I was all ready to get back to talking about wine today in some incoherent way, I really was. Last night, however, was the airing of the Oprah Winfrey ‘interview’ of Lance Armstrong on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). As soon as I learned that Oprah was conducting the interview, I knew it was not going to be as far-reaching as I would hope, but I had no idea that I would be as disappointed as I am. I did crack open a nice 2007 Alma Rosa Pinot Noir for the show, so the night was not a total loss, but there were several areas of disappointment:
We did not learn anything new—I feel like I could have handled both sides of the ‘interview’ by myself. I pretty much knew what Lance was going to say, and I knew Oprah would ask some pretty lame questions, never following up on the inevitable holes in the story. What I don’t know is how he was able to get away with it for seven straight years while others were getting nailed right and left (of the 14 riders that finished second and third in his seven tour wins, all but one has been busted or implicated in doping). That question is pretty much the start and end of what I want to know and Oprah came nowhere close to getting into it.
‘No holds barred’—What a complete load of crap this was. While I never expected a hard-driving Oprah with a list of tough questions, she did bill the show as ’no holds barred’ so I guess I expected just that. She should have said: “No holds barred except talking about anything you don’t really feel like talking about, of course, Lancey-poo (like any other people or what you said on your death bed back in ’96).” I understand that he does not want to answer certain questions for legal reasons, but you at least have to ask the question and make him refuse to answer. Then you say: ’I guess we just ‘barred’ another ‘hold’, eh?’ I mean come on, the guy was said to have run the most extensive doping rings in the history of professional sports and all you ask him is what drugs he used? That’s like asking Marco Polo on his return from exploration, to only see his maps.
Oprah was horrible—About ten minutes into the interview, I realized I should have been counting the number of times she used the word ‘feel’ or ‘feelings’. It had to be way over 100. I know Oprah has made her billions by playing off of feelings, but come on. Did she really think that anybody but the most loyal of Lance’s minions gave a crap about how Lance ‘feels’? I sure as heck don’t. What use is asking a question when you don’t care about the answer? Have some ‘journalistic integrity’ while you are counting your
calories billions, Opie.
Oprah did not do her homework—At one point, Oprah asked if he was supplied ‘pills’. Pills? Pills? Perhaps I am showing my ignorance here, but these guys don’t use pills! Pills take far too long to get into your system and likely stay there far too long (pills? come on!). It also was fairly clear that she had little to know clue about how cyclists dope (or even what ‘doping’ means for that matter). I was also shocked that there were no questions about Greg Lemond. Lance basically tried to ruin the guy for mentioning that the emperor had no clothes and the guy is financially much worse off thanks solely to the influence of good old Lance. But not a word. [Holding out hope it will come up tonight.]
Lance is one smart, calculating douche that still does not get it—I think there are very few people that would not agree that Lance is a smart guy–especially in a calculating, long term strategy kind of way. Lance was smart in choosing Oprah since he knew that he could manipulate the whole process (I assume he knew that Oprah would not do her homework and that she would ask the lamest questions imaginable). He used this as his ‘Coming to Jesus’ type of moment–admit your sins, say you’re not perfect over and over, wish you could have done things differently, hint that everybody was doing it (but provide no proof for why you feel that way), blah, blah, blah and all the while appear sincere and contrite. Brilliant. If anybody was fooled by it, that is. It was abundantly clear that he still did not get it, though, when he shared the ‘joke’ about Betsy Andreu: “She said I called her ‘a crazy fat lying bitch’ and I said to her ‘I never called you fat!'” He tried to explain this twice to Oprah, who still did not understand that he was trying to inject a little humor into the conversation. What an awkward, pointless exchange about a conversation that he refused to talk about (another hold barred).
Commercials–Clearly this was just a huge money-making attempt by Oprah and by the sheer number and frequency of the advertisements, she was looking to maximize those Benjamins. How much did Lance make out of this? Don’t tell me “nothing” since I won’t believe you for a second.
‘Follow the money’— In ‘All the President’s Men’ Deep Throat famously told Woodward (or was it Bernstein?) to “Follow the Money” and that is exactly what should be going on here. Sure, Lance was becoming rich. Very rich. But that is but a drop in the bucket. There were a lot of people making a sh*tload of money off of Lance winning those Tours. With the increased exposure and interest in cycling in the US a huge untapped (and wealthy) market was suddenly wide open. ESPN started showing 6-10 hours of coverage every day (as opposed to about an hour a week during Lemond’s wins a decade earlier). They were giving someone a boatload of cash for that (and then making more for themselves). The number of Americans that were now traveling to France to watch the Tour (and spending more cash along the way) had to make the French government happy. That does not even begin to scratch the surface. There were all the sponsors: Trek, Nike, Oakley, etc. They were all very interested to see Lance continue to win, no doubt. I have not even mentioned Livestrong (there are two Livestrongs, by the way–one is a ‘charity’ for ‘cancer awareness’ [research isa very small part of the operation] and the other is for profit organization [yup, they are/were making boatloads of cash, too]). Look folks, if you think this all begins and ends with Lance, you are sorely mistaken.
Will I watch Part 2 tonight? Sure, but I certainly don’t expect to ‘learn’ anything that I don’t already pretty much know. The only real question is how good of a bottle of Pinot to I pull?