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Sunday, January 20, 2013

...I still like Lance Armstrong.

I don't know why I care so much about Lance Armstrong.

It's not like I have much invested in all this. I'm not a competitive cyclist. I'm not a cancer survivor, nor have I ever had a close relationship with one. I've never donated money to the Livestrong foundation. I've barely even watched the Tour de France, even though my dad insisted on it when I was growing up and would often force us all to gather round to absorb it for hours on end.

I ride a bike. I think I appreciated the fact that this guy came along - a somewhat average-looking, normal kind of guy - and made a traditionally dweeby sport somewhat less dweeby for a short time.

But that's not it, really.

What it is, is I love a story. I love a really great, sink-your-teeth-into-it story. And that is exactly what Lance Armstrong was.

Lance Armstrong was the American Dream. He came from nothing growing up. He was diagnosed with a terrible, life-ruining disease, and he beat it.

Lance Armstrong beat cancer and went on to win seven consecutive Tour de France titles. The world's longest, toughest bike race, won by an American guy with a hard life and the world cheering him on.

I'm not even American, but I guess I'm close enough to it that this sort of stuff really gets to me. But then - it's not even a traditional American dream story. Lance Armstrong wasn't a quarterback, or a point guard. He was a skinny guy who rode a bike (something I have a bit of a soft spot for).

And then, alas. We know the rest.

I can't condone what he did. I know he raised millions of dollars for cancer research, but I know he stepped on several peoples' backs to do it. He was a bully. He was, in his own words, "an arrogant prick."

All I can say is, at least he finally admitted it. In a venue, I think, appropriate for his story - an interview with Miss America herself, Oprah Winfrey. Oprah is a sympathetic, no-nonsense sort of interviewer  - which is why I think he went to her instead of the Wolf Blitzers, Anderson Coopers, or various sports journalist pundit-types of the world.

In that interview, I appreciated his straightforward answers. I appreciated that he didn't throw anyone under the bus, and the only person he insulted was himself. I appreciated how nervous he looked, how small he seemed hunched over in his chair, while Oprah sat tall and regal.

And yes, I appreciate that he probably went through hours of media training to get that combination of remorse and self-disgust just right. I fell for it, so sue me.

To be honest, though, I didn't watch the whole thing. I felt like I got the gist of it after half an hour. So if I missed something vital/juicy, please let me know.

I can't say I'm not disappointed, or a little embarrassed for falling for the story for so long. But I also can't say that I hate him, and maybe that makes me silly and naive.

I still like Lance Armstrong. Maybe not for long, but for now. As the story continues to unfold - and indeed, it seems everyday there's some new development - it's inevitable my feelings will change. But for now, I just can't hate him.

Back in September, at the beginning of the school year, I told my PR instructor I wanted to do a presentation on Lance and how he'd dealt with having his titles stripped. I wondered if the topic was still relevant enough, and my instructor told me that she thought it would be topical for a good, long time. How right she was!