Lance Armstrong went on Oprah and apparently confessed to, and apologized for, his unthinkable sins. Trust me, I was just as surprised as you to learn that Oprah is still on TV. I haven’t, however, been at all surprised by the absurdly overblown reaction from the press and the social media peanut gallery to Lance’s mea culpa. “HE IS A DEMON! DO NOT FORGIVE HIM! SHOW HIM NO MERCY! EXECUTE HIM! BRING ME HIS BODY SO I MAY BATH IN HIS BLOOD!” I’m paraphrasing, but that’s basically the response his interview has received.
I can’t figure us out. We make no sense. In the last decade or so I can think of only two famous people who, according to pop culture, committed unforgivable fouls and have since been roundly detested by everyone: Mel Gibson and Lance Armstrong. That’s it. Those are the only two celebrities we all agree to hate, not counting the people who are famous only because of their dastardly deeds, such as Casey Anthony and Jerry Sandusky.
But I wonder, of all the people now sermonizing about what a bad, bad man Lance Armstrong is, how many of them have ever watched a movie directed by Roman Polanski, a dirty old pervert who drugged and raped a child and has been fleeing prosecution ever since? How many of these folks admire Bill Clinton, a womanizer, adulterer and perjurer? How many of the very same Lance loathers love to sit and watch a sitcom starring Charlie Sheen, a foul, drugged out, domestic abuser? How many were supporters of Ted Kennedy, a drunkard who killed a woman and never answered for his crime? How many cried for Michael Jackson, a creep who “innocently” slept with young boys and even more innocently paid them off when they accused him of molestation?
I could go on and on with this list. I can think of tons of people who have done far worse than Armstrong but are still loved and admired by millions. At least the guy raised millions for the fight against cancer. He intentionally hurt reputations to cover up his doping? Maybe. According to people who are also guilty of lying and cheating, anyway. But he also helped saved many lives through his charitable work. Does that count for nothing? I’ve even seen people go so far as to say they now regret supporting his Livestrong charity. Really? You regret donating money to the fight against cancer because Lance Armstrong did steroids? What the hell? Why did you support the organization in the first place? Was it because it seemed fashionable or because you care about the cause? If it’s the latter, I don’t see why anything should change.
It seems as though we frequently make celebrities, presidents, icons and pop culture heroes out of cheaters, liars, thieves, adulterers, drug abusers and murderers. And maybe we all realize this. And maybe because we realize this we feel the need to purify ourselves by ritualistically and randomly tearing down one of the more tame offenders so we can tell ourselves we still have moral standards.
On the day of the King’s wedding, the ancient Syrians used to perform a cleansing ritual where they exiled a she-goat into the wilderness, believing the goat to represent their collective sins. This is actually where the term “scapegoating” comes from. It seems we have not evolved. We’ve only modernized these bizarre superstitions.
Lance Armstrong did some bad things. I’m not making excuses for him, I’m merely offering perspective. And I’m questioning the motives of these pompous, overreacting idiots who seem to take great joy in finding a reason, justified or otherwise, to dismiss the achievements of successful people.