Saturday, January 19, 2013

Livestrong-er: Why We Should Give Lance Hope, Even After Crushing Ours

“And to all the skeptics, the cynics: I’m sorry you don’t believe in miracles…you should believe…”

Oh, we did Lance. We believed in miracles. In Superman. In you. We unwaveringly followed you time and time again, unconvinced and frankly, offended, that anyone would have the audacity and disgusting jealousy to aim their sights on the deified king of cycling. We all wore those yellow bracelets, united in the fight, in your fight, against not only the physiological cancer that threatened your life, but also the cancering disregard for integrity that had enveloped the sport you owned. You represented a mythical triumph of good over evil; a real life hero. You were my hero. And you were full of shit.

The worst part is, you still don’t get it.

Composed. Rehearsed. Shielded. Arrogant. Cold. Heartless. Throughout most of his “apologetic” interview on Thursday and Friday night, Armstrong displayed the arrogance and defiance that has characterized this so-called “witch-hunt.” Lance lacked anything to indicate remorse or acknowledgement of wrongdoing, even struggling to hold in reactions of self-defense and justification of his actions. He downplayed his role as ring-leader of the doping operation classified as “the most sophisticated in the history of sport,” by the United States Anti-Doping Administration, and even decided to assert that he “deserves” to be reinstated.

Armstrong proclaimed ignorance as to the size of his scheme. He didn’t understand how big it was. He spoon-fed answers averting Oprah’s questioning, that even the most crooked politician would have to admire. Unwavering in his inability to show emotion, Armstrong deflected question after question, failing to reveal any details, occasionally throwing in a comment about how much he “deserves” what is coming and the punishment already endured. At points, it seemed as though he might forget to even apologize for what has happened. Unfortunately, his main regret seemed to be getting caught, explicitly saying that his comeback tour of 2009 led to this entire process.

Oprah: “Do you regret coming back?”
Lance: “I do. We wouldn’t be sitting here if I hadn’t.”

Armstrong dissociated himself with past clips of adamant self-defense shown with the clear mission of garnering an emotional response, referring to himself as “That guy in the video,” or “Old Lance.” But the only response Lance showed was a hint of embarrassment, mixed into the defiance that characterized Thursday night’s interview. How the hell did we ever believe this guy?

I don’t know why I expected to see anything different on Friday than the true colors he so brilliantly shoved in our mouths on Thursday night. Maybe it was the ignorant hope that still lingered from my childhood image of Lance. I realize now that we worshipped the image of Lance Armstrong, more than the man himself, but still I watched with the undying faith in humanity that I carry to a fault. I watched for a sign of Lance’s heart. His humanity. Two plus hours confirmed how lost a soul he is, but had he completely vanished? I waited and hoped and prayed for a chink in his armor.

Addressing his money lost? Even losing every source of sponsor income, highlighted by a 75 million dollar withdrawal from Nike (within the span of a few days, I might add), was humbling, but predictable in his eyes. His dismissal from Livestong then, that’ll show his human side right? Sure it’s his most humbling moment of this fall from grace…. wait, what did he just say?

LA: “They didn’t force me out. They told me, ‘We need you to consider stepping down for yourself.  It was the best thing…but it hurt like hell.”

O: “Can it live without you?”

LA: “I hope so.”

Is he really trying to make us feel admiration for him? Like in some twisted way his stepping down from Livestrong was on his own accord, and showed his heart and care, despite impending doom that lie without their gracious leader? By this point on Friday, I am convinced Livestrong was just a ploy to successfully thwart off any future criticism or doubt into the legitimacy of his success. Pump the brakes, Bill. That’d be as ridiculous as a Heisman candidate at the most storied program in college football, falling in love with a fake girlfriend and having her fake die of fake leukemia only 6 hours after your real-life grandma real-life dies, and proceeding to give extensive interviews about how fake-great of a person she was. (I’m sorry, but I had to; and take a second to re-read that sentence and retell yourself that shit, that would be a more ridiculous story than the epic bullshit of twilight, is real-life real.)

(Back to Lance). By now I am sure that not only is he one of the biggest scumbags to walk this earth, but he’s making a strong case to me that he is the anti-Christ. The legendary superhero that was Lance Armstrong has become the mega villain.

But, finally. When all hope is lost, and it seems as though this shield has taken over Lance’s true skin, ripping out his heart, his soul, and all that makes him human; He talks about his ex-wife with whom he had his first three children; he talks of how she sat by silently, not knowing, and not wanting to know about the lie of her husband; and you can see that look in his eyes of heartache and longing (“the one who got away”). Is this a chink or merely a dent though? Is this another act?

 And then the human side of Lance Armstrong reveals itself once and for all. The legendary athlete Lance Armstrong is replaced by the father; The father who must crush his family, his children, with the truth; a father who sees his adolescent son, still young enough to carry the innocence of youth, but old enough to defend his father’s honor with his whole heart; the father who is not only like a superhero as so many of our fathers are to us, but actually IS Superman in the flesh, that it is all a lie. There’s the remorse I have been waiting for; the reason I waited until tonight to write this article. Disgust, betrayal, even hatred, is replaced with sadness and pity. Suddenly I am humbled.

We as fans need to understand some very important things: nobody is perfect, and certainly nobody can ever live up to the expectations of being a living legend like Lance Armstrong. Before we judge his actions, let us examine our own shortcomings. He justified our beliefs with his adamant denials, but it was ultimately our decision to follow him without question. He does not owe us an apology.

He owes an apology to those he threatened. To those he ruined. To the Andreus. To Emma O’Reilly. To his former teammates and sponsors. To his foundation. To Rick Reilly even. To countless others. But not us.

We have reinforced the image that has taken over the man. I truly believe Lance Armstrong does not think he did anything wrong. He has convinced himself that he was right all along; that people are dealt different hands in life, and he got a shit one. That his taking performance enhancers was not cheating because it plagued the entire sport. Unfortunately the edge and desire, the survival attitude that helped him overcome a life-threatening illness, the same edge and desire that all professional athletes share, engulfed the entirety of his being. He re-iterated time and time again about his legitimacy, and I truly believe he now sees it as truth.

It was unmistakable to see the armor coated Lance Armstrong as defiant as ever throughout the large majority of this “confession.” But the cracks have already started to emerge, and he will break. No, he does not owe us an apology for anything; but on the day he finally understands the gravity of what he did, if that day ever comes, we must be ready and willing to accept his truly remorseful being. If he choses to apologize, out of genuine remorse, out of a realization of the gravity of the people he’s impacted, embrace the man that gave us undying hope once upon a time.

We are a forgiving society. Show us Lance Armstrong the human. We don’t need superheroes. We do believe in miracles, after all.

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