So Lance Armstrong says he's sorry. More specifically, the former darling of the cycling world reportedly confessed to Oprah Winfrey that he used performance-enhancing drugs which loosely translates into, "Oops. My bad. Public, please love me again.”
Taking a cue from disgraced "A Million Little Pieces” writer James Frey, meth-and-hooker scandalized pastor Ted Haggard and any number of other public figures whose tarnished reputations were in dire need of polishing, Armstrong agreed to sit down with the queen of interviewing for a no-holds barred chatfest. Armstrong's anticipated confessional was one of the worst-kept secrets, with rumors from allegedly well-placed sources leaking the possibility days before the actual event. One could assume these leaks were a way to test the waters of public opinion. One could also assume the former Tour de France champ is going to need a lot more than a few grimaces and an Oprah mea culpa to overcome this uphill battle.
The episode was taped Monday and won't air until Thursday so guesses as to its specific content are based solely on the ever popular "person familiar with the situation” and having watched Oprah previously rake deserving guests over the proverbial coals. She'll chastise; he'll get teary. She'll look stern and put her fingertips together under her chin. He'll look down remorsefully and share how he feared never again reaching cycling greatness after surviving testicular cancer without a little boost from doping. Tongues will click, other will wag, pundits will pontificate, the Baseball Hall of Fame prospects who missed induction this year might wonder if Oprah could shine up their image and then life will go on to the next scandal.
Those with a continuing soft spot for Armstrong might open their arms a little wider to hug it out with the man but the rest, those who are tired of the whole doping witch hunt and verbal bait-and-switch of suspected athletes, won't budge. Or, if they do, it may be further away from Armstrong's corner. The man didn't just do dope, they will say. He is a dope. The only reason he's coming clean now is not out of a sense of responsibility or appreciation for his fans, naysayers will chide. All he cares about is his legacy and his pocket book.
This latest chapter of the Armstrong soap opera, however, raises a much more important question — will everybody now stop wearing those darn canary yellow rubberized Livestrong bracelets? No offense to the foundation, its goals or the abundance of medical and health articles it produces. Armstrong was right to distance himself in hope of saving the cancer charity from crashing with him.
But the bracelets! Enough. The so-called awareness bands went from worthwhile to trendy to obnoxious, along the way spawning a whole population of other brightly colored silicone bracelets proclaiming everything from anti-bullying slogans and inspirational messages to "St. Patricks Day 2012” and "I heart boobies.” Even acid reflux earned itself a periwinkle blue version. Like the unexpected love child of a red ribbon campaign and an early '80s Madonna bracelet, the copycat gel wristbands are bumper stickers for the wrist, sharing way too much information from the get-go about the wearer. You may not know so much as the name of the cashier or the person in line ahead of you at the post office but there's no ignoring that they support breast cancer awareness and AIDS prevention. Perhaps you can also ferret out their company name and logo. Maybe you can tell they have a snarky sense of humor about Armstrong and fellow cyclist Floyd Landis because their bracelet bears the phrase "Cheat To Win.”
There are more bracelets than there is arm space and it's time they gently go the way of friendship bracelets, "WWJD?” queries and, frankly, Armstrong himself.
Chances are, though, the world will strongly disagree with this stance. We like our public proclamations of support, we like raising money and awareness for good causes and we like our fashion statements. Put together, they are a winning combination. If nothing else, at least that winning doesn't require any illegal help.
Michelle Durand's column "Off the Beat” runs every Tuesday and Thursday. She can be reached by email: email@example.com or by phone (650) 344-5200 ext. 102. What do you think of this column? Send a letter to the editor: firstname.lastname@example.org.