Lance Armstrong is a Jerk

lanceThe headlines should read “Lance Armstrong is a jerk!” That’s the beginning, middle and the end of anything else ever written about the guy — and not because he pedaled his ass over the Pyrenees higher than the Matterhorn. At this point, who cares? Come to find out, most of the cyclists at the Tour de France have so many drugs in them, their pee has been patented by Dow Chemical. Here’s an interesting fact: since 1980, France’s most prestigious bicycle race has been won 17 times (that we know of) by the gentlemanly use of performance-enhancing drugs – that’s over half! So, it’s not like doping is unusual. Nor is he a jerk just for lying about it. What was he going to do … admit it? That would be like Al Capone phoning Eliot Ness to admit he owned a couple of speakeasies. No, Lance Armstrong is a jerk because he thinks he’s smarter than the rest of us. The unfortunate thing is he might be right.
The sordid details of Mr. Armstrong’s misdeeds have been reported to death, so there’s no need to retrace them here. Suffice it to say that Lance concocted an elaborate chemical scheme to turn himself into a superhuman. It succeeded beyond his wildest expectations, and he basked in glory for many, many years – collecting the accolades, admiration and cold, hard cash that come with athletic success. However, Lance didn’t stop there. He wasn’t content with two, four or even six championships: he wanted seven, and when he got that he even tried for eight. The audacity of the man is unbelievable. There he was, year after year, doing things no human being (not even his drug-bloated competition) could accomplish and smiling about it. What did he think? No one would notice? Or, did he simply believe that he could fool the entire world forever? These are rhetorical questions that only Mr. Armstrong himself can answer; which brings us to January 2013, nearly 14 years after Lance first sacrificed his honour for Tour de France laurels. Tomorrow, he’s going to sit down in front of the world and confess his sins. And we’re all waiting to hear it.
However, there will be no ordinary press conference for Lance Armstrong. Helance1 will not be relegated to a shame-faced confession and a couple of sincerity tears that get slotted into the morning news — after the headlines, traffic and weather. Lance is going prime time, and the three-ring media circus he’s hauling with him is being brought to you by the 20st century’s Uber Agony Auntie, Oprah Winfrey. In an ingenious attempt at reviving two faded careers, Lance and Oprah have organized an interview extravaganza. This two-night stand is designed to put them both back, wall-to-wall, on video screens around the world. It’s an arrangement made in public relations heaven.
Ever since Oprah decided she needed a whole network because (a la Norma Desmond) she was big and it’s only the television stations that got small, she’s fallen out of the sky. Like it or lump it, her audience numbers just aren’t there, anymore. Even, in an election year, Barack and Michelle couldn’t rekindle the old Midwest magic. So Oprah has unleashed her formidable Harpo publicity machine to tease the world into believing a guy who rides a bicycle is big news. They’re treating it like some magnificent media mating with hints, innuendos and voyeur-style sneak previews. I’m no follower of Freud, but Oprah herself is quoted by the BBC as saying, “At the end of it…we were both pretty exhausted. And I would say I was satisfied.” Make of that what you will, but it certainly is intriguing.
For his part, I’m sure Lance is considering a seven-figure book deal to pay the legal bills when all the people he lied to come calling. Oprah’s celebrity (faded as it is) isn’t going to do him any harm there. Besides, who better to confess to than the High Priestess of Jell-o Journalism? It’s not like she’s going to ask him any hard questions like, “Did you think the French were morons?” Plus, as long as he doesn’t jump around on the sofa, she’s going to make him look good.
This Lance and Oprah show is almost guaranteed to go off the scale on the ratings meter. It’s become an event. So, at the end of the day, maybe Lance Armstrong is smarter than the rest of us. He’s never going to be treated like the smarmy little cheater he obviously is. He’s probably going to write a book and maybe even get a movie deal. In fact, after tomorrow, his future is going to look pretty damn good.
However, it doesn’t matter how many times he confesses to God and Oprah Winfrey. It doesn’t matter how many stagy tears collect in the corner of his eye or how much remorse (real or imagined) he says he feels. At the end of the day, he’s not about to give back any of the money he “earned.” And until he does that, he’s just a jerk.

