Lance Armstrong And His Tour De Rants

What a week for semi-confessionals, bizarre attempts at damage control, and angry stabs at absolution.

Actually, I’m not referring to Coca-Cola’s decision to address the problem of obesity in these here United States in a new ad campaign that asks us to “come together.”  In an age requiring authenticity, there are some things mega-global corporations selling sugar water just can’t be transparent about. For its efforts to deflect blame, Coke reminds me of the kid who kills both his parents, and then throws himself on the mercy of the court because he’s an orphan.

That’s similar to Lance Armstrong. Of course, Armstrong’s attempts at self-preservation and deflecting blame should be far more interesting. I write this before the airing of his appeal to the Mother Confessor, Oprah, to defend himself enough so that at the very least he avoids jail time, hundreds of millions of dollars in lawsuits, and the knowledge that he put the final nail in the coffin of the U.S. cycling team’s most poignant sponsor, the U.S. postal system. (“Yes, Virginia, there used to be a man who came with a sack, who’d go from house to house...”)

The sheer, insane, Madoff-like chutzpah of his years of denials is hard to fathom. Of course, he’s not the first to repeatedly make excuses that would seem comical if they weren’t so sad. Fellow cycling doper Tyler Hamilton blamed his “vanishing twin” for bad blood results; Floyd Landis flunked a urine test, and blasted “the lab’s agenda.”

Lance’s case, however, is positively Nixonian in its tragedy: as with Watergate, it’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up. We all have reason to feel exploited, cynical, and angry, especially at companies like Nike, which backed Armstrong until this past October. I call this the “too big to fail” syndrome.

And we have yet to see one person from a bailed-out bank go to jail for his economy-wrecking actions.

Indeed, all along, Nike not only acknowledged, but flaunted Lance’s arrogant, in-your-face defiance. If you recall, they even did a spot way back in 2001 in which he’s shown saying,  "Everybody wants to know: what am I on. What am I on? I'm on my bike, busting my ass six hours a day."

Now I’m sure both Nike and Lance wish they had covered their asses in a different way.

The swooshmeisters did the same thing for Tiger Woods, although they never ended their association throughout the scandal -- they just kept him on the down-low. He’s come out of that fallow period a better fellow: self-effacing, almost delightful. Indeed, the global sports monster corporation just released a new spot with Tiger and its latest Golf endorser star, Rory McIlroy, in which Rory teases him about his age. Compared with Lance’s more-than-a-decade-long history of illegal performance drugging, Tiger’s crime (of sex addiction) was rehabbable. Again, by comparision, he’s now the we-try-harder, good guy in the Nike line-up.

Whereas Lance’s story is Nixonian in numerous ways: the stonewalling; the forcing his colleagues to sacrifice themselves and take part in the cover-up. But it’s also Shakespearean.

Let’s start with the “what’s in a name?” question.  Saddled with a cartoon superhero moniker from birth, perhaps Armstrong felt pressured to be a real-life superhero, and keep up the boosting to live up to the impossible. Similarly, Anthony Weiner was no doubt taunted all of his life about his appendage-suggestive name, and ended up perversely acting out accordingly, even tweeting a picture.

On what grounds will the giant fraudster come clean? I don’t think anyone will be able to stomach a “now I want to be part of the solution” strategy.

