JANUARY 18, 2013 10:40AM

Lance Armstrong: All-American

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Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France seven consecutive years, between  1999 and 2005.  A colossal achievement given the nature of this grueling endurance sport.  The race began in 1903 circumnavigating France as a means to sell more newspapers.  Since 1903 there have been many champions, and a great deal of sensation, which sold many, many newspapers, but none match Armstrong’s achievement in accomplishment or fame.  


And then, there is another view.  While Lance Armstrong did manage to finish ahead of all competitors in seven consecutive races, in this most grueling of events, did he win?  It is a complicated question.  Finishing ahead of the competition is one thing, but the official statistics see another factor as relevant in answering the question.  Unless you’ve been in isolation somewhere, you are probably aware that Lance Armstrong confessed to Oprah Winfrey in an interview on Tuesday, which was broadcast Thursday night in prime time, that he had cheated in every single one of his seven consecutive Tour de France victories.  The historic record of his victories has been purged now, so there is officially no winner for the seven years that Armstrong strung together consecutive wins.


Interestingly, that blight on the record is only matched by one other purge, and only approached by a second.  Those two blank spaces of “no winner” are World War II, seven consecutive, and World War I, four consecutive blank spots.  Imagine explaining that to your mom.  “Hey Mom, I joined a gang.”  “Really Son, what are their names?”  “Mom, I’d like you to meet my buddies, World War I, and World War II...”  Nice company you keep there, Lance.  


So Lance All-American achieved that fame, even if the official laurels are not his to claim any longer.  And I suppose you’d have to take that “fame” away and call it “infamy”, but that’s a mere technicality.  There is no such thing as bad publicity, right?


Most of you don’t give a fat rat’s ass about cycling.  I know I don’t.  I admire the achievement, such that it was, but the sport never tripped my trigger much.  Back in high school, lots of friends went bike crazy when “Breaking Away” came out.  It didn’t do much for me.  I did end up in some races with friends from Shaker Hts out to Chagrin Falls, and back.  We raced our $100.00 dollar Schwinns for all that they were worth.  (Really, more like a fraction.  No one ever had $100.00 dollars.)  

But why is it important that Armstrong was stripped of his titles, leaving a chasm in the record as large as World War part Deux?  Armstrong made his mark in “sport”, as Mitt Romney likes to call it.  He was a media darling, superman in one of our favorite diversions, if not the specific variety of diversion.  Armstrong is from sport, and you don’t mess with sport!


Speaking of “don’t mess with,” Armstrong himself is from Texas.  Born in 1971, this 5’9 1/2”, 165 pound endurance titan managed unprecedented, and still officially not yet achieved (now that is truly unprecedented) seven consecutive wins (not) in a profoundly difficult endurance sport.  Just Lance and his colossal competitive spirit, a few bicycles, some tight, gaudy gear, and a cocktail of oxygen enriching, hormone boosting substances, and a blood transfusion procedure, which I don’t understand and can’t explain, actually managed to fake win the Tour, before any of his competitors could fake win it, SEVEN straight times.  That’s doing something, except when it isn’t.  


Lance Armstrong is one amazing human, no question.  Most people could not fake their way to this non accomplishment, even with the unethical means that he used to do so.  I’ll give him that.  Armstrong’s main mistake is that he chose to make his ethical lapse be in a career of sport.  Had it been banking, politics, religion, show business, sales, or right wing radio, you can fake your four flushin’ ass off, and no one cares.  Hell, if you are in conservative radio, the faker, the better.  But not sport.  You gotta be clean in sport.


If you want to fake protect yourself against a foreign invasion, (last seen in 1812), you can have almost any firearm you want.  You’re more likely to shoot your Mom, wife, brother, sister, husband, son, or self, than any Hessians, Visigoths, Soviets, or Space Aliens, but you are fake constitutionally guaranteed to have that weapon.  Lance Armstrong could have fake defended himself, like I am sure Joe the fake Plumber does with some inappropriately large weapon, and no one would mind.  He might even be commended for it by some fake public servant, or fake gun owner advocacy group like the NRA.  That you can do.  But you can’t take human growth hormone to win a bicycle race.  That shit will get you sued.


