Legendary baritone-voiced crooner Thurl Ravenscroft once sang of the Grinch that “you’re as cuddly as a cactus, you’re as charming as an eel” as his contribution to the great Christmas songbook.
Well, compared with Lance Armstrong, the fuzzy green antagonist of Whoville is as lovable as Wally, the fuzzy green monster the Boston Red Sox have as a mascot.
Bringing this all full circle, Armstrong now finds beef with someone who combines the two concepts and is the antagonist of Red Sox fans (though neither fuzzy nor green) — Alex Rodriguez.
Specifically, Armstrong is complaining that there is a “double standard” between his own status as a disgraced and banned-for-life cyclist and A-Rod’s rehabilitation of his PED-damaged image (sort of).
Armstrong spoke to NBC’s “Today” show in order to remind the nation that he’s still the undisputed champion of shooting himself in the foot and demanding everyone praise him for his marksmanship.
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) December 6, 2018
Armstrong began his mealy-mouthed rant by saying, “The last six years has, in a lot of ways, sucked.”
The NBC segment then goes on to tell Armstrong’s story to the home viewer who may not be familiar, pointing out that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency described Armstrong’s U.S. Postal Service cycling team as “the most sophisticated, professionalized, and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.”
Doing his level best to be fair, Andrew Sorkin, conducting the interview, gave Armstrong the easiest out since Ed Bradley, on “60 Minutes,” asked Michael Jackson whether he thought it was OK to sleep in a bed with children, and Armstrong, as tone-deaf now as Jackson was back then, completely whiffed on the answer.
Said Sorkin, “I think people, six years on, still want to know whether you have been humbled, whether you are apologetic.”
Brace yourselves, folks, because this is where it gets good.
Armstrong’s reply? “I get both. I get people who say, ‘He hasn’t apologized enough,’ and then I get people who say, ‘Dude, stop apologizing!'”
In the words of Jerry Seinfeld, “Who are these people?”
Armstrong then invoked A-Rod’s name, saying, “Alex Rodriguez didn’t raise half a billion dollars and try to save a bunch of people’s lives. That’s kind of the irony of this. Look, it’s great when somebody hits home runs and maybe does an event here and there for the Girls and Boys Club. This story held a place in people’s hearts and minds that was way beyond those guys.”
Armstrong, when Floyd Landis blew the whistle on the doping program and sparked the investigation that led to Lance’s lifetime ban, used methods that would’ve made the Church of Scientology blush when it came to discrediting and ruining the careers of anyone who dared speak to the media, to investigators or to anyone who would put that “sophisticated, professionalized” cheating regime to the sword.
And Armstrong, every single time he’s been given a media platform, including on NBC, has gone out of his way to blame everyone but Lance Armstrong for the biggest scandal in the history of competitive bicycle racing, never mind the fact that his lifetime ban specifically named him the “ringleader” in the scheme.
Meanwhile, Alex Rodriguez, while not a saint, never went out of his way to throw everyone else under the bus to try and deflect blame.
A-Rod’s stance included, most critically, admitting his wrongdoing, something Armstrong has never done in his life.
Indeed, even as evidence mounted like the hills of the French Alps that Armstrong wasn’t PED-free, he continued to wear the white knight’s armor and insist up and down that he was the last bastion of clean, honest competition.
The bigger the lie, the more the public tends to hate someone when they’re caught in it. After all, the only thing the public likes less than dishonor is hypocrisy.
And sure, A-Rod has his share of detractors, and his work on “Sunday Night Baseball” has been so poor that even Rodriguez himself at one point poked fun at himself about it, but in general, Rodriguez is the flip side of Armstrong.
Specifically, people tend to like to use people’s honesty, even if it’s after the fact, as the jumping-off point for forgiveness.
We can relate to A-Rod. But nobody likes someone who refuses to acknowledge his failings.
Armstrong, finding a scoundrel’s refuge, runs afoul of another basic tenet of public opinion when he falls back on the Livestrong Foundation in an attempt to paint himself as the good guy.
And while yes, raising $500 million for cancer research is extremely admirable and Armstrong should certainly be praised for so doing, there are two major issues that using his charitable work as a shield runs into, and again, they’re right there at the core of American culture.
For one thing, “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.” That’s Matthew 6:2, and it’s why people’s hackles tend to get raised when people act virtuous and get in our faces with their charity work.
And for another, the Livestrong Foundation has a poor reputation as an actual charity, with just 43 percent of its donations available after they pay their overhead costs. A good charity should be hitting 90 percent, not 43.
Besides, Armstrong didn’t start getting serious about cancer research until his own bout with testicular cancer, and there’s a strong suspicion in a lot of public minds that doing something for what are perceived as selfish reasons blunts the effect that an act of good accomplishes.
Or, put very simply, Armstrong’s leaning on charity only further underscores the very reasons he isn’t terribly likable.
When J.J. Watt raised tens of millions for victims of Hurricane Harvey, every cent of those donations went toward doing actual good; the Houston Texans star and the volunteers who worked with him did it out of the goodness of their hearts.
Armstrong runs his charity like a business.
The point of all this is that Armstrong can claim “double standard” all he wants.
But it’s not a double standard. Lance Armstrong and Alex Rodriguez are two men held to the same standard that we apply to people who are disgraced and seek forgiveness.
And while A-Rod passes the test — he admitted his mistakes, has made a genuine effort to become a better person and has shown in his retirement that he has at least on some level succeeded — Armstrong fails the test badly.
He is still the blame-deflecting, selfish, holier-than-thou person who got on the public’s enemies list in the first place.
And until Armstrong has a come-to-Jesus moment about it, that isn’t going to change.
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