There are so many lines in Shakespeare that apply to Armstrong. His showing tonight is bound to be sickening -- a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Recommend (6)
13 comments about "Lance Armstrong And His Tour De Rants".
  1. Laurence Bernstein from Protean Strategies , January 17, 2013 at 6:21 p.m.
    Brilliant articulation of recent history in brand PR disasters. Popular wisdom, especially digital pop wiz, tells us that brands cannot survive such major breaches of trust. Brands, they say, are delicate, and with the power of social media, one slip off the straight and narrow and that's it. Except it isn't it. Nike is doing fine and even Tiger is doing fine. The doped baseball players even evoke public sympathy for not being elected to the Hall of Fame (remember the lying, the cheating, the tears, the blood, and the pundits saying the public would never forgive them?). I can't think of one brand that was "killed" by SM or bad associations -- can you? The smart money (not the pop wiz, SM money) says that Lance will be fine in 18 months. That's because NOBODY CARES. We all enjoy these little dramas, but ultimately all we care about is what happens to us in our immediate lives (this is not a judgement, its a fact). This is all bad news for the PR establishment (who no doubt take credit for the fact that Nike and the rest survived these major attacks on their brand bastions) because sooner or later everybody, especially the CFO's holding the purse strings, will realize that, in the end, everything just blows over. With or without Hill and Knowlton.
  2. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com , January 17, 2013 at 8:16 p.m.
    Thanks, Laurence, for adding your own brilliant articulation! How many of these scandals can we take before we break? An endless number, I guess.
  3. Jonathan Hutter from Garrand , January 17, 2013 at 9:06 p.m.
    I certainly hope Lance is not fine in 18 months. As a firm believer in him for as long as possible, and longer than most others, I hope he is embroiled in lawsuits, forced to give back tens of millions if not more, still banned from sport and left only to be a regular person like the rest of us and facing that which he probably fears most, being forgotten. However, I'm afraid that Laurence is probably right. Not that it will blow over, but some small or desperate brand will hire him as a shill just for the publicity value. On the other hand, people may forget him because, now we have MANTI TE'O!!! You can't make this stuff up!
  4. George Parker from Parker Consultants , January 17, 2013 at 9:19 p.m.
    Barbara... It isn't about the drugs, it's about the way he destroyed anyone who got in his way, including the young English team masseuse who said something to a newspaper reporter and was then described by Lance as an alcoholic prostitute. She was hounded to the point where she tried to commit suicide. What a wanker. The ace criminal in all this? Phil Knight. Nike never saw a bad boy it couldn't sponsor. Shit, they dropped Vick - The dog killer - while did did his spell inside. Now they are sponsoring him again. "Show me the money" How true. Cheers/George "AdScam" Parker
  5. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com , January 18, 2013 at 11:02 a.m.
    What did everyone think of his performance on Oprah? Pretty much expected: the banality of evil. He'd make a great Nazi (Just following "the generation.) @Jonathan--will he end up hawking "Cash$4Gold?" @George-- Oprah showed footage of that very masseuse, I think. It's one thing to lie. It's another to eviscerate all of those around you who call you on it. the "I didnt' say you were fat," thing really told all about who he is. A straight out sociopath, with no feelings. And you are right about Nike. When is someone gonna call them on it?
  6. Patrick Di Chiro from THUNDER FACTORY / Di Chiro , January 18, 2013 at 11:53 a.m.
    Barbara, brilliant post. And your comment about the "banality of evil" is spot on. Laurence Bernstein is so right in his comment about how none of this really matters because nobody really cares. How depressing and how true. One could extrapolate that cynical world view to assess the aftermath of the Newtown massacre. After all of these tragedies, the public (and elected officials) expresses outrage and deep sadness, but in a few short weeks, typically goes back to business as usual. Let's hope the Sandy Hook tragedy is different and people will actually care this time and do something to change the future. As for Lance Armstrong, I would bet that he is back in business and promoting Nike products sooner than any of us would ever believe. Americans love redemption stories, even when they concern criminals and roques.
  7. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com , January 18, 2013 at 12:03 p.m.
    Patrick: thanks for your insight. Do you really think Nike would take him back? He's a reviled sociopath! I thought that would limit him from getting back into the boys' club. I guess in the end it is indeed all money and cynicism. At least this isn't the ending so far with the Sandy Hook murders, which stirred us enough to have Obama take action!
  8. Patrick Di Chiro from THUNDER FACTORY / Di Chiro , January 18, 2013 at 12:14 p.m.
    Barbara, I certainly hope Nike won't take him back! But, I am afraid it really is all about business. I loved Laurence's comment about how the disgraced baseball players evoked public sympathy (not condemnation) because they didn't get elected into the Hall of Fame. The adulation of top athletes in this country literally knows no bounds. I agree about Sandy Hook. I think this time things are different, and people will demand action. Certainly the president has stepped up. Now the public needs to do its job.
  9. George Parker from Parker Consultants , January 18, 2013 at 5:56 p.m.
    @Barbara... The one thing that would destroy him would be to lose ALL his money. He is reputed to be worth $125 million. All the lawsuits and his army of lawyers will make a big hole in that... But the killer would be the Federal "Whistleblower" suit that Lloyd Landis has brought for $40 million. If the government joins in, which is looking very likely, they can TRIPLE that... $120 MILLION. Even Phil Knight would blink at that. He could even go to jail for perjury! This is going to get very messy for him... What a wanker. Cheers/George
  10. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com , January 18, 2013 at 6:26 p.m.
    Wow, George. So what was in it for him to do the appearance with Oprah? Legally, doesn't he have a lot more to lose now that he's admitted it all publicly?
  11. Robert Gilmour from Innfinite Hospitality Ltd , January 19, 2013 at 7 a.m.
    The guy should go to jail for at least 10 years. he's a criminal, a fraudster and the US 'theatre' of a sleazy, cheap chat show disgusted me and many Brits. Where is the law hiding when its needed, This is a total joke. That guy knew everything he was doing, that's what matters. Immediately he made the confessions, if not before, he should have been arrested and charged, and remanded. That show is a silly, comical attempt at some kind of bizarre kangaroo court. What other criminals might like to go on the show and confess I wonder, given the chance?.
  12. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com , January 20, 2013 at 1:37 p.m.
    Robert: Oprah: Kangaroo Cout, is one way to up her ratings. Really, you can't keep up with all the cynicism involved here. In the second evening, he claims he came clean for his kids, with the same fake gestures and mouth covering moves he used when he was still defiantly claiming he didn't dope. I agree, this is no way to treat a sociopath!
  13. Robert Gilmour from Innfinite Hospitality Ltd , January 20, 2013 at 4:14 p.m.
    Barbara- re 'upping ratings', perhaps in the USA but certainly not here in the UK, sorry. The guy should be sent down, end of story.