Lance Armstrong and Oprah Winfrey: Forked tongue, meet silver tongue
By Norman Chad,
Lance Armstrong went on national television last week — well, he appeared on something called the OWN network — and, in a “worldwide exclusive,” told Oprah Winfrey he had doped as a cyclist.
Other upcoming Oprah interview exclusives:
●Madonna says she first thought about sex before she was 21.
●Charles Manson admits to having a violent streak in the late 1960s.
●Albert Einstein concedes he was nerdy in high school.
The Armstrong-Winfrey meeting showcased two public figures in contrast: one reviled, one revered. And after two nights of conversation — Oprah turned this into a miniseries; it was OWN’s “Roots” — Armstrong looked worse than ever and Winfrey looked better than ever.
This is what we now know about Lance Armstrong: Champion, liar, bully, cheat. Hey, one out of four ain’t bad.
It’s possible Armstrong has told more lies than McDonald’s has sold Big Macs.
Over the years, he’s repeatedly said he’s been tested hundreds of times and never failed a test. Hmm. Maybe they just kept testing him for being a jerk.
(By the way, in the latest issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, there is an article that is headlined: “The Question: What Is The One ‘Flaw’ You Wouldn’t Change About Yourself?” Lance’s answer: “That I’m the devil.”)
(Note: That article did appear in the February issue, but I made up Lance’s answer.)
As it turns out, just about everyone in cycling was cheating. So it was like Congress, with spokes. Armstrong, of course, vehemently denied he was cheating for years — and attacked anyone who said otherwise — but, now, he says, he was cheating though he didn’t consider it cheating.
Armstrong also said, “We weren’t worse than the East German doping program of the ’70s and ’80s,” which is a heck of a slogan to hang your hat on.
Here are some of my favorite sound bites from his Oprah chat:
“I know the truth.”
“I cannot lie to you.”
“I’m going to tell you what’s true and what’s not true.”
To trust Lance Armstrong to tell you the truth is to trust Bernie Madoff with your rent money.
Even today, when Armstrong says emphatically, “Absolutely not,” you know there’s an 85 percent chance that it’s actually “Absolutely.”
I would’ve respected Lance more if he wore a T-shirt with the old Bob Arum line, “Yesterday I was lying, today I am telling the truth.”
(In poker, players look for “tells” — actions opponents may take or facial movements they make that indicate the strength of their cards. Lance has an unmistakable “tell” when he’s lying — any time he’s moving his lips.)
It was hard to listen to and watch Armstrong. He defines disingenuousness, and he seemed more regretful that he was caught than remorseful that he had cheated.
How can someone schedule a nationally televised confessional and somehow emerge looking as even a worse person than before? Armstrong did it almost effortlessly.
He unwittingly got help from the most trusted person in America, Oprah Winfrey.
I hardly ever watched “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” so I had forgotten a very simple truth:
She’s darn good at her craft.
She does her homework, she asks common-sense questions and she listens.
Oprah began the interview brilliantly, posing five basic yes-or-no questions that stripped away Armstrong’s decade of deceit and disarmed the man.
She may not have probed as far as she could have in certain areas, but she smartly gave Armstrong space to let his shallow character shine through.
And when she challenged him, she was devastatingly on point.
“You’re suing people and you know that they’re telling the truth,” Oprah said to him, incredulously. “What is that?”
What is that?
Ask The Slouch
Q. NFL teams just hired eight new head coaches — all white. Whatever happened to the Rooney Rule? (Gary Markowitz; Olney)
A. My interpretation of the Rooney Rule is this: You must interview a black man before you hire a white man. P.S. In an oversight, I don’t think the Rooney Rule even applies to women.
Q. Now that Lance Armstrong has finally admitted to doping, can you finally admit that all of your best work has been written under the influence of Pabst Blue Ribbon? (Phil Salvatori; Wheeling, W. Va.)
A. I’m going to need a home address to serve you with a summons.
Q. Will the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans still be eligible to play in the NFL once Texas secedes from the United States? (Jim Anicas; Pittsburgh)
A. Yes, but Commissioner Roger Goodell has indicated that each team will have to play eight home games a year in London.
Q. Is it possible you once had a wife that didn’t exist? (James Jansen; Albany, N.Y.)
A. Boy, that casts a whole different light on my first marriage.
Q. Will Maryland play itself in next year’s ACC-Big Ten Challenge? (Mark Cohen; Gibsonia, Pa.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just e-mail email@example.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!