On camera, inside the classroom, Lance says: “It’s awful to see this situation and be in this situation, and what I look forward to is the day that Delaney is graduating high school and going to the prom. That’s what we get to think about and shoot for.”
Cut to Delaney: smiling.
He continues. “The toll it takes on a family financially is something we can’t imagine. It’s potentially devastating.”
Cut to the mother, holding back tears.
I turn off the television. Go through emails. One is from Eurosport. It has Greg LeMond’s face all over it.
The Greg LeMond of today cruises through backstage areas of cycling, holding up microphones in front of the riders as a recently appointed commentator, he is being hailed as an ex-champion, sometimes even riding cabriolets down the Champs Élysées, while the Lance Armstrong of today is the stuff ghosts are made of. An aerial disease. A non-smoke. Creeping from one courtroom to another, wearing the last two decades of shame and guilt in professional cycling on his shoulders, fending off microphones while trying to stear his way through the remains of the biggest scandal in sport ever.
But we’ll always need a Lance Armstrong. Because he plays out as the original version of the Modern. Yet. Somehow I don’t necessarily like my own voice of reason. Because I like Lance Armstrong. And I loathe him. It’s the whole package.
How he could try and kill everybody in his sport and then go try and rescue people at a cancer ward? That he, with a straight face, could lie to all of the journalists, all of us, and then with the same straight face thruthfully go raise half a billion dollars in charity for the one disease that we, at one point – all of us – are affected by.
I’m sorry. But you have to accept the greatness of that.
As a figure in modern sport, Lance Armstrong was its biggest global star. He is the only athlete since Muhammad Ali who sat down with Presidents wherever he went.
And why? Because we normally don’t care about what athletes have to offer outside of their game. They have no real impact, no real effect on our personal lives. They play games. Yes. They might do random charity. Might even have their own foundation, but you couldn’t name it. First and foremost, they are athletes. And that separates them from a man like Lance Armstrong.
Because Lance always had bigger issues on his mind. He had cancer on his mind. And everywhere else. And with that, when he returned to competitive sport, he applied all of what he had learn on his deathbed and forced in onto his profession.
As a liar, he had no equals. He was a fantastic liar. He was the Baron von Münchhausen of professional sport, and I never understood why people were so obsessed with this.
Why were the David Walshes, the Paul Kimmages and – it often seemed – the entire internet, so angry with him? What kind of a life were people living, always accusing him, the sport, always suspicious and full of indignation?
I watched all of the same races, all of his interviews and had a great time doing it. A wonderful time! I laughed hard at Lance’s answers. If you yourself had a full and rich life, why would all of that bother you so much?
He was an athlete, not a politician. Or a capital funding group. Or the board member who’d secretly voted to shut down the local factory leaving 500 people unemployed, so he could gain another million dollars. No. Nothing like that. Nothing he ever did on his bike could affect an adult person in front of a television or on the roadside.
I mean, right?
You know five people in your own town that are bigger assholes than Lance Armstrong. Because I can name the five people in my home town. Your brother might be a jerk. Your best friend might be cheating on his wife. Maybe he even gets into fights at the bar. The point is. Surely, there is another son of a bitch in your life you should be worrying more about than Lance Armstrong.
The cancer community still greet him as a sort of Second Coming, a messiah. And rightly so. If you want to go biblical, he suffered for them, now with them, travelling the world for them, and their affection and attachment to him is enormous.
All you have to do is witness it.
And all that puts Lance Armstrong miles away from any other contemporary athlete. Right up there with Muhammad Ali. Outside the box. And today, a very human human.
From Rouleur issue 52.