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T.J. SIMERS

Lance Armstrong's inspiration wasn't a lie for many

Who cares what the disgraced cyclist now has to say on Oprah Winfrey's couch? Not this columnist.

T.J. Simers

12:35 AM EST, January 16, 2013

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The 7-Eleven Kid really is 7, a second-grader, and she recently did a report on George Herbert Walker Bush.

Along with her friends, they presented it to the third-graders, as scary a group as a second-grader can face.

She heard about his being in the hospital, so she also wrote him a letter:

"Dear President Bush,

My name is Mackenzie. I am in second grade. We did a report on you. We taught the third-graders. I hope you get better soon."

PHOTOS: Lance Armstrong through the years

The editors here wish I could be as concise.

She signed her name and added a heart, then her grandmother found an address for George Herbert Walker Bush and sent the letter.

Now I don't know how these things work, but if she gets any kind of reply, it will probably be something she will never forget.

It might even inspire her to overcome her father's track record and do great in school.

Miss Radio Personality, the daughter who went to Notre Dame and who says she will never marry anyone from Alabama, as if she can afford to be so picky, is the 7-Eleven Kid's aunt.

She has a thing for President Clinton. I have no idea what it is about presidents, but she once said it would be a dream come true to meet him.

I asked why? "His resiliency, his intelligence, his charisma, and he's married to Hillary," she said.

So when I heard the old Bob Hope golf tournament in La Quinta this week was now the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation, I called the PR guy in the hopes of scoring an interview with Clinton.

I figured I'd bring the daughter along, any father given the chance to make his daughter's dream come true undoubtedly understanding, and Clinton has a daughter.

Now I don't figure there's any chance of meeting with Clinton, but anything to make the daughter's day — short of buying her dinner again — is worth the effort.

It's funny, though. I make a living often poking fun at those who treat athletes or celebrities with such reverence.

I get upset when people live and die with the Lakers, and that's almost no exaggeration. USC and UCLA followers are even worse.

The whole thing seems out of whack until you become witness to the power of inspiration, a cancer-stricken child and suffering parents maybe finding hope in someone who has already overcome.

Like Lance Armstrong.

I've witnessed the incredible work of doctors like Kathleen Sakamoto and Noah Federman, who work with sick youngsters and who have the skills to deliver better days ahead.

I know how much some place in the power of belief.

But maybe more than any one in our lifetime, we've come to know the compelling example of overcoming in the story of Armstrong.

How many people found hope and remain alive today because they found something inspiring in Armstrong's determination to overcome cancer and succeed beyond anyone's wildest imagination?

Now I have to admit, I think about it on occasion when writing the inspirational life story of an athlete and what he or she might have overcome. I wake up fearful sometimes that I might find the same athlete now a scoundrel in the morning headlines.

But what difference does it make today to those who found hope so long ago in his own cancer story?

His story was alive and brimming with inspiration when those afflicted at the time needed it the most.

How many took what Armstrong had to say as the gospel, finding common resolve in their own yellow wristband, only now to have to watch Oprah?

I have no interest in watching. Who cares what Armstrong has to say now? Who cares how this story plays out, with his athletic career over and his influence now old news?

Like so many other athletes and celebrities, he had the ability to uplift, did so for a time, but ultimately wasn't up to the task.

None of it changes the power of inspiration and what it means to some — even if under false pretenses.

Would you lie to someone dying if you thought it would bring them some peace?

There is nothing noble, of course, in what Armstrong has done. And this is no defense of the ends justifying the means, no defense whatsoever for the lie lived by Armstrong.

But for everything done in the name of adding to his financial wherewithal and stroking his ego, I also suspect he lacked the guts to come clean with those who found him so meaningful in their lives.

However he explains it now, it's irrelevant.

The most important thing about sports or greatness is that power to inspire — despite how fleeting or fickle it might be sometimes.

This whole Armstrong mess now is only a reminder that he's human, and in no way bigger than life.

The 7-Eleven Kid will learn that in time, but right now what's important is that George Herbert Walker Bush has someone on his staff who recognizes what a response to a second-grader might mean in the name of George Herbert Walker Bush.

And as for Clinton, I can only hope the day will come when his daughter wants to meet a sports columnist.

I just hope it's not Dwyre.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

Twitter: @LATimesTJSimers