Observing the Rise and Fall of Mr Armstrong

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14 Jan 2013
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22 Jan 2013

This weekend, I’m observing a fair number of social posts commenting on the drama of Lance Armstrong’s drug usage and the resultant media stoning. Personally, I probably wouldn’t be able to identify Mr Armstrong in a line-up. I have no interest in cycling as a spectator sport. And I tend to keep my distance from sensational stories.

The story, as I’ve pieced it together (because, god forbid, I actually search the webs for the actual media reports!), is that super cyclist Lance Armstrong has been found to be using enhancement drugs to claim said super-ness. Most recently, he has come forth and publicly apologised and admitted guilt. It turns out that two factions have emerged among the people who are putting their energy into this drama; those that forgive Armstrong’s actions and those that are hellbent on tearing him down.

As stated, the actual drama does not concern me. The general reaction of my Facebook friends, on the other hand, does.

Let me elaborate on my take of the drama first. All celebrities, whether in sport or entertainment, can get to a point where their continual performance is expected by their fans. They are elevated in the minds of the general public to almost super human status. They are not allowed to fail, to make mistakes, to not hit the bar that they’ve already set.
Granted, this sort of expectation happens in virtually every industry, the difference being the sheer number of people celebrities need to please. And, of course, the more famous one is means more sponsorship pressure, as well. It’s bound to get too much.

It’s not surprising, to me, that sport celebrities do wind up turning to enhancements. I’m not condoning the use of these drugs, merely pointing out the logic behind athletes using them.
I don’t know what motivated Mr Armstrong to use drugs to help his performance. What does erk me is the lash of the public following this discovery. The public that spent their time watching and praising Armstrong’s triumphs from afar. So what if his achievements were the results of drugs? What has that to do with anyone not directly related (and in business) to Armstrong and the cycling organisers? Sure, fans are disappointed that their hero is, oh my god, NOT super human after all. Egos are deflated. Pedestals are toppled.

Ultimately, so what? Why the need to kick the man while he’s down? The organisers of his various cycling tours, his managers and sponsors, and the law will take care of him as any other body who’d done the same in any other organisation.

Except this isn’t just some person. This is a celebrity. And celebrities must pay the price for failing to meet the public expectation, for disappointing their fans by caving to the pressure, by being anything less than super.

A friend posted a reference to the fact that entertainment celebrities (actors and models) are consistently airbrushed and digitally altered in their general presentations to the public, comparing this over-the-top expectation to Armstrong’s use of drugs to reach unrealistic goals. Thanks to modern technology, what a celebrity may really look like is not always what the public sees; they get to see the enhanced version. This puts strain on the celebrity who may then attempt to meet this unrealistic expectation by excessive means (such as cosmetic surgery and the like) or deal with the pressure by indulging in recreational drugs.

Sure, this is an over-simplified generalisation but the sentiment holds. Celebrities are only human. They cannot be expected to always cope with the pressures of fans and sponsors. They will make mistakes. They will make poor choices. And they will, at some point, disappoint their fans. And not all of them will be able to manage this adequately within their lives, private and public.
I say, give the guy a break. Whatever he did, he is facing the consequences. Whether he is dealing with it in the best way possible is debatable but he certainly doesn’t need the self-righteous opinion of every arbitrary nobody on the face of this planet while he’s going through this process.