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January 14, 2013

Let the PR-Orchestrated, Media-Enabled Lance Armstrong Redemption Tour Begin!

Armstrong Oprah diptych SI

One of my favorite beats in visual politics is the PR industry’s reconstitution of tired or disgraced celebrities. I invite you to watch closely over the next couple weeks as we see Lance Armstrong morphed into a contrite, then ultimately media-vindicated and valued public citizen again.

The first stage of the morality play is demonstrated by these files photo, all published in the last 24 hours. Remember these looks because I guarantee they are not going to last very long. (Meaning, after Lance-Oprah on Thursday). We can call this the “defensive/lingering denial” phase before the truth settles in and the process proceeds to the story-getting-told-more-fully-and-openly for a week or so (enabling Lance to accept the truth and you and I to accept Lance) on the way toward full contrition and redemption. (At that point, it’s never discussed again — except in that lucrative bio and the hugely lucrative media tour in the exact same sound bites a few years out from now.)

Notice how SI, framing the rebuttal, sets us up for how difficult it’s going to be for poor Lance to submit to Oprah and all that reality. Focusing on the athlete’s right hand and the wrist band, by the way, notice also how the selection of this particular photo suggests that the goal, going forward, is to keep the foundation front and center — as well as to preserve the bling.)


This photo posted yesterday at SFGate shows Armstrong both in a steeled mode, the eyes and jaw capable of anger and defiance, but also receptive, the mouth softer and not all that far, actually, from a smile. I’m sure he’s been coached to manage the crossover.

Armstrong Pre Oprah image

In this NBC Sports file image and caption, the hand over the mouth not only is supposed to suggest anxiety but also the conflict over how much he can bear to bring himself to say. Overall, we’re reminded again how Lance is about to pass through a great trial, setting up the encounter with Oprah as the critical hurdle on the road to redemption. But then, Lance is already on his way, because if it’s good enough for Oprah (and the payday those ratings pull in), it’s good enough for John Q. Public, right?

Stay tuned.

(SI diptych: Gianluigi Guercia/ AFP/ Getty Images; George Burns/ A.P. photo 2: Thao Nguyen, Associated Press photo 3: Lucas Jackson/Reuters.)

  • Jason Smith

    Bill Clinton really created the template for the apology tour during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. This seems to follow the same formula, he’ll hit all the media outlets in a week.

  • Cactus

    Lance Armstrong is a liar and he always will be. I have no sympathy
    for him but for the thousands of kids who held him up as inspiration. So chalk
    him up with all the other sports figures who have fallen off their supposed
    pedestal. Maybe it’s time we tell kids to look for heroes within their families
    or school teachers. At least they’ll have a chance of not being disillusioned.

    As for Oprah, she is just doing what one would expect of a desperate TV
    host. Although she’s probably better at it than most.

    • Thomas

      No doubt. I’m not big on assassinating the characters of public figures, but this guy wouldn’t even be a public figure but for his dishonesty. When you think of all the people he’s cheated and deceived and now he’s going to face up to … Oprah. Liar, cheater and a total coward.

    • jonst

      I find it quaint that you think him a liar. Who the F is not a liar? You mind as well accuse him of breathing. Repeatedly. We all lie. It is just that some benefit more from a given fraud than others. And THAT we don’t like. To say the least. And that allows us a great platform to pontificate, at the ones benefiting from fraud….and we, all of us, LOVE to pontificate. I don’t give a damn about Lance Armstrong, one way or another.

  • Stan B.

    All the people he denounced and threatened- will he also put them at ease now?

  • Gerry Desrosiers

    Oprah may have become our national Mother Confessor but she’s not a wimp. I do expect her interview to be honest and confrontational.

    • Stan B.

      Confrontational? Don’t bet your hamburger on it…

  • Lee Viola

    Why is this dullish woman the Come-to-Jeebus surrogate for failed white men?

  • Scarabus

    I was thinking back about the ways different “falls from grace” have worked out through the decades. For example, most educated people recognize the phrase “Say it ain’t so, Joe,” though I suspect far fewer remember who or what it refers to. A lot of you New Yorkers might remember the CCNY basketball scandal. That program never recovered. (Remember how it affected the great Connie Hawkins?)

    Jim Thorpe was treated unconscionably, in my opinion, by the Olympic Committee, and his life ended miserably. Some years after his death, his reputation was resuscitated, and many see him now as a great hero. How much a part did racism play in both the ill treatment and the later resuscitation? (Ironically the famous movie that help restore his reputation starred a white actor, Burt Lancaster.)

    Think baseball players post-Joe Jackson: e.g., Pete Rose, Bobby Bonds, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens. They’ve definitely fared differently. Why?

    Two factors, I think, are the particular sport involved and — related to that — the degree of betrayal the public feels. Jonst is right in saying everyone lies. But not all lies are equally consequential. Lying about a blowjob vs. lying us into the Iraq war? Speaking of which, it would be interesting to compare political to sports scandals.

  • Alex Bollinger

    HAHAHAHAHA is what I thought when I saw the first headline because I thought it was saying that Armstrong was doping so that he could get through his interview with Oprah. Feel free to use that, The Onion!

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