Here’s our poster child for the New American Dream. If you lie and cheat, you can become an icon. Men will want to be you, women will want to be with you, corporate sponsors will want to court you, and oh boy, money money money money money. If anyone tries to rat you out, just threaten them.
Of course, if you get caught people will turn on you. There will be lawsuits, which have less to do with justice and more to do with your former supporters making Grand Public Gestures to show that they’re distancing themselves from you. There will be talk of criminal charges and jail time.
I don’t think Lance Armstrong will do any actual jail time. I think he’s going to be successful in his plan to rat out other drug uses in return for a commuted sentence. I don’t know that he’s going to lose any significant amounts of his fortune, either. It is, after all, the gesture that counts most. The suits will get tied up in court, and he’ll pay a token fee, and that will be that.
He wants to compete again, in triathlons this time, and I think eventually he will. Give it six months, a year tops, enough time for the national short-term memory to fade. In a just world, he would never, ever, ever be able to compete again, and would never see another dime of endorsement money. Yet, the only thing as good as actual accomplishment in this country (better even, sometimes) is controversy. Scumbag he may be, but people will tune in to watch his big comeback. Whatever event allows him to participate will get a lot of attention, and a lot of free publicity, because whether we’re cheering him on for a comeback or hoping to see him fail, we’ll watch. Advertising revenue will be through the roof for any televised events. Rest assured, he’ll be back. He’s too good a villain now to simply waste by allowing him to fade into oblivion.
One thing I’ll give Armstrong credit for: He hasn’t cried on camera yet. The stock “celebrity begging for forgiveness” moment hasn’t come, the rote “it’s not my fault, I was pressured by the demands of the sport and I had a terrible childhood” speech hasn’t been rolled out. He hasn’t invoked Jesus yet. Those things may happen as our atention span turns to new contrived controversies and other celebrity meltdowns, but I’m pulling for Lance to stick to his guns and to continue being the fresh, original villain the 21st century needs.