Armstrong enters the next phase

Armstrong enters the next phase
October 17, 2012, 6:32 pm
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Lance Armstrong enters the next phase of his non-person stage today, now that Nike has given him the traditional Viking funeral setting him adrift and letting the tide do its work.But the news Wednesday is no more dispositive of Armstrongs long-term public prognosis than it was before the systematic nature of his lies and bullying overwhelmed even the people he made money for all these years. Put another way, there will be some other LiveStrong product in his future, and the only question now is how late at night the ads for whatever his next product will run.RELATED: Nike severs ties, Armstrong steps down as LiveStrong chairman
If that passes as disgrace in this culture, then it passes as disgrace. It says volumes about how we determine a persons worth, of course, since the history which has so offended people lately has been readily available for anyone who wanted to know.The point is, the Nike announcement, and Armstrongs resignation from the LiveStrong Foundation should have been regarded as no news at all. Armstrongs deeds were already glowing a radioactive green before this, yet somehow Nikes imprimatur was required to make it official.Theres a lesson in that, of course. It is proof that we have become so tolerant of misbehavior by the brazen and arrogance by the powerful that their disgrace can only be defined by the even more powerful.And intriguingly, Nikes deicison wasnt based on whether Armstrong was a maniacal juicer, or the hall monitor from hell, or a rampant liar. Nike fired Armstrong because he wouldnt be moving any more of their product, at least not in a rate that made him worth the bother any longer.In short, what Nike was doing was much different than what people want to think Nike was doing. The only thing everyone can agree on is that Armstrong is he and his army of defenders will have to find news ways for him to make money.And he will find them. He will not become invisible, not for long. Disgrace in America is as negotiable as it is flexible, and Armstrongs biggest crime making America believe he wasnt what he clearly and always was is one America usually gets over.It may take a series of contrived and insincere apologies on the daytime talk show circuit. It may take one long tearful interview from by some allegedly concerned celebrity interviewer. It might even take, in a worst-case scenario, throwing himself on the mercy of the French.But Armstrong didnt stop fighting USADA and its Pyrenees of evidence without mentally beginning his campaign back from Elba. He knew all these other shoes would drop, because he knows how the P.R. game is played at the highest corporate levels. Love to hate in 5.8 seconds, hate to love in a year or so.He is playing his bad hand in the time-honored poker way as long as he has a chip and chair, hes still live. And he knows he will not be abandoned to those who bought hardest into his mythology.And no, Nike never bought into his mythology. Nike helped refine his mythology, and cashed in on it with both hands and feet, but Nike didnt get to be Nike by biting the hook it baits.In sum, Armstrongs fall Wednesday may impress some people as final, but nothing is truly final except death and the Kansas City Royals. The things he did that should have earned him his shame were ignored by too many, and Wednesday s news was just a corporate decision rather than a moral statement.Whats wrong with too many of us, in the final analysis, is that we are so comfortable conflating the two. But we'll find out some late night when we can't sleep and misplace the remote when his ad comes on.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com