Monday, July 12, 2010

5 comments Rick Reilly Continues His Non-Stop Adoration of Lance Armstrong

Rick Reilly loves himself some Lance Armstrong. Reilly's wikipedia page mentions how Reilly thinks Armstrong is the greatest athlete ever and I believe the love Reilly has for Armstrong could be on par with Peter King's love for Brett Favre. It's an underrated adulation Reilly has for Armstrong. Armstrong even wrote the foreword for one of Reilly's books. Last year during the Tour de France, Reilly got to achieve a lifetime goal of seeing Lance Armstrong naked. This year Reilly writes a puff piece about how Armstrong would never use PEDs, despite the fact he has been accused of doing so, and in this day and age we can't really make any substantive statements about an athlete and steroids. Reilly also wrote the famous puff piece on McGwire and Sammy Sosa in 1998 for Sports Illustrated, so he has a history of being wrong about these type things.

I'm not saying Armstrong actually did use steroids, but many of his teammates have been banned or tested positive, so where there's smoke there could be fire.

Step right up, ladies and gentlemen, for one last look at the god, the cheater, the hero, the fraud, the miracle, the doper, the inspiration to millions, the brains behind the con, the greatest comeback kid ever minted.

That's him -- on the little sofa in his hotel room, wearing just a hand towel, eating tuna out of Tupperware and checking his cell phone with a sigh.

It's just a little creepy that Rick Reilly not only interviews Lance Armstrong when he is naked, but insists on telling everyone that Armstrong is naked when Reilly is interviewing him. Some details need to be left out...unless Rick Reilly is really proud of being able to see Armstrong naked, which is what this sounds like.

And now it's July 4, and he misses his four kids. Yeah, it's not always so easy to Livestrong -- bracelet or no bracelet.

Oh poor, rich Lance Armstrong. What about the other racers in the Tour de France who haven't won the event multiple times and need to race to feed their families? They are away from their families too, but fuck them, they aren't Lance Armstrong so they don't count.

"I chose this, but I want to be home," says Lance Armstrong, who stood in fourth place after only two days of the Tour de France. "It's time for me not to ever miss these days again -- a football game, a lacrosse game. Man, I'm never doing this again."

I'm pretty sure we have heard this previously and previously before that.

Armstrong needed this the way he needed a barbed-wire bicycle seat. He was retired and loving life. Four kids. Great girlfriend. Aspen. Austin. Anywhere.

Yet Rick Reilly wants us to feel sympathy for a guy who whines about being away from his family, yet has the financial security to not be away from his family, but chooses to be away from them anyway.

So why does Armstrong sound so beaten?

"Look at me," he says, touching his graying sides. "I don't look a day over 50, do I?"

Considering Armstrong is currently only wearing a hand towel, I hate to ask, but what part of his body has graying sides? I don't want to know, but Armstrong is naked so Reilly either should not mention Armstrong is naked or don't use any quotes where he talks about his body. Please.

Knives fly at Armstrong from everywhere, most recently from ex-teammate Floyd Landis, whose 2006 Tour de France win was stripped for doping. Landis insisted he was innocent then, but he's insisting he's guilty now.

Every athlete denies doping when they are initially accused of it. Landis isn't wrong about other riders simply because he lied initially. Many of the riders on Armstrong's USPS team were accused and found to use steroids. Is it really that far of a leap to say that Armstrong, who is easily the most accomplished rider on the team, should be reasonably suspected also?

Not only is he guilty, but Landis says that Armstrong, three of Armstrong's teammates and their coach, Johan Bruyneel, are guilty, too. His sensational accusations have caught the attention of relentless federal investigator Jeff Novitzky, who is already snooping.

I like how Reilly calls Landis' allegations "sensational" like they are out of a tabloid or something. We all thought Jose Canseco was a rat and making shit up didn't we? It turned out that he may be a rat, but he was also right about a lot of players.

"I'm used to it," says Armstrong, who denies every charge Landis makes.

Obviously that means he is innocent. Just like Floyd Landis was innocent because he initially denied using steroids.

"This is the 11th straight year somebody has tried something at the start of the race. I'm trained not to care. I'm doing this for the foundation, a foundation that touches millions of people's lives. They don't care about all this. Those people? Those people that understand and volunteer and donate and care about Livestrong? Those people who are in the fights of their lives? They don't care."

I'm pretty jaded when it comes to PEDs and other steroids. If you read this blog regularly, you probably know that. Doesn't it sound like Armstrong is diverting the talk about his steroid use and trying to get everyone to focus on the charity that he created and does an incredible amount of work for?

Yes, those people who are fighting for their life don't care about whether Armstrong used steroids or not, but that wasn't the question or even what was being discussed. Saying no one in your charity cares about whether you doped or not isn't really a denial.

That record plays like this: 14 tumors, 40 percent chance to live, survive, make it back, win seven straight Tours, retire, unretire, finish third and now compete at a shocking fifth-place pace after Monday's stage.

Lance Armstrong has an incredible story and he is a hero to many with cancer. He's a hero to people regardless of whether they have cancer or not. Unfortunately, in the discussion of whether he doped or not, this isn't really relevant. There may be personal reasons Landis keeps saying Armstrong doped, but the company Armstrong was keeping on his USPS team also makes him guilty by association. Rick Reilly wants to talk about a sensational scene, some of the ways those USPS riders allegedly doped is pretty scandalous.

The picture painted by Mr. Landis in the interviews, and in a series of emails he wrote to cycling sponsors in May, provides the most detailed view yet of what may be one of the biggest and most intricately coordinated cheating conspiracies in sports history. It involves blood transfusions taken in a bus on a remote alpine road, riders wearing testosterone patches to bed, and an operative posing as an autograph-seeking fan to deliver a bag of blood to a rider after a race.

