Society loves its heroes. We love to lift them up and put them on a pedestal when they succeed. The media creates the hype and supports them in their triumphs and struggles. It’s nice to think about, really… we all need someone to look up to, right?
However, when heroes fail, the tables easily turn. The storm clouds quickly gather in the media and the feeding frenzy begins. The vultures circle. The lion hunts its prey.
But when a wrong has been committed, is this so bad? We all pay for our mistakes.
The latest hero to fail is Lance Armstrong.
Who would have thought that a bicycle-riding athlete would capture the attention and hopes of an entire country? This unlikely hero was propelled to our collective imaginations after he was diagnosed with testicular cancer that had spread to his brain and lungs in 1996. After being declared cancer-free in 1997, he went on to win seven consecutive Tour de France titles between 1999 and 2005. Personal success came for him rapidly, with sponsorship opportunities, riding with President George W. Bush, dating singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow, wining and dining with Hollywood celebrities. Life was definitely grand.
Outside of his personal success, his Lance Armstrong Foundation, now the Livestrong Foundation, was behind a pop culture phenomenon that raised millions for cancer survivorship. The yellow Livestrong wristband began popping up in 2004 and was seen everywhere— to date, more than 80 million of these have been sold.
Another failed hero, former Democratic Presidential candidate and Senator John Edwards, wears a Livestrong wristband when running for Vice President in 2004.
More recently, things began falling apart for Lance Armstrong. Allegations came fast, furious and serious that he had used performance-enhancing drugs while competing. The United States Anti-Doping Agency charged in June of 2012 that Armstrong had used these drugs and in August announced a lifetime ban from competition in any and all sports which follow the World Anti Doping Agency code. Along with this, he was stripped of all titles won since August of 1998. Armstrong was alleged to have orchestrated, “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen,” according to the report issued by the USADA.
At first, Armstrong denied all of this. Currently, however, it is becoming more likely that the United States Department of Justice may go after him for defrauding the US Postal Service, one of the sponsors of his racing team.
I don’t want to sound cynical, but cases like this can bring out the cynic in anyone. Now that he may be facing very serious charges by the government, Lance Armstrong wants to come clean in case the hope remains that he can work out a deal to testify against others to save his own skin. This interview is the beginning of that campaign. He went to the Queen of All Media, Oprah Winfrey, for an exclusive interview. This interview will not air until Thursday evening, on Oprah’s OWN network, of course. But in the promotional hullabaloo, news has broken that Armstrong did indeed finally admit his wrongdoing to Ms. Winfrey.
Oprah herself is making the rounds, appearing this morning on CBS This Morning with her friend Gayle King. This is all very beneficial for Oprah, of course. In fact, I’m betting this interview will easily score her fledgling network its largest ratings yet. And it’s also beneficial for Gayle— I haven’t tuned in to CBS This Morning very much, but I did today. The show is really good.
But what did Oprah have to say this morning? She said that she came prepared with 112 questions for Lance Armstrong and was, “mesmerized and riveted” by some of his answers in the interview that spanned 2 and a half hours. Oprah even broke some news of her own today, announcing that the interview would be broadcast over two nights because of the length and detail.
When questioned about Armstrong’s demeanor in the interview, Oprah said that he, “was ready” and that she, “was satisfied” with his answers, adding that he was, “thoughtful and serious and prepared for this moment.”
As for why he decided to do this interview now? Oprah said that she’s not sure she has the answer to that. Gayle King seemed more interested in the process behind the interview, asking Oprah how she scored it. Oprah claimed that she emailed him several months ago and Armstrong answered that he just wasn’t ready, but that they should meet up for lunch when they were both in Hawaii for the holidays. Sure enough, they got together at her Maui home for a private meeting.
And just how will this interview affect Oprah and her career? She said that it is, “the biggest interview I’ve ever done, in terms of its exposure,” and even compared it to the 1993 live interview with Michael Jackson, and adding that, “this is big for my career.”
The most interesting part of Oprah’s appearance on CBS This Morning? She said that Lance’s lawyers were not allowed in the room. After hearing this tidbit, I think this interview is going to be Must See TV— this is what Oprah Winfrey is great at and I cannot wait to view it.
Every other media outlet in the country is seemingly joining in the firestorm. This headline from the New York Post:
So what’s next for Lance Armstrong? Again, the cynic in me believes that this whole media blitz will continue. He is coming forward, asking for forgiveness and absolution. He will also take every opportunity to hurl accusations and testify against others to save his own hide, something that would be impossible if he had not made this admission. For now, all most of us can do is shake our heads in disbelief that this man, who has been so honorable in his personal battle with cancer and parlay that into a juggernaut charity, could be so duplicitous behind the scenes?
Yes, we love our heroes and yet can’t take our eyes away when they stumble. But the American public is remarkably forgiving… we’ll see how the coming months and years shake out for Lance Armstrong. In the meantime, I’ll be there with my popcorn on Thursday night, watching Oprah with the rest of you.
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