All jokes aside, Lance Armstrong is an amazing individual.  He is a pure competitor, albeit in a rather impure way.  But I’m just sayin’...  This dude is extremely competitive.  He’s like George W. Bush, the last fake President, only smart.  I watched Lance Armstrong in his interview with Oprah.  You know how those interviews go.  Oprah asks you some questions, asks why you were bad.  You tremble.  You confess.  You lay it all out and are rendered into the forgiving arms of the American viewing audience that will forgive almost anything if you will dance for the cameras.  Kirstie Alley was forgiven for being fat.  Kate Gosselin was forgiven for having 8 camera loving, annoying little tax deductions...six at the same time.  Fava Flave was even forgiven for wearing those big f’n clock medallions, because they danced.  


Lance don’t dance though.  Lance sat there and laid it all out, but he looked like Richard Nixon without the sweat, Bill Clinton without the empathy, and Tony Soprano without the accent.  Lance was cool, accurate, forthcoming, and the most unbelievable confessor since Frank “Frankie Five Fingers” Pentangeli testifying before the Senate in Godfather II.  


Oprah: “Lance, did you cheat?”  Lance Five Fingers:  “Did I cheat, yeah, yeah, I cheated.  But you know what?  I looked up cheat in the dictionary and...”  


That Lance is smooth.  He’s cool.  He’s cold.  “He had lifeless eyes.  Ever seen a sharks eyes..?”  Sorry, I lapsed into my Captain Quint there.


But Oprah went into the water with Lance.  “You go in the water?”  “The cage goes in the water?”  “Sharks in the water...?”  “Our shark?”  “Farewell and adieu ye fair Spanish ladies...”


Lance All-American is our shark.  Lance is a pure competitor with no compassion.  Lance Armstrong is win at all cost.  Lance “Five Fingers” is Wayne LaPierre saying we need more guns in school after the Newtown shooting.  Lance is a rights obsessed American culture with no thought given to duty, responsibility, or empathy.  Lance Armstrong:  All-American. 

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Ouch! But pitch-perfect.

The Armstrong case underlines the fact that hardly anyone can meet the impossible standards we set for each other these days. For more on this issue, check out my own posts on the German plagiarism scandal, which looks inevitable these days. Here's the essence:

Q. How can you be a beautiful, married young woman with a wonderful husband, two lovely kids, a seat in the European Parliament, a ministerial function, with your own private business PLUS a prestigious PhD? After all, this is what it takes to get ahead in today's world.

A. By faking it. While the other bits are hard to fake, cut & paste will get you a nifty PhD in record time. Ditto former defense minister Baron zu Guttenberg, with his faked doctoral title and his heavily padded resumé.

Lance Armstrong is everywhere.

Very well written, until the last paragraph. The comparison between Armstrong and LaPierre is a stretch. Armstrong is/was all about himself. He would 'ride' over and did so in order to win. Now he clothes himself in the robes of apologist...in order to gain sympathy.
He will have a hard time fading away. I am sure that there will be many more books and movies about him.
Well, Ande, who is LaPierre for? Not his membership. The majority of NRA members now favor more regulation. Basically, he's for his gun manufacturing corporate sponsors. That's not an ideological decision. This shoe is a much closer fit than it looks.

I don't know anyone else who could have written this. You saw some unexpected and valid parallels. Nice work.
He still had to ride the bike, and, Lemonde remains a hero, as does Indurain. That's sick event really, 100 plus miles, day after day. Just to ride that isn't trivial, not to mention race it, and drugs by themselves don't make you able to do that, just to do it significantly better.
Brilliant. This deserves much wider publication. I'm gonna Facebook it, but you might consider sending it to the NY Times.
Well done. A great review of a psychopath and the public who hold him up. I like Alan's comment about how revered faking is in the country, too.
I have never seen the supposed positive side of competition. This man has behaved exactly in keeping with the values of winning is everything and only losers say otherwise. Competition sucks, is mean and often cruel. People who say otherwise are competitive.
I prefer Bedford Falls to Pottersville, and my father always said, when something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
I like human frailty and limits. I think being human is much better than being a machine. I also prefer co-operation to domination.
Great piece here. I love what you did with the World Wars. Nice. r
Agree deserves wider distribution.
I haven't seen the interview yet. Did Oprah cry?
Right on and I don't give a rat's ass about cycling. This is about how we are. Well, how Lance is.
Thanks everyone.

