By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) Tragedy and illness beget Twitter hashtags and ribbon-shaped car magnets.
The lag time is minimal, too, in the commercialization and branding of causes. Most of it is well-meaning, trying to spread the good word of support and raise needed funds for victims of disasters or disease in the most immediate way possible.
Good intentions are packaged and marketed like any other product or service, amid continuing trust that it’s all for the best of reasons, by the most selfless people, to the best of ends.
The problem is in the word still being used that immediately brings to mind deception, lies and fraud.
When Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia and announced that he would have to miss the 2012 season, the term “CHUCKSTRONG” was coined. The movement helped raise money for the IU Health Simon Cancer Center via the team’s website, and communicated wishes of encouragement via social media.
Similarly, the horrific events in Boston weren’t two days in the past before a trademark race was on for the rights to use “Boston Strong” on apparel and accessories. The phrase took off quickly enough in the wake of the bombings that this week’s Sports Illustrated will feature a special regional cover with a photo of the Red Sox’ Jonny Gomes. The “BOSTON” on his jersey is shown above the word “STRONG,” and the slogan is referenced in the story.
Stop for just a second, and think about who started all this.
“CHUCKSTRONG” and “Boston Strong” are obvious re-workings of Livestrong, the shamed, corrupt charity that put a yellow bracelet on millions of gullible sheep. That name was born as part of a larger campaign to enrich Lance Armstrong and shield him from criticism, using the catchy second syllable of his last name.
It was originally called The Lance Armstrong Foundation, and then it adopted the snappier new handle.
The USADA took him down on August 24, 2012, but that wasn’t enough to stop the Colts from titling their cause referentially just weeks later. It was unfortunate then and looks even worse, now, the choice to tie any charity in any way to someone so entirely reprehensible. Nothing but kind thought behind it and laudable action as a result, but it still makes any critical thinker uncomfortably, needlessly mindful of someone who gamed the same system for his own benefit.
CHUCKSTRONG, Livestrong, Armstrong.
More surprising is the Boston effort that’s already been endlessly retweeted and publicized, apparently unbothered by this continued invocation of one of sports’ great villains, even after he’s admitted guilt, taken a long deserved public beating, been stripped of his endorsements and barred from competition.
Either too many people don’t know, or too many people don’t care. I know too many are in such a hurry that they don’t take time to consider images and history associated with words. A well-intentioned program can and should be careful to avoid such things.
Boston Strong, Livestrong, Lance Armstrong.
There’s a reason the rubber-bracelet fad is over, and there is equal reason to hope we can stop this reflexive, continued inclusion of any part of his deservedly-ruined name in the raising of awareness or charitable dollars or spreading messages of hope.
Here’s calling for a little less laziness, a little more creativity, and an increased desire by all of us to remove any last vestiges of his presence from organized attempts to aid those in need.