Once upon a time, in an alternate reality far, far away, Lance Armstrong was the knight without stain, a man so above reproach that even to suggest his brave narrative might be a little too brave brought down wrath unending.
I know. It happened to me.
Wrote one time that it wasn't unreasonable to be a little skeptical of the man's story, which involved rising from his deathbed to, within two years, become the greatest Tour de France champion ever. I didn't wonder aloud how he could be dominating all the drug cheats in his sport if he weren't one himself. In fact, I gave him what turned out to be too much the benefit of the doubt by saying I thought he really was doing it clean.
I bought into the narrative, in other words.
And got killed for it.
Simply because I suggested it wasn't unreasonable to wonder how he did what he did, the e-mails and letters and phone calls poured in. In a quarter-century as a columnist, I was never more viciously slammed for anything -- even my occasional suggestions that Bob Knight was probably not a guy who had a firm grip on his temper.
Well. Now that we know what we know about Lance -- that he was both a fraud and a de facto mafiaso, not only doping but strong-arming others into either silence or complicity -- I often wonder about the people who called or wrote or emailed, and what they're thinking now. And I'm wondering that today, with the news that Lance once again has revealed that character matters, especially when you don't have any.
It seems that just after Christmas, Lance imbibed a little too much one night, got behind the wheel of his car and crashed into a couple of parked vehicles. Then, because he's Lance, he apparently either convinced or allowed his girlfriend to take the fall by claiming she was the one behind the wheel.
It was classic megalomania from a classic megalomaniac.
Look. I'll always tip my hat to the man for beating cancer and becoming a symbol of hope for millions of cancer patients. But I'll also recognize that, ultimately, he turned out to be a false symbol. This latest disclosure does nothing to disabuse me of that. It just makes me sad.
Once upon a time, in an alternate reality far, far away, Lance Armstrong wrote a book with Sally Jenkins titled "It's Not About The Bike." In retrospect, it might have been the one thing about him that wasn't a bald-faced lie.
It wasn't about the bike, see. It never has been.
For Lance, it's about Lance. Always.