For some of us, those lines are clearly delineated based on subject matter. I confess that there are certain topics where my feelings are purely black and white - which isn't always the most realistic way of looking at something. I am a very stubborn human being - when I dig my heels into something, I don't budge. But I do so with a tremendous amount of consideration - even stances that may come off as "knee jerk" are, in fact, not. You are not always privy to the man behind my curtain, though this blog should reveal he exists as I explore the behind-the-scenes workings of my thoughts and actions frequently.
ña Gracia Mendes was a heroine. My grandparents on my mother's side were heroes. This doesn't mean that Lance can't be someone's hero, for their own reasons. But he was never mine. This also doesn't mean that Lance - the man and what he stands for to me - doesn't matter to me, either. He does tremendously.
(This is when one of my kids would interject by telling you all that I think he's cute and that's why he matters to me. While, admittedly, he's a good looking guy, in fact, that's not the reason why.)
There are many pundits, on both sides of the Lance Armstrong aisle, that have their theories as to why he's going on Oprah now. Some say it's a sly legal move because the statute of limitations is up and he can't be brought to task for perjury. Some say he's been licking his wounds since his failed Don Quixote-like fight against the USADA and had to regroup. Some say his ego is hurt that he's not in the headlines and is now making, yet another, tactical PR error. Well, I hate to break it to you, but unless you are Lance Armstrong himself, and even if you ARE Lance Armstrong, you may not know what is driving him to do this interview right now. Speculate all you want, but let's not forget, it's all speculation. And quite a good part of it is speculation by those who feel burned, or are taking this situation way too personally when they really don't have a right to do so.
The cycling world always seemed to be divided into Lance Lovers and Lance Haters. And the Haters are having a field day while the Lovers are questioning themselves, re-evaluating, and being put on the constant defensive where they, like many allege Lance has done in many cases, have had to stand their grounds just to save face because, after years of taking one stance, it's unbearable to admit they were wrong.
I'm just as interested out of sheer curiosity about the Oprah interview tomorrow evening. Would I love the answers? Yes. Because I become rather obsessive over unanswered questions. Do I need to watch the interview to determine whether or not my feelings about Lance will change? Absolutely not. In fact, I can assure you that they won't change. and here's why:
Because I could give a rat's ass whether or not he doped. I don't care who he bullied to keep quiet. And I don't care that the haters may have their day in the light. With very, very little exception, I gain no joy by anyone's downfall. But there are two things that I do care about when it comes to people who have made poor choices in the past: 1) Do they understand the severity of what they've done? Are they willing to bear the consequences (assuming the punishment fits the crime)? 2) What have they done to make amends? (Note: Not, "Have they publicly admitted to doing anything?")
Ideally, of course, those amends would be directly related to the transgression. An eye for an eye, yes? However, that's not the real world. And that's simple to presume when you speak of the simplest, least complicated situations. Lance is hardly in a simple position, no matter whether or not he is truly innocent or guilty! Public opinion has deemed that he's guilty. If he protests his guilt, he's talking to a wall. The judge and jury made their decisions and there isn't a damn thing the man could say to undo what has been done. If he admits guilt, truthful or not, then he's just a liar as "we all suspected." He's damned if he does, damned if he doesn't. So now, he has to deal with the least of all evils presented before him, as well as the damage this whole situation may have caused a movement he cares deeply about - cancer survivorship.
Only the most troll-like haters can say that he doesn't believe in the cause of LIVESTRONG with every thread of his being. You can fake sincerity to a degree, but the lengths that I have witnessed this man go to connect with people, share their plight and improve the lives of cancer survivors around the globe is only matched with the likes of Doug Ulman, Chris Brewer and other professionals in the cancer non-profit world - maybe.
Is it possible that part of his drive to do good wasn't just out of survivor's guilt, the responsibility of the cured, but in fact a means of trying to wash his hands of the guilt of suppressing bad choices made in his cycling career? Well, unless you are Lance himself, or his psychotherapist, you will not know. Even if he says it on Oprah, you won't know. You may hear what you want to hear tomorrow, you may not.
Some have compared Lance to Madoff, saying that Madoff was considered a "hero." Hardly. The man has showed no remorse. He gleefully bankrupted hundreds, destroyed businesses, and caused family members to choose suicide over facing what took place. There is no comparison in that regard.
To me, however, actions speak volumes louder than words. I challenge each and every Lance Armstrong critic to spend one day performing the tasks that Lance has done on behalf of LIVESTRONG before opening their fat yaps about what a scumbag Lance is. For starters, try to do this: Remember every single cancer fighter with whom you've ever interacted, and, when you randomly run into them, make them not only feel like the most important person in the room, but remind them about details from your original meeting - details that are so unique that the cancer fighter doesn't even remember that accurately. In 5 minutes, say something so heartfelt and motivating that you encourage that fighter to strive even harder than they were before. Give that person, and their family, hope. Genuine hope - not in a cure, a drug, a medicine - but in themselves. And make them feel like a rock star because of the encounter - a feeling that should last their lifetime. Then, spend another 5 minutes looking into the eyes of someone terminal. Someone whose time to fight is dwindling down to hours and tell them that their choice to die the way that they chose is alright, too. Make them believe that they made no mistakes because they are handling the disease the way that they wanted do. Give them dignity, not pity. And make sure that the family has someplace to turn from which to derive strength when their loved one perishes.
Had Lance spent 1 week doing as I described above, in my opinion, he'd have made the amends necessary to balance the injustice. But the man has been doing this for 15 years. Around the world. For cancer fighters of all ages, sexes, races & creeds.
He did that for me. He did that for my children.
And, let's face it. We all have skeletons in our closets - some great, some small, and all of which could sink our careers, our public face, etc, should they leak out. Mistakes from college, adolescence, in business dealings, relationships, financials - you name it, we all have one. And, more often than not, it's one that we've publicly denied - either when filling out applications to being asked directly at a party or someplace more formal. We've denied them one way or another, adamantly.
Think about your most shameful mistake in your life, which you may or may not have denied publicly, and imagine it brought to light, to all your co-workers, loved ones, family & friends, and in your face constantly.
What would you do? Note: I'm not asking, "What would you like to imagine that you would do?" Nor am I asking, "What is the right thing to do?" I'm asking you, human being to human being, made up of many shades of grey, What would you really do?
Be honest with yourself.
And then cast the first stone at Lance Armstrong.
Is he a hero? Perhaps.
But he's a man who has accomplished an extreme amount of good, has influenced many more to hope and strive for a better future one way or another, and, whether for good or for bad, has the ability to remember damn near every person he has ever met.
Not many of us can say any of those things. So, until we can, maybe we should silently watch what unfolds, withhold judgement, and let the man make amends for whatever he needs to make amends in peace. And maybe, just maybe, we should offer him some slack, forgiveness even, if that's what he needs, to get back on his feet and continue to do good in a way that many of us only dream we could do in our lifetime.