Let Villains Be Villains
The Lance Armstrong doping scandal is pissing me off, but not for the reasons you think. Sure, I think what he did is wrong and that people should not lie or cheat and that athletes should not be let off the hook because “everybody’s doing it” or because “worse things happen.” But what really makes me angry about the whole thing is that we are all responsible for perpetuating the narrative, from start to finish.
Because we put people in positions of esteem and power, be they politicians or athletes or actors, and we give them millions of dollars with the expectation that they be exceptional or even superhuman.
Because, every single time, we get upset when these people turn out to be unscrupulous, and we allow our outrage to fuel a media frenzy that demands reparations, confessions, and apologies.
But worst of all, I’m annoyed that we’ve become a society of people that expects to be apologized to. We completely misunderstand what an apology is, or what purpose it serves. You apologize when you’ve made a mistake that is harmful, or when you cave in to a moment of weakness.
However, when a person like Armstrong calculates wrongdoing, and continues to do so for months, years, embroils others in his schemes and lies and deceives in order to protect himself, that is not a mistake or a moment of weakness. That just makes him a bad person.
Lance Armstrong is a bad person.
Why do we have this expectation of repentance and redemption? Second chances are all well and good, but only in cases where the person has made a genuine mistake — not when someone has made cheating a livelihood.
I enjoy the schadenfraude part. Let people have their punishment and comeuppance, their fall from grace. When someone is exposed as a fake, walk away. Don’t give them anymore attention. Don’t hold the door open for them and start talking about comebacks before the wounds have even healed. Armstrong called himself a bully, so do what you’re supposed to do to bullies and ignore them.
Don’t let them go on Oprah, don’t give them an interview, don’t try to understand why, don’t pay for their PR schemes masquerading as confessions.
Because that sends the message that corruption is meaningless as long as you can hold a press conference and “apologize.” That’s how this whole cycle gets started in the first place. Stop the narrative.
Just let the bad guys (or gals) be bad, and stop looking for signs of regret, contrition, or hidden reserves of virtue. They’ll either experience those feelings or they won’t. But probably not.
We aren’t owed an apology.