The jokes, dear reader, have already been made.
I’m sure you think you’ve got some clever new gibe to add, some original snark to spin-off that will raise the bar that little bit higher—and in some cases, I might even believe you. But in humor, as in all things, there is a point of diminishing return, and we have long-since passed it.
Or perhaps your intentions are noble. Perhaps you feel this story is so big, the celebrity status involved in it so outsized, and whichever side you disagree with so clearly idiotic and unjustifiable, that it’s totally worth your continued effort to try and reason your opposition into an inevitable concession. If history is any indicator, that just isn’t going to happen.
Regardless of what I say here, people will continue yelling about it. Anyone brave or idiotic enough to read a comments section can tell you that. I just want to go on record as saying there’s no point. There’s nothing to be gained. What has been done in darkness has come to light. A long-awaited judgment has been passed, retribution has meted out, the curtain has fallen, and by any reasonable metric, the story is over.
But as Mike Nichols so ably illustrated in The Graduate, the end is not the end. People stagger on for years, even decades after a given plot line has concluded, and land in all sorts of weird places—on the beach with half-their-age B-list blondes, in the center of unbuttoned, eyebrow-cocking bromances, and evidently, on Oprah’s Couch.
You can be funny about it, or mean about it, or indignant about it, but in this case, the most productive thing one can be is apathetic. The more people who yap about this, who click links, who generate ad impressions, and who fuel endless comment wars, the more attention the media will give this whip-sore glue bag of a story.
BREAKING NEWS: Sources say Lance Armstrong is considering coming clean and admitting he has doped throughout his career nyti.ms/X7ujSE
— Juliet Macur (@JulietMacur) January 5, 2013
Consider the example of one Ms. Juliet Macur, a Columbia-educated New York Times reporter, and one of the few mainstream journalists who can demonstrate a fond awareness for cycling’s singular fandom. Do you think she proclaims her obvious non-story to the Internet in ALL-CAPS because she thinks it’s just that important?
Do you think, after her years covering the sport that she isn’t well aware that a certain Texan is a calculating SOB? That she doesn’t know every commentator from here to Los Angeles has been prognosticating on his endgame since roughly the time that Floyd Landis started talking?
Or do you think maybe, just maybe she’s doing it because she’s got a nervous, demanding editor, and she knows there’s an easy quarter-million ad impressions out there waiting to be delivered by just such an article thanks to banal comments, endless retweets—and yes, dear reader, guilty as charged—backlinks from overly-serious blog posts.
Lance offered USADA $250,000 in 2004. Lance claims he’s still Tour champ on Strava. Lance to confess on Oprah. Lance Lance Lance Lance Lance
— Neal Rogers (@nealrogers) January 9, 2013
Take my media insights with a grain of salt—I have, after all, been failing to generate any meaningful attention to my work for a the better part of a decade—but I get the sense the press would rather be covering something else.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe part of making it day-to-day writing about things is a deep-seated passion for the precise wording of people’s Strava profiles, and the social media flamewars that result. And maybe I’m mistaken about your tastes, and toenail-deep, OMG-blurbs are exactly what you want to read.
But I’m willing to take the chance that neither of these things are the case. And I’d like you to realize your attention—or lack thereof—might provide just the nudge an already-reluctant reporter needs to scrap a yet another, largely meritless story in favor of something interesting.
I’ll wrap this up where I began. Before you make that tweet, post that comment, or reblog or pin or whatever verb the kids are using these days–stop and think. Is this something that really needs to be said? Is it so funny it’s worth another day, or month, or decade of this prefabricated press charade?
It’s not that the Armstrong case should be ignored entirely; it’s that we should reserve the spoils of our attention for the moments when someone actually comes through with facts.
thoughts on “Feeding the Trollstrong Foundation”
The thing is, though, that retribution hasn’t, as you suggest, been meted out. It’s not about the media wanting to generate more ad revenue or satirical sites (mine not included, of course) wanting to increase pageviews. This is about one individual stealing from others in a ruthless and amoral way.
There are cyclists out there who didn’t dope and who could have had better careers if it wasn’t for this man. There are people who believed in the whole ‘recover from cancer and conquer the world’ story that have been deceived. There are people that enjoyed the sport of cycling that have found that what they loved wasn’t what they thought. I could go on.
It’s not enough to say to the media that ‘enough is enough’ and the ‘joke’s gone far enough’. Satire is one of the ways that people can get a serious point across without getting sued. This isn’t about how the media make money – it’s not a “prefabricated press charade” at all. There’s no “charade” here at all. There’s just one individual who allegedly has used his power, influence and money to intimidate and, it seems, defraud over a period of 15 or more years.