The article I linked earlier says that and Landis isn't the only one who suspects widespread doping in cycling:

Chad Gerlach, who rode with the U.S. Postal team before Messrs. Armstrong and Landis were on it, said he's inclined to believe Mr. Landis's account of widespread doping based on what he saw during his own career. "I believe it because I have seen it personally," he said. "I am not ready to out my friends or provide names. I just saw it. It's just a systematic thing."

Professional cycling has been tore apart by doping scandals and much like in MLB the best cyclists were also offenders.

You start to believe him. His body looks sharper, harder than it has in five years.

Rick Reilly really likes Lance Armstrong's body.

His masseur, Richard, looks up from tenderizing Armstrong's right thigh and flashes a huge grin. "Oh, ya! Absoloootely, ya!"

I feel like I am reading an erotic novel. Cyclists have to be in good shape to do well in the Tour de France and Lance Armstrong is in great shape we get it. Let's move on away from descriptions of Lance Armstrong's body.

Then again, maybe it's Novitzky. You talk about a far better rival. You don't want to hear your name in the same sentence as his. He's a Wild West sheriff who has been accused of going outside legal bounds to get his man.

So now Rick Reilly is preparing the defense of Armstrong if Novitzky does find something that incriminates Armstrong. Novitzky went beyond the legal bounds of what he could do legally in the past, so that would make Lance a victim and what Novitzky may find shouldn't count as being the truth. It must be nice to have your own PR firm that is also a sportswriter.

And he has gotten many -- Victor Conte of BALCO and trackster Marion Jones, among them.

But he whiffed on Barry Bonds, partly because of his methods, which seemed to be inspired by Michael Chiklis in "The Shield."

He whiffed on Bonds, but that doesn't mean his allegations that Bonds lied under oath or used steroids was wrong. I have read some stuff on Novitzky and I think if he clears Armstrong then we can safely assume Lance Armstrong is telling the truth. That's the nice thing about "rule-breakers." They may have unusual methods, but those methods can sometimes can get to the truth, if there is a truth to find.

"I don't want to talk about any of that," he says. "I got three more weeks, and I can stand anything for three more weeks. Then it's me and Anna [his girlfriend] and four kids who love me."

Armstrong "can stand anything for three more weeks?" Let's not forget he subjected himself to the questions by entering the Tour de France this year. It is not like he never expected to get these questions about Floyd Landis and doping in cycling. Armstrong can get sympathy from me for many things, but I don't feel bad when he puts himself in situations like this and doesn't have to do so.

Still, I do know he is the most tested athlete in American history. A man who's had people watch him pee more than 1,000 times, by his own count, and yet he's never failed one of them. The man is a test passer. He's had tests of scalpels and IVs, lungs and muscle, and now age and will. For 23 days, he will be trying to pass this 2,262-mile test against riders whose fathers he raced.

Armstrong has never failed a drug test. That is a huge check mark in his favor on whether he doped or not.

He'll be trying to pass it every day, and it mesmerizes and astonishes me. But because of Landis, nobody's noticing.

Nobody's noticing mostly because Armstrong is a cyclist taking part in a competition in France during the World Cup. Cycling isn't popular in the first place. Throw in the fact the Tour de France usually doesn't grip the attention of the United States, and this year the world is distracted away from it more than usual because of the World Cup, and the lack of attention Armstrong has to do with things other than allegations from Floyd Landis.

So let Novitzky come. Let him dig. Let him interview and deal and raid, maybe even with subpoenas. And if he can find proof that Armstrong doped -- proof, not stories -- then Armstrong would become the nail, not the hammer. Hang him off the Eiffel Tower.

Until then, doesn't Armstrong deserve the benefit of the doubt?

Armstrong does deserve the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately we are living in an age when giving athletes the benefit of the doubt only leads to hurt feelings and the realization giving an athlete who puts up extraordinary numbers the benefit of the doubt is sometimes turning a blind eye to the obvious.

What Armstrong doesn't deserve is a yearly puff piece by Lance Armstrong and the constant discussion of Armstrong's body by Reilly.

A man who's worked tirelessly for and inspired people you know, people in your life, people who don't even know yet that they will need him for inspiration? A man who, right in front of your eyes, is trying to make calendars stop turning?

Armstrong is a great guy, there's no doubt about that. The fact he has inspired many and will inspire many in the future doesn't preclude him from being among those on the USPS team who doped.

Doesn't he deserve at least that?

It's easier to give him the benefit when there aren't allegations he was doing from ex-teammates and he made a super-human comeback from cancer. I don't think Lance Armstrong doped and people I think generally give him the benefit of the doubt, but there is no point in being naive either.

I hate puff pieces.


HH said...

"I chose this, but I want to be home,"

...Then you clearly wanted to be here more. It's a basic fact of life that, given two options, if you make a voluntary and informed choice, you clearly wanted what you choose more than the other thing. The most charitable interpretation is that Lance Armstrong wants the universe to change so he can have his cake and eat it, too. And Reilly is not calling him on this.

Anonymous said...

I think in this case fluff piece is preferable to puff piece...

Dylan Murphy said...

let's just settle make a compromise with "pluff piece."

Bengoodfella said...

HH, you are right. What Armstrong wants is exactly what Reilly did. He didn't call him on saying he wants something else and then doing what he wants to do. If he wanted to stay home, he could have.

Anon, I am going to start calling it a fluff piece, though like Dylan said, I think Pluff piece may work out better.

Anonymous said...