NORMAN — Two “heroes.” Both named Armstrong.
One named Neil. The other named Lance.
One a reluctant celebrity who, once he had done a tremendous service to his country, retired to private life.
The other, a seeker of fame and fortune, who repeatedly cheated and lied, desperately clinging to the glare of the spotlight.
One a symbol of the past and the future, who combined an old-world decency and modesty with the ability to inspire a generation to reach for the stars.
The other, a poster child for all that is false and degrading about our vainglorious present, who lent his name to slick marketing for personal gain and callously let down thousands of young people who looked up to him.
Neil Armstrong, who died at age 82 on Aug. 25, was the first human to walk on the moon. He will be a hero for at least as long as his footprints remain on the lunar surface.
Lance Armstrong was the best ever at pedaling a bicycle, winning seven Tour de France titles. He overcame testicular cancer and created the Livestrong nonprofit, dedicated to cancer research.
On Wednesday, beginning his speech at a cancer conference in Montreal, he said, “My name is Lance Armstrong. I am a cancer survivor. I’m a father of five. And yes, I won the Tour de France seven times.”
What he didn’t say is he had to cheat to win all of those races, and all of those titles are being taken away for good reason.
Before he commanded the Apollo 11 mission to the moon in July 1969, Neil Armstrong was a Navy fighter pilot and a highly regarded test pilot who flew the experimental X-15 rocket 200,000 feet up at 4,000 mph. He was the command pilot on the Gemini 8 flight that included the first successful docking of a manned spacecraft with another space vehicle, and he kept his cool to land it safely after a system malfunction.