Darryl E. Owens
January 19, 2013
At long last, we know what we thought we knew is true.
Lance Armstrong did it. The disgraced cycling icon came clean to Oprah about being filthy.
We now know, for certain, that he juiced and doped largely throughout his record run of seven Tour de France titles.
We know his supposed motivation for worshipping at the altar of performance-enhancing drugs from the mid-'90s through 2005 was so he could compete in a sport in which the elite cyclists were riding to victory hopped up on the juice.
And from his chat with Oprah, we know Armstrong — an admittedly "flawed character" — has little contrition for trying to ruin the lives of those who dared expose his dirty secret.
What we don't know, however, is this: What's he got lined up for the big comeback?
That's right. No time like the present to ponder Lance 2.0.
It's become a cynical American tradition: Celebrity/politician tumbles from grace. Stages a public confession (after being caught in the act). Ducks media scrutiny for a spell. Then, cue the triumphant return.
As Scott Allison, co-author of the book, "Heroes: What They do and Why We Need Them," notes, "our craving for heroes is so strong that we'll welcome them back into the heroic fold after they've suffered a suitable amount of time."
About that "suitable amount of time": We haven't exactly synchronized our watches.
Once upon a time, America was down for a good, durable shunning. Today, the half-life of shunning has faded to almost undetectable levels. These days, the scarlet is attached with Velcro.
And yes, for the most part, that's a good thing. When the Apostle Peter asked Jesus whether seven times was enough to forgive someone who wronged him, Jesus upped the ante: "not seven times, but seventy times seven."
Like most Americans, I'm a true believer in forgiveness. To our eternal credit, as President George W. Bush noted, "America is the land of the second chance."
Sadly, that's in part because of those shriveled souls who get a kick out of knocking the once-disgraced off the pedestal a second time.
But mostly, I'd like to think it's because Americans love a good second act.
How else to explain convicted rapist and serial English-language murderer Mike Tyson's run as the toast of Broadway last year in his one-man show, "Mike Tyson: The Undisputed Truth?"
And remember disgraced former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford? Four years ago, he deliberately mistook Buenos Aires for the Appalachian Trail, before later admitting an affair with an Argentine journalist. Now, calling himself a "wounded warrior," Sanford this week announced his intention to march into Congress.
In some ways, we can't help but re-embrace the disgraced. The media inundates us with bad actors' misdeeds, which shrivels the "public's ability to sustain interest or to remain unforgiving," notes New York psychologist Gregory Kushnick.
Indeed, Nike, which dropped Armstrong like a dirty urine test in October after concluding he "participated in doping and misled Nike for more than a decade," already is tilting toward clemency. Nike CEO Phil Knight told TMZ earlier this week that Nike hasn't ruled out riding tandem again with Armstrong.
Said Knight: "Never say never."
Especially with Armstrong, whose fundraising work with the Livestrong Foundation may prove his mitigating grace.
Still, Armstrong conceded, "There will be people who hear this [interview] and never forgive me. I understand that."
Doing the forgiveness math, he also understands there's enough absolution to go around. Because you can't keep a good man down, or a flawed one in today's America.
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