Though you might say, “well, why are you writing a post about it, then?”
I never followed Armstrong’s career, although I certainly knew who he was and about the controversy that whirled around him; how could you follow the news at all and miss it? But if you’d asked me to pick him out of a lineup I couldn’t have done it.
I’ve never been especially interested in elite athletes and their lives, especially those in solitary sports such as long-distance running or cycling. It seems a rather odd thing to devote one’s life to (although each to his own): breaking a record just so it can be your name up there rather than someone else’s (oh yeah, and getting a load of money into the bargain).
Now, I do understand that people are ambitious, have personal goals, want to be the best, want to challenge themselves, all that jazz; and I have nothing against that endeavor. But there’s something about the monomaniacal pursuit of something that’s (to me, anyway) so essentially boring that I’m basically neutral about the entire pursuit.
Nevertheless, I happened to watch Armstrong’s interview with Oprah last night (so, now I could pick him out of a lineup). And he struck me as a very odd duck indeed, which is hardly surprising. His almost reptilian coldness and his sharp coiled tense internal energy were strangely at odds with his somewhat penitent words. Even he seemed to realize that.
Here’s a man whose eyes don’t smile even when his mouth does, which is not often. Of course, Armstrong is now in a situation where a person wouldn’t be expected to be at his warm fuzziest. But I don’t think Armstrong has a lot of warm fuzziness in him even at the best of times.
But that’s no surprise, is it? Look into this guy’s eyes and you will see he’s one of the most competitive people in the world. So, what would people expect from him? That he also be moral, kind, honest, empathic, respectful of others? His eyes would tell you otherwise. Although Armstrong’s victories were achieved by means of illegal doping, all his competitors were doping too, and you might say he must have been the best doper around as well as the best (or certainly one of the best) cyclists. You could give me all the red blood cells in the world and I wouldn’t be winning the Tour de France.
Armstrong betrayed a lot of people, including his children. In the only even slightly moving part of the interview, he talked about that. Saving his son from unknowingly lying in order to defend his father was what propelled Armstrong (according to Armstrong, anyway) to finally tell the truth (or whatever part of the truth he’s told so far; he may still be lying about certain aspects of the story).
“According to Armstrong” will forever after be a phrase with an implied asterisk after it. When a person has lied so consistently, blatantly, and unashamedly, how can he ever be believed again?
[NOTE: I realize I never did answer that first question: then why am I writing about it? Something about the guy’s off-putting coldness, some look in his eyes, grabbed my attention. He reminded me of the villain in “The Terminator.” And that’s not a good thing, although fortunately Armstrong has seen fit to channel his drive into cycling rather than terminating.]