Two stories centered around deception broke this week: Lance Armstrong’s not-as-tearful-as-you-would-expect admission to using performance enhancing drugs, and Manti Te’o’s (that can’t be the right way to apostrophize his last name but I’m out of other ideas) imaginary dead cancer victim girlfriend.
If you haven’t heard the details, I highly recommend using the search website I invented, http://www.google.com, to get a summa
Here’s my take.
The primary debate behind the Lance Armstrength story is this: do great ends justify awful means? The ends: over the course of his career and the LiveStrong company he founded, Lance raised almost $500 million dollars in support of cancer research (I didn’t look up the actual number but let’s just assume it’s more than you or I have raised). In addition he gave an incredible jumpstart to the awareness of and enthusiasm for cycling (at least here in the US). The means: he got most (if not all) of his notoriety from winning an unprecedented SEVEN times in the Tour de Farce (see what I did there?), but he won his victories with the help of illegal performance enhancing drugs. And when anyone accused him of cheating his responses ranged from aggressively slandering his accusers to destroying careers to death threats and everything in between (which definitely sounds like the calm, cool reactions of someone who’s definitely not all jacked up on steroids. Definitely).
To paraphrase a facebook status I posted when this story first broke, I don’t think Lance Armstrong is a bad person, and I don’t think what he did and how he conducted himself should earn him the lynch-mob reaction that’s so popular among the faceless masses of the internet. What he did was reprehensible, and the years of constant deceit he lived in to cover it up only made things worse. But I don’t think Medieval-Jousting-Object Armstrong is an evil human, I think he’s just a really, really competitive asshole who spent so long trying to win at all costs that he started to take that phrase too literally. Does the fact that he raised millions and millions for cancer research or got an increasingly-obese America to get off their couches and go biking excuse what he did? Absolutely not.
So which is it? Is he a victim of circumstance who made one bad decision that snowballed out of his control? Or is he the epitome of all the world’s evil incarnate in yellow spandex? Well, neither. Both.
The sensationalism-loving, nonstop-media-consuming public of America (a group that I firmly belong to) wants a definitive yes-or-no answer — a saint to idolize or a sinner to crucify. Everyone from former talk-show hosts to current talk-show hosts wants to know how to categorize Lance’s Legacy in a bite-sized and easy-to-understand way for their audiences, but the truth of things is that no such perfectly good or bad label exists in this case (or indeed, in most cases) — Armstrong was a man who was very good at cycling and a cancer survivor; he let his pride, his competitiveness (and a hefty amount of Human Growth Hormone) cloud his judgment and made some terrible decisions as a result. His legacy? His legacy is exactly the same as any of ours is: he did some very good things and some very bad things with his life and at certain points he did both at the same time. We should take advantage of the good things he brought to us, we should learn from his mistakes, and we should let the legal entities handle the rest. Any greater form of judgment would overstep our bounds — he has God to answer to his for his sins the same as any of us…his sins just happen to be more public than ours (and take a moment to thank God for that — would you really want the lies you’ve lived in over the years being publicly scrutinized by the entirety of the developed world? I know I wouldn’t).
Now on to the Manti Te’o scandal:
…If he was in on it, he’s a jerk; if he wasn’t, he’s just really gullible (and probably pretty lonely). Moral of the story: always make sure a girl isn’t imaginary BEFORE you start dating her, kids.