I do not yet know if I have the stomach to watch the Lance Armstrong interview tonight on the Oprah Winfrey show. Not alone at least. If I do, it will be in company so that we can turn it into spectator sport. That’s the least that Lance and Oprah deserve, a chance to be treated like good to honest entertainment, our popcorn ready at hand, ready to whoop and holler and cheer and raise the odd slogan or two, our verbal participation a judicious blend of the caustic and disbelieving. We can then participate in a distinctively American ritual, the public, prime-time confessional with the television anchor subbing for parent, priest, psychotherapist and rabbi all at once.
But in the spirit of another distinctively American ritual–the preemptive strike–let me offer a few thoughts before I reach for the television remote (with barf bag handy).
As has been noted by most commentators on La Affaire Armstrong, what makes Armstrong into the Grand Asshole Sans Pareil, the Dickwad Par Excellence, is not that he took performance-enhancing drugs (on which subject my thoughts continue to remain a trifle confused and to use presidential language, ‘evolving‘), or that he issued several denials over a period of years. Rather it is because Armstrong patented, and perfected through a series of ever-increasing righteous refinements, a genuinely new addition to the armory of Auto Exculpation: the full-blown, vicious, counter-attack on those that ever dared suggest that he was anything less than God’s Benediction to the Benighted World. He didn’t just have a pair of balls that he had rescued from the clutches of cancer, he was going to swing them right in the face and teeth of anyone who raised a barricade against the Armstrong Juggernaut.Even as his castle of defense, denial, and counterattack increasingly gave signs of giving way under the accumulating evidence and testimony, and even as it became increasingly clear that the Poster Child for Courage was a very, very unpleasant person, Armstrong continued to lash out. The Inquisitor complained of the Inquisition and pressed charges; the rack was reserved for the accusers.
Perhaps he won’t issue any more denials. But one thing remains the surest best of all: Armstrong will not stop being obnoxious. He will whine; he will claim extenuating circumstances; he will continue to vilify and blame; he will grant us all a glimpse into the deluded mind that was capable of constructing the bizarre fantasy world that he chose to inhabit.
In Phillip Kaufman‘s Quills, the Abbé du Coulmier, irked by the grandiose pretension on display, finally says to the Marquis De Sade: ‘You’re not the anti-Christ. You’re only a malcontent who knows how to spell.’ With that in mind, let me just say the following: Lance, you’re not Moses come to lead us out of the Land of Insufficient Willpower into the Blessed Valley of Anything is Possible. You were just a douchebag that could ride a bike. And as that was the only thing you were ever good at, do us all a favor, and get on your bike.