This Blog has Seven Days

In a hundred years, nobody’s going to remember the third week of May, 2011.  It won’t appear in history books alongside June 15th, 1215 or December 7th, 1941.  Actually, it’ll probably be overlooked entirely because historians will be beating their keyboards promiscuously over the death of a terrorist named Osama bin Laden who got double tapped by some Navy boys, two weeks earlier.  Such is the fickle nature of the human experience that a classic week, like this one, will be relegated to the dustbin of history.  Luckily, however, the democratization of the 21st century has given anybody with a laptop the opportunity to chronicle our time, which is exactly what I’m going to do.

The week started off — without a bang — when our planet avoided the Apocalypse.  This is a better trick than you might imagine, given that the world has been coming to an end ever since humans discovered it had a beginning.   Fortunately, Harold Egbert Camping at Family Radio (the guy who started the fuss) admitted he made a mistake and did some quick recalibrations.  He’s now saying, without a doubt, October 21, 2011 is the new dawn for the end of time – so at least we’ve got that to look forward to.  Just a bit of an aside though, for all those people who donated money to Family Radio — FYI – Harry’s not about to give refunds on a technical error.

Meanwhile, over in Hawaii, a boatload of the world’s prominent psychiatrists are meeting to rewrite the textbook on crazy – literally.  Apparently, there’s something called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or affectionately, the DSM-5.  This little number is the official GPS for the Valley of the Loons and it hasn’t been significantly revised for over twenty years.  It’s serious stuff.  The plan is to cut the number of personality disorders in half — from 10 to only 5.  Euphemistically, this means last week’s patient is next week’s eccentric or more succinctly, yesterday you suffered from narcissistic disorder; today, you’re a conceited jerk.  On the brighter side, depression may become sad again, and anxiety might lighten up a little and just be worry.   The problem these folks are facing is what is nuts and what is just odd?  And there are heavy-duty ramifications.  For example, although there’s something definitely wrong with Lindsay Lohan, Tiger Woods might not be a sex addict at all; he might just be horny.  Regardless, the real live Fraser Cranes of the world are going to have to figure it out because the new DSM-5 goes to print in 2013, and they better have their disorders in order by then.

Speaking of nutbars, in a blatant attempt to grab some headlines, Kathy Witterick and David Stocker revealed to the Toronto Star that they would not reveal the gender of their four-month-old child, Storm.  My first question is why did the Toronto Star want to know in the first place?  Is the gender of nondescript babies hot news in Tee-oh, these days?  Storm’s parents are calling it a “tribute to freedom and choice.”  I’m calling it grandstanding — at the expense of an innocent kid.  After all, if you want to keep your child’s gender a secret, the best thing to do is shut up.  In point of fact, the last place you want to go with the news is the Toronto Star — circulation over two million.  And that’s without all the other news outlets worldwide that picked up the story.  With all this avoidable media attention, I’ve a real hard time believing Kathy and Dave are doing this for the good of the child.  Personally, I think teaching kids that gender neutral is a good idea, is a good idea, but you can’t fool Mother Nature no matter how bright the media spotlight is.

Which brings us to the biggest media spotlight of them all – The Oprah Show.  Young girls all over the world are breathing easier now that the long, cold night of Oprah Winfrey is finally over.  They aren’t going to be told, day after day, that there’s something wrong with them: that they’re emotionally fragile, they’re stressed, they need to relax, they’re fat, ugly or abnormal.  Under the thin guise of empowering women, Oprah has held a dark tyranny over her audience for decades.  Day after day, she’s hammered home the idea that women have to change their lives.  But now she’s gone, and younger girls everywhere will escape the omnipresent Oprah.  They can quit reorganizing their lives and get on with living them.  They can go to the spa because they like it, not because they need to relax.  They can swim twice a week ‘cause it’s fun, not because they need to trim the tummy muscles and tighten the bum.  In short, they don’t have the wicked Queen looking over their shoulder anymore.  My only hope is that she doesn’t pull a Bret Favre and try to get back in the game.  The ego explosion that was the last week of Oprah was enough to may you give some serious thought to that Apocalypse.

This was just one soon-to-be-forgotten week in the history of our world.  Ain’t it fun?  I guess I’m glad we did miss the Apocalypse – again!

