The Coward

Dave Thomas | 20 Sep 2005 12:01
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That Lance rides a bike is not a qualification for being a hero. He may be the greatest athlete of his kind in the history of great athletes. Little kids may put posters of him on their walls and grown men very well may shave their legs and slip into form fitting Lycra to take a tool around on a bike that cost more than their car. Whatever. These are not the elements of a hero. If so, Sporty Spice is a hero for pushing girl power and exercise. And I'm just not willing to go there.

The word you're looking for isn't "hero." It's "role model." And people - often fans of heavy metal - have proven that role models can model some pretty tasteless behavior and sense of fashion. Thanks to the darker elements of the metal genre, there are still countless young men that think dirty black t-shirts, long greasy hair and a pre-pubescent beard stubble make you look evil.

So I have no problem with Lance as a role model. But riding a bike does not earn you heroism unless you are being chased by zombie Nazis while delivering life serum to starving children during a particularly difficult mountain stage.

That leaves cancer. And this is where people point when eagerly looking to canonize St. Lance. But let's be honest about this. Surviving a horrible disease does not make you a hero. You might be brave, and you might be generous with how you share your fading strength. Maybe you can find lightness and humor in your darkest moments and share those with the world. These are all noble things. They just are not the qualities of the hero.

The reason is because not wanting to die is not heroic. It's normal. It's natural. It's like ducking when you hear a loud noise or getting off a city bus when a shirtless hobo carrying a pair of nunchucks gets on.

And as positive as it is for Lance to become the patron saint of rubber bracelets, let's not go Mother Teresa on him just yet. Remember, this is a rich guy giving a little back to the community. We don't call Bill Gates a hero for funding inoculations across the globe. We just figure it's better he does that with a few hundred million dollars than build a sex palace on the moon. Really, I don't think of myself as a hero when I drop a couple of bucks in the Salvation Army can at Christmas either.

Heroes, in case we've forgotten already, are the guys running UP the stairs in a burning building when everyone else is running down.

An Army of Fun
There are two things worth noting about the America's Army game.

The second most interesting thing about the game is that it's fun. This is interesting because we assume that the government can't do anything right - at least not as well as the private enterprise of the free market. So, people are surprised to find that AA is good enough that you'd actually think about spending a few bucks to buy a copy. Which leads us to the most interesting thing about the America's Army game: It's free.

Finding free games isn't that much of a trick in the era of the Net. Between easily available porn and Flash games, it's a wonder that U.S. office productivity hasn't dipped below that of Turkmenistan's.

What makes AA a novel freebie is that the government could box up this baby and sell it at Best Buy. It's a polished shooter game with a distinctive Army stamp.

For example, characters in the game say things like "Range walk," which presumably is something real drill instructors yell at real recruits. If you do stupid things like say, shoot your commanding officer, you'll loose rank and even end up in the brig. (Which is probably something more squad-based online games should consider.) And you can't do anything smacking of science fiction, like a rocket jump or single-handedly dispatch a half dozen bad guys with an M-16 in one hand and a pistol in the other. The America's Army game is like a Tom Clancy's game, just with all the Tom Clancy hyperbole stripped out.

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