Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Lance Dance

Lanced (2013) Kodakotype by Pants

The second part of the Lance and Oprah tango confirms all my suspicions. He's launched his twelve-speed onto the twelve-step superhighway, with Oprah conveniently providing a safe slip road. All that talk about process and apologising - routine stuff for redemptive sinners on training wheels - is meat and potatoes to Oprah and, I'm presuming, her audience.

She might as well have picked him up and carried him into the tent herself. I'm guessing this is what it's all been about. Lance's people talk to Oprah's people and they agree 'a way forward' and 'a set of outcomes' and ... yes, we may all want to fall asleep at the very thought, but this is the robotic way in which our top echelon organises itself these days. It's about breaking and fixing or replacing. And this is a fix (sorry, poor pun).  And perhaps I sound like a conspiracy-theory tragic, but, when everything goes the way of the pear in your life, does Oprah magically show up and ameliorate your cheating, lying misdeed-doing 'inner demons' away and set you back on the redemptive high-earning road to inner peace? I'm thinking not.

Let's not forget that Armstrong is an anagram of strong-arm, an adjective that means violent coercion. The strong-arm guy is the faceless enforcer goon. Once again, that third-person 'guy' shoulders the responsibility for all the bad acts that are, in any case, the fault of society for having such high expectations and life-threatening cancer for even daring to darken the door of someone who had significant bicycling to do and, you know, the pressure of being exceptional,

'That is a guy who felt invincible. He was told he was invincible. He truly believed he was invincible. That's who that guy was.'

It appears 'that guy' who did all the bad things is still around but destined to be 'exiting through this process.'

Step up the miracles of therapy and personal development. Yawn. Could someone please call Hollywood and commission a new script.

Armstrong's first goal is to find a way to compete again. He likens his life-ban from competing in any sport to 'a death sentence'. All through the interview he links the 'challenges' of his 50/50 cancer diagnosis with his current predicament. Although he occasionally admits fault for the latter, it's clear he wants the world to see this as another great challenge to be faced down by a steely and valiant competitor. Many commentators have suggested that the end-game here is to secure a retro-active 8-year ban, starting from 2005. That's entirely dependent on securing acceptance of his much-pressed assertion that he took no performance-enhancing drugs after 2005. He'd then be eligible to compete again after a year of public contrition. Oprah's soft handling of this timeline is, at the very least, suspicious.

It's likely he'll want to worm his way back into his Livestrong Foundation. If he can generate millions for charity in the short-term, no one will mind him banking a few of his own after a while, I'm guessing.

Oprah, of course, has an agenda too. You don't get to be a billionaire without one. Armstrong has been quite a catch and my guess is he'll stay caught. I'm seeing a whole reality industry forming around him and his 'process'. It's difficult to imagine anything more ghastly (except perhaps more Kardashians), but that's the world we live in.

Armstrong has one important thing going for him. Americans, and by extension the rest of the Anglophone world, will want him to hit the floor and bounce up again. Who would want to be talking about this in five year's or even five month's time? We'll be wanting to pick up the trail of a fresh transgressor. I imagine veteran Sunday Times sports journalist David Walsh (diminutized as 'Davy' by the man who insisted he didn't call Betsy 'fat'), who doggedly trailed this story for more than a decade, would like a more colourful subject to pursue. There are plenty of Kardashians on offer, although considering them 'sport' might be a bit cruel.

Nobody likes a loser, especially one that's been a big plank in the national self-esteem structure for more than a decade. It's okay to lose - we all need to learn how to do that. And as for being flawed (even to the point of being a cheating, lying, bullying 'jerk'), or making poor judgement calls, (even to the point of prolonged law-breaking), well these are all positive character-building experiences provided one takes one's humiliation and punishment with good grace and sets oneself firmly back on the right track. Confession, followed by penance and absolution appears to be what's on offer to Armstrong, provided he's not stupid enough to fuck it up. And that's a big unknown.

I believe America wants it, needs it.

Michael Specter, writing in the New Yorker, commented, 

'Lance Armstrong was not a man, he was an idea; an American myth like Honest Abe and Johnny Appleseed. He was the little engine, brutalized by illness and then savaged by opponents, who could anyway, somebody who shrugged off hate and always took the high road.'  

And he may still be that 'somebody', provided he ditches his 'that guy' alter ego who did all the bad things that got our basically 'good' guy into so much trouble. But, I don't believe anyone with any integrity at all will ever see him as anything other than a machine that can plot - like those test-tube Velociraptors in Jurassic Park.

I wrote yesterday about anticipating a denouement. My expections weren't high, but not even I expected it to be ventriloquized in quite the way it was.  Approximately two hours into the interview, Armstrong cites his former wife Kirstin's religious belief that, 'the truth will set you free.' This is, obviously, a biblical quote, (Gospel of Saint John, Chapter 8, Verse 32 if I'm not mistaken - prepare my sacramental wine please Barney, I'm about to proclaim on matters of which I know nothing at all).

My bible studies are a wee bit rusty, (having ceased in approximately 1969), but I do seem to recall that the full verse goes something like this,

'And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.'

Okay, I've cheated - it's contagious - I needed to look it up. The verse quoted above comes from the current American version of the King James Bible. The context may or may not be relevant here, but, Jesus used this argument to persuade Jews to follow him - just sayin'.

This is the denouement hook. I'm now presuming it was all agreed well in advance. So, Oprah concludes, (yawn),

'I hope the moral of this story is, the truth will set you free.'

Lance, the self-fulfilling boil, can't even own that. He says,

'Yeah, she [ex-wife Kristin] continues to tell me that.'

There's a deal there somewhere. I'm sure I'm not the only person who'll end a post with this, but, having read the brilliant David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest again fairly recently, I just have to quote from it,

'The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you.'

The reality show on OWN is looking more and more likely...