“WTF, dude!” I shouted on the first day of the long holiday weekend as I slipped sideways past a scowling cyclist in a flaming orange jersey. “Is orange the new yellow?”
It’s Tour de France month. Maybe the speedster fantasized he was blasting past his competitors in the Alps. Maybe he was on a mission to make America great again, to return us to the greatness we enjoyed when Lance Armstrong’s seven yellow jerseys told the story of his dominance rather than his deceptions.
Ah, Lance Armstrong! An all-American boy. One face of America, similar in some respects to the face of pouting POTUS 45, glowering beneath his orange mop top. Winning. Yes. Fairness? Not so much. Competing within the rules? Not so much.
For Armstrong, it was never about the bike, the vehicle, or the process. It was all about Lance, all about the outcome. Winning at all costs. Total domination. Big league. Ask our POTUS; there is nothing more American than that.
I wasn’t a Armstrong hater then any more than I’m a POTUS 45 hater now. I really wanted to believe local boy Lance beat the odds, beat cancer, founded Livestrong, and gave the rest of world a good ‘ol ‘Murican whoopin’—the good ‘ol ‘Murican way: fair and square, with God’s help seven times in a row. I wanted to believe Armstrong’s story almost as much as my kids wanted to believe Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa’s epic PED-enhanced homerun derby in 1998 was powered by pure “love of the game.” Every time Armstrong opened his mouth, he dug his grave. Nearly every time POTUS opens his mouth, he proves that compared to him, as Neil Young put it, “Even Richard Nixon has got soul.”
Neither Armstrong nor POTUS 45 could have attained the lofty heights of celebrity without accomplices, apologists, people benefitting from, and believing their stories. In Armstrong’s case, they were his doctors, trainers, teammates, sponsors, and of course defenders of the faith. Today, some people believe and want to believe the POTUS is a successful, self-made, resilient, God-fearing businessman—a white man, a real American, a hero that tells it like it is, and leads from the front. He overcame unimaginable odds: a weak-willed GOP, the Clinton mafia, fake news, and a deep state conspiracy to earn the podium and make America great again.
In 2013, after Lance finally, coldly confessed his sins to Oprah, former ESPN Sports columnist and ardent Armstrong apologist Rick Reilly lamented he spent 14 years “polishing a legend that turned out to be plated in fool’s gold.”
He continued, “I didn’t realize that behind those blues was a bully, a coercer, a man who threatened people who once worked for and with him.”
Of course Mr. Reilly didn’t “realize.” He wanted to believe the story he was telling, despite evidence.
Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, and people gotta believe.
We’re all built to believe. We evolved to tell and believe stories. Science historian, founder of Skeptic magazine, advisor to American Council on Science and Health, and former professional long-distance cyclist, and Lance debunker, Michael Shermer writes, “Humans are pattern-seeking, storytelling animals, and we are quite adept at telling stories about patterns whether they exist or not.”
No one is immune. Liberals believed the story of the first black president riding off into a glorious sunset after handing the keys to the shining city on the hill to the first woman president. Despite being a story the majority of America voted for, it will be forever consigned to the discount bin of liberal fantasy/fiction.
As deplorable as Armstrong’s “Liestrong” campaign was, the only things truly at stake were a few yellow jerseys and his personal legacy. Armstrong had celebrity, not power. He never had the nuclear codes, veto power, ability to write executive orders, appoint judges, make treaties, or temporarily send troops to wherever he sees fit. Because of what’s at stake for all of us, I hope America doesn’t come to lament it wasted its time “polishing a legend that turned out to be plated in fool’s gold,” in the case of POTUS 45.
I really do hope orange isn’t the new yellow, and eventually the deceptions powering POTUS 45 to the podium will catch up to him. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be where the story is headed.