Lance Armstrong will always be a hero and a villain

October 11, 2012, 4:50 pm
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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