Lance Armstrong’s life makes a TV soap opera dull by comparison. And my agent, I.M. Slick, thinks this is the perfect time to take a stand for Lance.
Slick: Do I have a deal for you!
Joe: Oh, really?
Slick: Lance Armstrong needs your help.
Joe: OK. I’ll bite. What does he need my help with?
Slick: He needs you to help reshape his image.
Joe: You are assuming he’d take my help.
Slick: Well, no one is knocking down his door offering to help, and so I figure this could be good for your reputation.
Joe: That’s doubtful.
Slick: But imagine how much money I could make as your agent if you’re somehow able to turn his image around.
Joe: Don’t take this personally, and I don’t wish ill on Mr. Armstrong, but I’m not interested.
Slick: Not so fast, my friend. Think about it. We’re talking Lance Armstrong, one of the greatest cyclists ever. He won the Tour de France seven times if you’re keeping score.
Joe: And recently he finally admitted to cheating and lying. Never mind that he had been accused of cheating for years.
Slick: That’s a bit harsh. America is a forgiving country. Lance is hardly the first person to have cheated and lied.
Joe: Yes, but it doesn’t inspire me to want to do an image makeover.
Slick: Play on people’s sympathies. He overcame cancer. He has raised millions of dollars to fight cancer. He’s been an inspiration to many.
Joe: So you want me to convince people that he is a great humanitarian, philanthropist and the leader of a foundation to fight cancer.
Slick: That’s the attitude I’m looking for.
Joe: And you want me to say, ‘Oh and by the way, he told some lies and won cycling titles by cheating.’
Slick: Uh, you might want to smooth that over some. Tell people that he was a victim.
Joe: A victim?
Slick: Sure. He was caught cheating in a sport where everyone cheats. I heard that when he was stripped of six of his Tour de France titles, they were unable to give the titles to the second- and third-place finishers because they cheated too.
Joe: Oh, great. In addition, it looks like he threw some people under the bus when they accused him of cheating and using performance enhancing drugs.
Slick: Well, he had to protect his character. Besides, he won those cases in court. No one is perfect, you know. Not even me.
Joe: Stop the presses.
Slick: Dispense with the sarcasm. I expect better from you. Lance isn’t the first high-profile athlete to cheat and lie. It happens all the time in pro baseball and football, you know.”
Joe: In time, maybe he can restore his image, but I’m not sure coming clean with Oprah is going to change his image.
Slick: He’s a different man, I tell you. He admitted he took banned substances and used growth hormones. He admitted that he took banned substances or used blood doping in all of his Tour wins. He has humbled himself before the American public.
Joe: Maybe a little self-deprecating humor would help. He could say, ‘Do you know what you and I have in common? We both never won the Tour de France.’ I heard that one library posted a sign that said, ‘All nonfiction Lance Armstrong books will soon be moved to the fiction section.’
Slick: OK. I can take a hint. If you aren’t willing to help, I’ll take this to someone who will. But it’s your loss.
Joe: I’m sorry. On second thought, I guess I might have one constructive idea.
Slick: That’s great. What is it?
Joe: Tell Lance he doesn’t have to give up cycling. If he’s really as humble and contrite as you say he is, ask him to participate in the Bike Across Kansas event this year. Who knows? Coming to the heartland may show people he’s had a change of heart.