Lance Armstrong will always be a hero and a villain


Lance Armstrong will always be a hero and a villain

Lance Armstrong has been exposed as the liar we all suspected him to be, and the general sense is that he has been exposed to his great and enduring public detriment.The general sense is, as is usual in this polarized nation, wrong.It doesnt matter that Armstrong has been exposed by 11 of his fellow riders as being the centerpiece of a massive performance enhancing drugs conspiracy that included such sidelights as bullying, threats and general unpleasantness. Armstrong has been painted as a thoroughly detestable creature.And none of that makes any difference, because arguments in America arent about right or wrong. Not any more. Theyre about My side, which is pure and noble and glorious, and Your side, which reveals you as scum.Lance Armstrong will have a legion of supporters, now and forever. Even those who read the damning USADA report will view it in terms not of fact-finding or evidence that could change ones mind, but as a document that will be contorted to support ones already-staked-out position.Period.Because it isnt about Lance Armstrong, and hasnt been for a long time now. Those who thought he doped thought that long ago. Those who thought that he didnt because he never tested positive and because hes too important to some different narrative, they assume conspiracy, or rationalize that he only did what everyone else in sport did.Or, most prevalent, they defend Armstrong because they are already committed to defending him, and admitting wrong is somehow considered worse than holding ones position.Thats why Lance Armstrong will never feel the pain others think he should. His sheer brazenness, and the ability of him and his acolytes to demonize his detractors, will insulate him from the shame that his deeds logically would rain upon him.Thats the mistake all the post-USADA analysis makes that this is the long-awaited smoking gun. It smokes, and its a gun, and it fired bullets. But those who dont want to perceive it simply dont, because it isnt about being right or wrong. Its about picking a side and adhering to it.RELATED: Damning Armstrong report includes 200 pages, 26 witnesses
And the Armstrong side is still the Armstrong side, no matter what.This is not designed to change anyones mind, because minds will not be changed on this. We have covered this ground in the past with other athletes, and every time the argument breaks down at the point where one side says, Well, I dont care. Hes my guy, and thats all I want to know.Its the maddening side of fandom gone tribal, and it is not going to change. There may be some people who peeled off the Armstrong bandwagon Wednesday, but most had already picked a side well before now, and are adhering to it with as much aggression as ever.And thats where the notion that somehow Lance Armstrong is exposed and ruined collapses under its own sanctimony. He isnt. He picked the fallback position of the victim being crushed by a system of conspirators, and those who are committed to him must follow. It may be his last explanation, and it may be thoroughly implausible given what more we learned Wednesday, but he has never given up on a story no matter how absurd it might be.Thats part of what his supporters find so appealing he doesnt take anything for an answer except what he has already provided himself. And giving up on that kind of single-mindedness is, for them, unthinkable.For the rest of us, it seems silly. But to assume that this is the final say on Lance Armstrong is to misread the audience, badly. He wont ever surrender his version more matter the weight of the evidence, and neither will his supporters. Hell, many of them will applaud him for being the best cheater ever, because thats part of his appeal too.So do not think we have heard the last of the Lance Armstrong story. Like the Civil War, some people need the fight more than the resolution, and some people need the hero even when he is shown to be the villain. And that will never change.Ray Ratto is a columnist for

Oakland, Alameda County to vote on possible Raiders stadium term sheet next week

Oakland, Alameda County to vote on possible Raiders stadium term sheet next week

The Oakland City Council and Alameda County Supervisors will soon hold a public hearing and vote on a term sheet for a stadium proposal designed to keep the Raiders in Oakland, the City of Oakland announced on Friday afternoon.

These actions will occur on Dec. 13, as local authorities attempt to expedite a stadium plan that will prevent the Raiders from being approved to relocate to the Las Vegas market.

Oakland and Alameda County have paired with Fortress Investment Group to create a stadium funding plan that does not include taxpayer dollars. The public will contribute to infrastructure improvements, but stadium construction will come from private sources.