O: the ever-expanding universe

At high noon, January 1st, 2011, the Evil Queen of Daytime TV took one more step toward total world domination when she launched the Oprah Winfrey Network.  This will not be her last territorial demand.  In the last 25 years, Oprah has single-handedly done more damage to the equality of the sexes than Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears and Paris Hilton combined.   Her brand of Jell-o Journalism has overflowed its mid-western bowl and slopped squishy, sweet goo and celebrity worship over every aspect of society.  And her abnormal obsession with the cult of her own personality has enlisted millions of followers who delight in publically stroking their own egos.  In short, Oprah Winfrey isn’t the Anti-Christ, but I can’t tell the difference.

Phil Donahue invented Jell-o Journalism in the 1970s. What he did was take regular news items and real public issues and tone them down, broaden them out and smooth off the hard edges.  He manipulated the questions to produce an emotion rather than an answer and carefully presented the information to elicit a strong response.  His show pretended to be about hard news and bold discussion.  However, in actuality, it was merely entertainment built on simplistic, preconceived conclusions that seemed to come from his own strong emotional attachment to the subject at hand.   Although he invented the genre, Phil was never very good at it.  He couldn’t produce the single tear for the whimpering puppy — or the spontaneous outrage at the abusive husband.  He just didn’t have it.  He was kind of a Fisher-Price version of Dr. Phil and Sally Jesse Raphael.  So, when Oprah challenged his reign on tabloid TV, he didn’t stand a chance.  She could weep on command and giggle like a schoolgirl.  She had just the right combination of concern and anger, and her indignation was something to behold.   As a result, in the Chi-town Media Grudge Match, held about 25 years ago, Oprah Winfrey kicked Donahue’s ass so badly he had to unbuckle his belt to burp.  Phil’s mistake was that he failed to recognize the ruthlessness of his opponent.  Oprah Winfrey syndicated her TV show nationally, and the Oprah Universe was born.

In the Oprah Universe, Oprah is everywhere.  If she were a South American dictator, the State Department would be concerned about her cult of personality.  She’s on cable TV, 4 and 5 times a day, depending on your time zone.  She’s on Satellite Radio. She’s online anytime you want her.  She has been on the cover of every single issue of her magazine for 10 years.  She has only shared it twice — once with Michelle Obama, First Lady of the United States, and once with Ellen Degeneres, perpetual sycophant.  Even Stalin took a day off every once in a while.  Oprah Winfrey has become “Oprah” the one word solution to every problem.  And how did she get there?  By doing what Phil wouldn’t do: selling out a whole generation of women for television ratings.

Oprah’s media presence is based on one simple premise — self help — the ability to change your life.  Of course, the un-named assumption is that women (the majority of Oprah’s audience) are all screwed up in the first place.  She has built her empire on the insecurities of middle-class women and made hundreds of millions of dollars doing it.  The Oprah Winfrey Show follows a very simple pattern: the question is posed and the solution is given.  In her time on TV, Oprah has championed everything from diets to angels, and exercise to something called The Secret which apparently radiates good vibrations from positive thoughts.  And these get-fixed-quick schemes are all in the name of the inadequacies of women. 

Here are some headlines from just one O Magazine, March 2007.

“Too Tall, Too Small, Too big all over?”
“5 Wildly Unexpected Ways to Get Happier”
“Will the Real You Please Stand Up!  How to know what you actually want, think, love”

The entire magazine is devoted to readers who, first of all, don’t like their body image; secondly, are unhappy; and finally, quite frankly don’t even know what they wanted to begin with.  What an incredibly sexist view of women!  And this is just one issue of the magazine.  They’re all the same — every month.  For an entire generation, Oprah and her minions have been pounding away at these same themes — under the nicey-nicey guise of “empowering” women to change their lives.  Meanwhile, Oprah’s Universe has established beyond any doubt that day after day, month after month, women need to be repaired and the wonderful thing is Oprah herself, is going to help them do it – pop psychology DIY.

If you were an alien and watched Oprah for any length of time, you would naturally assume that the females of our species are all fat, dumb and unhappy, not to mention stressed out at every opportunity.  According to Oprah, everything from dinner parties to getting up in the morning is a minefield that women must first diligently navigate and then hopelessly recover from.

What do girls born into this mess think?   Do they believe their lives are going to be nothing more than a relentless war against body fat followed by the daily wardrobe crisis?   If this is help, let me outta here?  But Oprah won’t let you out.  She’s gone wall-to-wall – 25/8 – on an entire television network — soft core promo for the Ubiquitous Oprah.

 We can only pray that her next stop won’t be politics.