Tuned In

Who Cares If Lance Armstrong Is Sorry?

When we frame the sleazebag-apologia interview as mainly a p.r. exercise in showing remorse and winning redemption, the sleazebag has already won.

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George Burns / Harpo Studios, Inc. / AP

Oprah Winfrey interviewing cyclist Lance Armstrong during taping for the show "Oprah and Lance Armstrong: The Worldwide Exclusive" in Austin, Texas.

Lance Armstrong is not sorry. I mean, I have not yet seen his interview with Oprah Winfrey, to air tonight and tomorrow like a supersized miniseries of shame. I’m sure there are dramatic moments. I am told he cries. And I’m not a mind-reader: maybe he’s sorry he got caught, or sorry he felt he had to cheat, or sorry he took certain aggressive steps to try to save his sorry self from getting caught.

Whatever. None of that, and nothing I could imagine Armstrong saying, meets any non-laughable moral definition of “sorry.” Sorry is not a famous, powerful man deciding belatedly to do the right thing in order to limit his losses.

It’s not the doping that bothers me so much; I’ve written before about our society’s hypocrisy about “performance enhancement.” It’s that Armstrong not only cheated but lied about it, not only lied about it but reportedly pressured others into it, not only pressured others but bullied people, using his fame and power to decry and sue people for saying what, it turns out, was the truth.

But more important: who cares whether Lance Armstrong is truly sorry? Or whether I think he’s sorry? Or whether you do?

At some point in the history of these confessional interviews–Charlie Sheen, James Frey, and on and on back into the mists of disgrace–we’ve decided that the main purpose of these sitdown talks is the public display of contrition. You can blame the media in part, for selling high-profile interviews like this as primetime tearjerking personal dramas, and the interviewees and their consultants, for using this dynamic to their advantage.

So the interview becomes a performance. Did he turn things around? Did he seem sincere? Did he start to rehabilitate his image? Let’s ask a body-language expert!

But when we frame the sleazebag-apologia interview as mainly a p.r. exercise in showing remorse and winning redemption, the sleazebag has already won. Because it puts the interview on the friendlier, subjective ground of emotion and performance, which can be finessed and spun. It becomes like landing a difficult triple axel: if he pulls it off, it’s a success.

Here’s a crazy idea: an interview like Armstrong’s is not about eliciting a performance. It’s about getting information. There are plenty of facts one could hope for from Oprah’s interview beyond Armstrong admitting what we all already knew–that, again, is just performance, not disclosure. But how did he pull off the deception? Who knew? Who helped him? And what about the people he disparaged, and worse, for telling the truth? (The New York Times this morning has a good list of potential questions, though the interview has already been taped.)

If Armstrong tears up while answering these questions, that’s his business. It’s also irrelevant. You can forgive him, or not. At this point in the story, Armstrong should tell everything, because it’s the minimally decent thing to do. And in exchange, he should expect–nothing: not a legal deal, or limited financial losses, or redemption.

But I doubt Armstrong agreed to the interview expecting nothing. If history–his and others’–is any guide, his answers will be influenced and circumscribed by legal and p.r. limitations. Which is his prerogative. But every answer Armstrong gives short of complete, unambiguous and unconditional disclosure will only be further proof of how sorry he isn’t.

25 comments
MatosJadraque
MatosJadraque

Lance Armstrong, eres un fraude. Me decepcionastes. Ya había escuchado investigaciones antidopaje, pero siempre creí que era inocente... años después de las acusaciones, sale el escandalo. Injusto mientras Michael Jackson pago con su vida una acusación falsa que arruino su carrera de cantanete, Armstrong se haya hecho rico haciendo trampa y jugando sucio.

CAM
CAM

THUG, BULLY, HIS APOLOGY RINGS AS MUCH TRUTH AS SAYING THE CAUSE OF 9/11 WAS A MALFUNCTIONING AIRCRAFT...WIN AT ALL COSTS, TO EVERYONE BUT HIM...

VickiLove
VickiLove

These sports super-stars like Armstrong and Michael Vick, Kobe Bryant, and many others who believe their apologies will endear them to the public turn my stomach. I work with high school students that look up to these men. Every single time they lie they send the wrong message to these kids. The hurt goes much further than hurt feelings and bullying adults. It teaches young people that lying pays off. Shame on all of them.

Poppersci
Poppersci

If we could put in the same time, attention, and outrage at our political figures--get them to do hard-hitting accountable interviews--we might just have a better society. Surely  they've done worse and have a lot more to answer for. I like that we are finding legitimate fault, but can we ratchet that up to include the more influential wrongdoers?