The private investment group is fronted by former NFL players Ronnie Lott and Rodney Peete.

A financial framework, as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, can be viewed here. More details about this Oakland stadium plan should be released next week.

City and county votes are the next step in creating a plan enticing enough to the NFL that it would pump the brakes on allowing the Raiders to move to Las Vegas.

That is Raiders owner Mark Davis’ stated desire. He has not negotiated with local public officials in some time, pouring focus into a Las Vegas stadium plan that has already received $750 million in public subsidy to construct if the Raiders are given the green light to move.

There are several complications associated with this deal, most notably that Davis wants no part in it. The NFL is reportedly intrigued by Oakland’s market potential, and generally prefers that teams remain in their home markets.


Reliable on the mound, Melancon seeks thrills off of it

Reliable on the mound, Melancon seeks thrills off of it

SAN FRANCISCO — At his introductory press conference Friday, new Giant Mark Melancon was asked about the fearlessness it takes to be a big league closer. He looked down at the first row of seats, where his wife Mary Catherine was sitting in a brand new No. 41 jersey, smiling. 

“You should probably ask my wife that,” Melancon joked.

When the Melancons got married, Mary Catherine had a calligrapher write up an actual bucket list of things the two could do together and presented it to Mark as a wedding gift. 

“It’s framed and it’s in our bathroom,” Mark said during an interview with CSN Bay Area on Friday. “It’s literally in our bathroom and we look at it all the time and try to plan out what we’re going to get done. Because it is on paper and it’s a goal and all that, we’ve checked off probably 40 or 50 percent of it in six years.”

The check marks include biking down the world’s “most dangerous road” in Bolivia and diving with great white sharks near New Zealand. The Melancons have visited Dubai and gone on a safari and stayed in countless cities off the beaten path. They have gone underwater with manta rays and high in the air in a blimp. Some of the items are simple ones, like attending a Nascar race. 

“There are a few items we’ll have to wait for until after baseball,” Melancon said. “We try to keep it safe of course, but it’s just a lot of fun. It’s a way to kind of bring creativity and allow ourselves to do things you could easily say no to.”

The standard MLB contract prohibits quite a few “dangerous” activities, and with a four-year, $62 million deal that is currently the second-biggest ever for a reliever, Melancon will hold off on certain trips, like skiing the Swiss Alps. “Attend the Kentucky Derby” is on the bucket list, but because the Derby is in May, that one is saved for retirement. In his first year with the Giants, Melancon hopes to put a check mark next to “sit backstage at a concert.”

Melancon said the thrill-seeking has slowed down a bit because the couple now has three young children, two daughters and a son. The Giants are hoping the more relaxed vibe carries over into their ninth innings. Team officials have been told by past Melancon employers that they signed a closer who is “boring” on the mound, in a good way. With a cutter-heavy approach, Melancon tends to get his ninth-inning work done quickly and without drama. That’s a welcome change of pace for an organization that has grown accustomed to “torture” late in games. 

“He was our target and we’ve gotten to know him, and the more we’ve gotten to know him the better we’ve felt about the fact that he was really meant to be a Giant,” team president and CEO Larry Baer said. 

The Giants had Melancon as their top offseason choice — and only big offseason expenditure — all along. Team officials feel even better about that approach after watching Melancon tour the ballpark Friday morning and meet with season-ticket holders and team employees. The fit was an easy one, with one member of the front office saying Melancon is “practically straight out of Giants central casting.”

Melancon’s new teammates feel the same way. He said eight to 10 of them have reached out since the deal was announced Monday. The group includes the types of players who are on any free agent’s bucket list of potential teammates. A ground ball pitcher, Melancon is looking forward to working with a Gold Glove infield. 

“That’s kind of an attractive thing to have a couple of Gold Glovers (up the middle) and then being able to throw to Buster is icing on the cake,” he said. “When you put things together on paper and go ‘who do you want to throw to and back you up,’ this team stands out.”