This post is not about brain injury, but I wanted to write it anyway.
When Oprah asked Lance Armstrong what he thought the moral of his story was, he began by talking about “the ride”; getting caught up in it all and, of course, the betrayal of lying so fiercely about everything. Interesting. That wasn’t just Lance, it was the entire public/media. There are people that he has hurt personally by his bullying and lying and I don’t know what it would take for them to forgive him, but certainly getting forgiveness from the media will take nothing more than time. News media (North American news media) is upset now because they messed up! They didn’t do their job. They were caught up in the hype like everyone else, but their job is not to get caught in the hype. So much so that they attacked their own in the French press who were suspicious from the beginning. The media hype certainly was a good thing when it raised Armstrong’s profile and helped to raise millions for cancer awareness and research. Now, their contempt is hypocritical. Their ‘disgust’ is how they’re avoiding criticism for their abdication of responsibility.
What do you think of Lance Armstrong’s answers in his interview? Genuine, fake, or just the beginning? What do you think Lance should do now? Crusade against doping in sport, or try to repair his relationships with former friends and fans? Who won the 2012 Tour de France? Exactly.
Obviously, some people will know the answer to the last question, but by no means everyone. It should be easy, because he also won the cycling time trial in the Olympics. I’m not trying to make a point about how most people don’t follow or know anything about cycling, and, as far as Livestrong goes, I’d like to think that I’m not making an argument for ends justifying the means – but in this case I can’t help but think they do. If all Lance Armstrong did was win bike races that hardly anyone in North America paid attention to, this wouldn’t be much of story. He is so famous because he did all of that after having cancer and because he raised so much money for cancer awareness and research, but now it’s the doping in the erstwhile ignored races that has everyone up in arms.
For me, rooting for Lance was a bit of fun, but in all honesty, he wasn’t my favourite cyclist. Everyone just assumed he was because most people don’t follow cycling, they’d heard his name and knew he was good. And that was ok. Instead of telling everyone that I wanted Ivan Basso or Alexandr Vinokourov to win (both later suspended for blood doping), I just let people think I was a big Armstrong fan. It wasn’t that important. It’s not that I didn’t like him, I just wanted someone else to win. However, since he retired, I found myself becoming a somewhat cynical supporter of Lance Armstrong. I thought it was likely that he did take drugs, but, I wasn’t ready to say ‘he was defintely using drugs’, because I didn’t know. It’s more fun to pretend whoever you’re cheering for is the greatest person who ever lived, but that’s only fun because you know that it’s not true, or at least that’s not why you’re cheering for them. Maybe he/she is a genuinely good person, that’s not the point. The point is to have a rooting interest, but not to confuse that with idolization.
This righteous indignation with which the news media is treating this whole confession situation is blatantly hypocritical, showing a severe lack of self awareness. They (the news media) couldn’t wait to jump on the Lance Armstrong bandwagon/gravy train and, forgetting their role, became huge, obnoxious fans. Now the bandwagon has broken down and the media is all too eager to jump off and yell at the driver about how bad the ride was.
I know I see this situation differently than most people. People who are fierce competitors, like professional athletes, are still people. They ain’t perfect. The real situation, as I see it, is that the media and the public tried to make him into something he wasn’t. Above all else, he was a competitor. He wanted to win. He was narcissistic and arrogant. That was known before any of this. If those are traits that are so wrong and you don’t like them, then you weren’t a fan of Lance Armstrong to begin with, you just liked that he won. As critical as I am of the media, they too are just a group of people who reflect the public.
Anybody who knows Armstrong and was personally lied to and hurt is probably looking for an apology. For the rest of us, Lance Armstrong was a cyclist who ‘conned’ millions of people and a bunch of corporations into donating to cancer awareness. What a jerk! Believe it or not, worse lies have been told, by people in much greater positions of trust, and to a public who had a greater role in their ascension to the position.