Alsoknownas, this was an Oprah interview. Someone is supposed to cry, right? That's how these things go. That is one of the things that made this interview so conspicuous. Oprah had no chemisrty with him. I could see her wanting to take a shower after talking with him for 90 minutes.

And as for our boy, Lance, he was fascinating to watch. He spoke about himself as if he was his own lawyer sitting next to himself whispering into his ear. There was only one dude in his chair, but that dude was not human. Watching Lance listen to Oprah's questions, and the clips of previous interviews where he lied, where he listened to questions, his listening, and his razor thinly sliced answers were impressive for their precision. His lower eyelids twitch, and his eyes narrow. He sees a vulnerability in the question and he accelerates through that opening like nothing I have ever seen before. You could see Oprah getting frustrated with him when she asked, "are we talking semantics here, Lance?" They had about as much warmth between them as two passengers in an airport parking garage elevator on a trip between 3 levels who speak different languages.

No one cried. Not even close.
it works both ways. if the community wants responsibility from the individual, it must take responsibility for the individual. not in america: 'devil take the hindmost' is the national theme, aka pursuit of happiness and personal freedom. this is how the founding fathers expressed their determination that the poor would not have a dollar from them.

so lance saw a dollar to be made, and made it, on his own. very american, indeed. it's ok to despise him, but only if you're sure you're not just like him, only lazier.
Biting and laser-sharp. Very enjoyable read. Your insights into our culture of corruption are dead on. Rated.
Al Loomis, "just like him, only lazier." Precisely. I mean, I grant most of us probably have healthier ethics. I suspect you do. I do. I think Bernadine does. But to some degree, we are Lance, as he is us. I love this President, but I don't like drone strikes, but I was in the Marines, but I worry about the principle of openness, but I voted for him twice, and would a third time, but I do want to see Al Qaeda destroyed, but some were American citizens, but they had renounced America, but there is the presumption of inocense, but I have a 401(k)...it's like the Palmolive commercial from the 70's. You can't extricate yourself from the bad ethics. We're soaking in it. "Lance Armstrong, only lazier."
Ditto NY Times. I think Armstrong was on his 4th or 5th win before I knew who he was. It will be interesting to see where he bounces.
Had no interest in Armstrong or the Oprah interview, but when you said "Oprah had no chemisrty with him. I could see her wanting to take a shower after talking with him for 90 minutes."
that got my interest. And no crying?
I have seen many people say that they had no interest in the interview. That's cool. I would say that they are passing on an opportunity to see something very rare and important. Lance Armstrong is a rare example of an extreme narcissist. We know very little about these people, and they are all around us. He is a corporate entity with a phalanx of lawyers, and a life and soul crushing business model.

We presume humanity in others. It is written into law. It is coded into how we tell jokes. It is practiced in the gestures that we use to greet one another as we pass on the street. Most of us are connected on this common bond. But, there are some of us who just are not of us. They are reptilian. They are unfeeling, and when they trangress they are remorseless. The interview wa a rare opportunity to observe this, and his view of the awareness of that fact. That almost never happens with a narcissist. They condemn all, and take responsibility for nothing.

Oprah is a skilled interviewer and she was clearly taken aback by his cold, calculating bearing. Now, maybe you don't find narcissists interesting. That is also a possibility, but I think everyone should.
Your comment about narcissism is quite plainly written and gets to the crux of the matter before us in regard to this topic. The focus on self at the expense of what else can be seen to be around us often has a chilling and distracting effect on much of our daily commun-ications in this time.
Which brings to mind another question at the forefront of my mind. What do you think about me?
That's funny.

