He did not invent the culture, but he also did not try to stop the culture. This among many truths speaks volumes in part one of Oprah’s much-anticipated– if not overly pre-discussed– interview of Lance Armstrong.
There’s much to say about the disgraced cyclist, and no doubt much is already being said in the wake of tonight’s airing– all which I’ve yet to read upon this writing. For now, I take away this: Lance is a man, a human being, and as he readily admits, deeply flawed. At this late point there are no surprises, no shocking revelations, and no reasons for continued outrage. What happened– in terms of his doping, the series of lies that followed, and those affected throughout– is known to all. Is the whole story now not growing old?
Lance speaks to Oprah quite humbly and with apparent honesty. The most polished speaker he is not, nor expected to be. Nevertheless, for the “jerk” and the “bully” he owns up to having been, here he seems as real as he may allow himself to be. No matter the potentially unsavory details of what brought him to this interview chair, he maintains relative clarity, free of defensiveness and– to his credit– admitting his mistakes while repeatedly refraining from any finger-pointing.
“Winning at all costs” served him well at the time, a common though detrimental human mindset which holds at least some degree of understanding apart from the disapproval placed on it. What’s more important today is Lance’s lucid hindsight, as he now recognizes the wrongs that did not appear to him then. Defiant? Check. Arrogant? Check. And, still an able leader and an admirable humanitarian? Check.
As with most if not all public figures, from actors to politicians to elite athletes, one does not view himself from the same perspective as does the public. Lance reminds us now of this reality. As we best carefully consider the judgment we place upon him, he seems to be doing a decent job of judging himself. At the same time he’s prepared for the rest of his life to be apologizing and earning back what trust he can, Lance has declared he is happier today than he was while taking his yellow jerseys. He appears to grasp the reality of where he’s come, despite yesterday, and regardless of all that might await. This seems most important.
He once saw a level playing field, and now the playing field has been leveled. Lance’s past actions are clearly disappointing, but I do not dislike him– a double negative that indicates my cautious regard for him. I say this now, mindful of all that I– and you– still do not know, and might never know. But then, do we really need to? Lance is finally coming clean in his way, the sport of cycling is evolving as it deems necessary, and the past is just that. Again, he is human, complete with the same disappointing behavior set that has defined so many throughout history. The rest simply needs to be, shall we say– laid to rest.
I hope and predict that Lance Armstrong will rise again in some unusual and perhaps unforeseen capacity. For this simultaneously unique yet not-so-unique figure, there must surely be life “after Oprah.” But first, part two!