Say it ain’t so, Lance

Another flawed hero, Odysseus, painted by John William Waterhouse.

Another flawed hero, Odysseus, painted by John William Waterhouse.

“In all seven of your Tour de France victories, did you ever take banned substances or blood dope?” asked Oprah Winfrey during her interview with Lance Armstrong and that aired across America last night.

“Yes,” Armstrong replied.

My two pennies’ worth (or two cents’ worth) is that Armstrong’s mannerisms and style of answering–and owning up–appeared exactly the same as in clips of him vigorously denying allegations in 2005. It’s hard to believe that he actually believes in his apologies.

Winfrey’s suggestion that surely Armstrong must have realised he’d eventually get caught indicated that for all her intelligence she doesn’t understand the dark arrogance that often lies in men’s souls, whereby they assume that unlike all others caught, they will manage to get away with it (evidence: the never-ending list of politicians, sports stars and generals busted for affairs, trysts and worse).

And so, Armstrong joins a long list of American sports heroes brought low.

Out of that list, for some reason the story of a felled hero that struck me most growing up was that of the baseball player Joseph Jefferson Jackson.

Eight White Sox players, including leftfielder “Shoeless Joe” Jackson, were banned for life from major league baseball for allegedly conspiring with gamblers to fix the 1919 World Series in favor of their opponent, the Cincinnati Reds.

The story goes that in 1920 Jackson emerged from a Chicago courthouse where he’d testified before a grand jury and was confronted by group of young fans. “Say it ain’t so, Joe,” one of the boys reportedly pleaded with his idol.

Americans love their heroes and will keep searching for them, and I can’t say I really blame them.

But for me, the ideal of heroism lost it’s lustre a while ago, somewhere back in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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