes on, as if Floyd were merely a chew-toy for us all to get between our teeth and tug.

we have all become comfortably numb. but, perhaps, Bill's ruminations will serve as a thaw. it did for me.

again, my apologies.

BustinBilly said...

That's ironic. The Wall patronized a real person, Syd Barret, who expressed his emotions far more authentically than the numb hacks Rober Waters and David Gilmore.