A few mornings ago, I got encouragement from a strange place: Lance Armstrong. The seven time winner of the Tour de France. Cancer survivor. One-time paramour of Sheryl Crow. Blood doper. Stripped of those consecutive titles disgrace. Disembodied voice from my iPod. I aw being congratulated for the time and distance that I ran. It was part of a program. By whatever clever bit of manipulation, I was now being told by this former hero what a good job I had done. Hoorah.
Prior to this, I had received words of praise from Tiger Woods. Professional golfer. Admitted to Stanford. Winner of major tournaments across the globe. Admitted philanderer. Looking for his former glory. Introducing himself by his nickname, he let me know what a great job I had been doing with my training. Both of these guys were terrific athletes, icons of their sports, and I was the recipient of their praise. Pretty heady stuff, except that they could have been talking to anyone. Anyone who opted to have their iPod keep track of their daily, weekly or monthly workouts could look forward to the same brush with greatness each time they rang the particular bell set in place by Apple engineers some time ago.
Long enough ago that these were heroes. Now they aren't. Long ago, they and their exploits were owned by Nike. Apple and Nike were selling health and happiness as a package that came with the soundtrack called iTunes. I give them all kinds of credit for figuring out that I exercise more willingly when I listen to my favorite songs. Back in the olden days when I used to lug my old Sony Walkman cassette player around as I ran for miles and miles, I used up hundreds of double A batteries while the shock from my footfalls kept myTunes twisty and garbled. Digital music was my salvation. It would not have occurred to me to download the voices of my favorite sports legends to exhort me on. It took corporate synergy to make that happen. A decade ago, Apple and Nike did the best that they could. At the time.
Now when I run four miles and I come in for a landing, pressing the stop button, I am told the time, distance and average pace, and those voices from the past let me know what a good job I'm doing. Nobody asked if I'd rather have Peyton Manning. That's probably extra.