Internet Backlash Spreads in Wake of Armstrong Interview With Oprah
In his heyday, Lance Armstrong was the guy who got everyone off of the couch and onto a bike.
His hometown of Austin is now known as one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country, his name and face were attached to multiple big-time advertising deals (my favorite being Michelob Ultra, the "healthy" beer), and he was seen biking about with stars like Matthew McCoughney and Jake Gillenhal. There's a photo of him biking with former president George W. on his Wikipedia page!
If you weren't friends with the guy, you wanted to be him, and Armstrong's career certainly added to the worldwide intrigue in cycling as a sport. Amrstrong's seven consecutive Tour de France wins and his cancer survivor status gave many a role model to look up to. And how the mighty have fallen.
The mayor in Austin has removed his jersey from his office. The advertising and sponsorship deals are gone and ESPN Sports Business reporter, Darren Rovell, says, "Lance Armstrong doesn't have any future marketability. It's over." The celebrities have come out to speak their mind on the issue, including a very gaunt Matthew McConaughey at the Sundance Film Festival.
Lance revealed his public confession of guilt to Oprah Winfrey's television network on January 17 and the backlash quickly ensued. This guy built an empire, a symbol of which werebeing the ever-present Livestrong bracelets, which are too the focus of internet ire (see one person's revised bracelet here).
Right now, one of the most popular viral stories about Lance is a photo of an Australian library notice regarding his books being moved to the fiction section (turns out the library memo was a hoax).
Is the internet backlash fair? Well, as Matthew McConaughey put it, the truth can be hard to face at first. Similar to another Oprah-revealed scandal, author James Frey's confession to partially fictionalizing his account of beating drug addiction is hard to come to terms with because he became a symbol for hope in the face of adversity. For many, both Armstrong and Frey disappointed the public because they misled them in terms of exposing their weaknessesto build a narrative of overcoming adversity, whether it be surviving cancer to be a cycling champion or beating addiction. In this sense, venting on the internet is totally legitimate. One thing that we all can say we've done at least a handful of times is go on the internet and search for answers when we're scared and we don't know what the right answer is, and in this way the internet is like our community AA group or maybe our grandfather who will listen no matter what we have to say.
Like everything that goes viral on the internet, this Armstrong hate campaign will soon be a distant memory as new memes and more confessions of ill repute become the new source of web entertainment. For Armstrong, his new chapter in living an honest life is just beginning. If he can sort of win seven Tour de France races, then I think he can handle a little public ire for the time being.