By "me", you mean me, right? Not you, but me.
No, that would be "What do I think about you?", which we can touch on briefly if you must.
Ok. that's enough.
I'm smiling.
Sort of a Cheshire cat grin.
My eyelids just came together a tiny bit.....
It's alright.
I'm hard to describe.
...by "I'm", you mean me....right?
I'm beginning to mean "you", if by "you", you mean me.
Grin widens.
Well I certainly mean me, of course. I have no idea what you mean...unless it is me, of course.
I mean me too. Which means you can finally tell me how you feel about me, which is most likely similar to how you feel about you.
So tell me. How do you feel you feel about you?
Me. I don't care so much.
But I'll wait for my turn.
Eyelids are open now only to a thin slit.
laughing at you and aka....

I too am turned off by Lance, in general. Yet, I share with him the experience of hearing," you have cancer". Something happens in that moment that alters you profoundly, and you can't ever go back. Cancer makes you fierce, able to sink your teeth in a little deeper, whatever that might mean for each of us. Lance's accomplishments may owe something to drugs, but they also owe something to cancer. The man has one enormous brass ball, but only one, and I am certain that he thinks about that every day.
I didn't see the whole interview but from clips and reports it sounded like he said the bare minimum, though that in itself required a lot of fessing up.

I spent a fair bit of time in France in the 80s when another American, Greg LeMond, won three in five years. Around that time I first began reading of the unusual number of deaths of top cyclists due to some thickening agent in their blood. So when Lance began his streak I suspected that he and many others on the tour were likely using something. I suspect now most people will just want to be done with him. He's facing big lawsuits on multiple fronts and if he thought it was arduous climbing the Pyrenees, wait till he sees what it's like dealing with litigation lawyers.
Screw cheating. Lance was a native born warrior and a merciless kink. There is a lot of player hating going on these days and I feel it is getting out of control with Lance Armstrong. Rush Limbaugh got away with a lot worse... after all he is still cheating America out of a brain. Lance rode a freaking bike, for goodness sake. My only beef is that the pressure that was put on him justifies pressure on any person to confess when the evidence is not there. Innocent people get screwed that way. He is a sociopath, for sure, but another sociopath almost became our president. We need to put things into perspective now and focus on our country not going down the tubes. Lance Armstrong is toast.
I'm not sure how to describe it Zuma, but you have this sort of understanding that is so, so rare. Most often, people think in terms of binaries. White hats, black hats, etc. Reality has a much more complex mixture. There is a 360 imprint of evil, and we share much more than we have uniquely separate from one another.

You're right again where if you find the right avenue, you may get away with plenty of bad ethics, while others judged on the same standard in other avenues get hammered.

I don't know why some people get it, and others don't, but you should teach a class.
In the middle of the night zumalicious has been here to say what I meant to but did not in the middle of our play time.

Lance Armstrong has not let me down as a friend. He is not my friend. He has not let me down as a person, because that only happens when I am surprised. He has not even let me down as a bicyclist closely trailed by others who would never think of cheating whom he beat by seconds.

He has not let me down down as a figurehead for cancer research and cures either, and I did not buy a yellow wristband so he does not owe me a dollar.

Others who are completely pure themselves can take care of those matters if they wish but in the meantime we must wait for another meteor to crash and leave a crater which we can gape into.
The fact that he conspired with so many others, and they all came to hate him enough to blow the whistle both on him and themselves is also very telling. Also, playing on the sympathies of those who admired him for his fight against cancer and cheritable work is particulary repulsive. Is it justfied by his "competitiveness?" You still give him more credit than he is due.
Ben Sen, it is kind of how I think of Nixon. People are not measured on a single continuum, but rather of a series of parrallell vertical scales. While he is clearly low on many, he is also high on at least a few. It's not like he's on my festivus list. But he is extraordinary, kinda like Hitler.