Lucelucy
Lucelucy like.author.displayName 1 Like

I never did like the guy.  I like my high horse better.  I call her Spot.

tywins
tywins like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

I can not believe that Lance Armstrong is being demonized for using PED'S. Who really cares. And to all of you out there that are appalled by this are pathetic. Like non of you have ever done anything wrong I.E. drove intoxicated, cheated on your spouse, stole from your employer. Really? Lance is an American hero who has raised over half a billion dollars for cancer research and given hope to countless people with cancer. Our doped up guy beat your doped up guy, PERIOD. Everyone needs to get off of their "High horse" and stop attacking this great man. The media and their double standard with athletes makes me sick. A bunch of unathletic journalists who always got picked last in kickball now have an athlete to attack and it is pathetic. Lance is a great man and we should all be ashamed for how we are treating him. 

hotandbothered
hotandbothered

@tywins  If you were trying to win a contest you had spent years training your body to be in the best shape possible for or you were vying for a better paying position at work or you had been studying for weeks for an important final in college and someone else was going to - win the contest (by cheating), get the job (by fudging his work creds) or use a cheat sheet and get a really high score on the final exam - that's a-okay with you? I doubt it. Apply the wrong to how it would affect you personally and your 'sense of justice' would be there, loud and proud. I'm willing to bet you'd be belly-aching if someone tried to jump the line you're in to get a crappacino. It's human nature. Finding reasons to let unethical actions slide is, well, unethical... 

Mr. Armstrong's 'glory' was built on upon a house of lies, bullying and deception. That does not make anyone "a great man".

tjk1939
tjk1939

You my friend are sick, another part of our social problems.

vrcplou
vrcplou like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

@tywins I could care less about the doping but being able to ride a bike does not make a "great man" and the fact that he destroyed the lives of other people to protect his own lies is what makes him the antithesis of a hero.  And by the way I've never done any of the things you mention in your post.  Your standards seem pretty low....

kintoy
kintoy like.author.displayName 1 Like

@tywins because he lied and he cheated and he bullied the people who tried to take him to account. 

StanHejl
StanHejl

We don't know the whole story.  Like, for instance, how does Lance profit by coming clean at this particular time.

pinkbassist
pinkbassist

If you want to know how he cheated, read the Reasoned Decision by the judge. That is everything you need to know. Without

all of the interview theatrics. If everybody read it before watching this interview, they would be more inclined to shut it off.

malabona
malabona

He has to pay. He is the Lehman Brothers of sports.

ht25640
ht25640

Imagining a live event showcase for Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods, Bill Clinton, and the great apologizers of our era. Apologalooza! http://bcove.me/izll2xr8

MarkWarneke
MarkWarneke like.author.displayName 1 Like

Who are we to forgive Lance Armstong? First, he didn't do anything to wrong any of us. We don't know the man. We've never met him. His actions had no impact on our lives. We why should he apologize to us and why should we need to forgive him. Second, we've all lied and then lied more to cover up our first lie. If you say you haven't, then there's another lie you've just used to cover up the original. 

Did he cheat? Yes. Is cheating wrong? Yes. Are there people out there he should apologize to? Yes. But none of us have ever ridden against him in competition and none of us are his family, so we aren't those people. 

Now, have someone grab you a ladder so you can climb down off that horse you've placed yourself so high upon.

SmallSpeakHouse
SmallSpeakHouse

@MarkWarneke To people like me who see him as just another celebrity, what you say makes sense. But since he did stand as a role model to many people (children among them), I think it's just right to call him out on the error of his ways. His apology, if sincere, would be for these people.

anon76
anon76 like.author.displayName 1 Like

@MarkWarneke 

Uh, he did use his inspirational story of a return from cancer to bring millions of dollars to his charity, which in turn enhanced the brand.  The millions of people who gave him money based on that lie deserve an apology as well.  Of the people that were harmed, his competitors (many of whom have themselves tested positive) got the least of it.

newtojersey32
newtojersey32

There is no sorry in Lance--his public apology is nothing more than an attempt at minimizing short-term losses and creating opportunities for long-term requalification in professional sport. 

It's time for our media to finally take Lance out of the spotlight and refocus it on deserving athletes and causes. 

dorianharris
dorianharris like.author.displayName 1 Like

How about if he gives back all his cycling earnings? That would be a humble gesture wouldn't it.

malabona
malabona

@dorianharris I agree with you. It's a fraudster . He cheated to make money, I don't care if he climbs mountains .

vrcplou
vrcplou like.author.displayName 1 Like

And Oprah gets a lot of free publicity for her foundering network.  It's a win/win!!  I'm totally disgusted by this entire display and Armstrong is nothing but a narcissist.