Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

Salut Tash Appreciators,

There have been a couple of requests for TF’s views on Lance Armstrong and his fall from grace. In short, it’s been as if the curtain has fallen and he has been exposed as being what he really is – ordinary. It’s a bit like the Wizard of Oz:

There are some similarities between the impact that Armstrong’s story has had on cycling fans (and maybe everyone else, too) and the stages of grief. Even those involved in the sport were in denial about what was going on.  They deluded themselves into believing that he was superhuman. Then came anger at the realisation of what he had done; bargaining (“they were all at it!”); depression (“the sport will never recover”); and finally, acceptance. 

For those who follow cycling, the evidence against Armstrong has been known for a while. We are therefore mostly well on the way to acceptance (although we won’t wear our Livestrong T-shirts or jerseys ever again). The sport itself is dealing with doping and we’ll need to wait and see if the new clean policies of team directors have a positive impact. Like in all walks of life, there will always be those who seek to gain an unfair advantage, but the important thing is that the people at the top are doing the right thing.

Armstrong’s story is also a good metaphor for the last decade or so. He won an unprecedented 7 Tours between 1999 and 2005, just a year or two after he defeated cancer. His story, and the incredible things he did every July for seven years, caused most of us to believe he was special and that the conventional rules of physiology didn’t apply to him. 

That matched our attitude to most things at the time. We were at the peak of our powers: house prices were seemingly on a never-ending rise; wages were increasing; there was no end to economic prosperity in sight. 

Both in sport and economics, we were obviously wrong. However, on the upside, the recession, and now the Armstrong scandal, has left us with a healthy cynicism. 
There was a fantastic article in a cycling magazine during the summer which questioned why everything about Armstrong was coming out now. It’s explanation was that we used to believe in fairy stories and drink in the impossible. To use a Scottish analogy, it was like we were bevvying hard on a Saturday night, having the time of our lives but thinking that by some miracle a couple of pints of water before going to mitigate would mitigate the hangover the next day… Or that  all the partying wasn’t having an impact on our bank balances. But now we ask more questions.
There’s been a realisation that if something is too good to be true, then it probably is. That can only be a good thing. The more we question and evaluate what’s going on, the more we can influence things. This started with billion dollar enterprises being exposed as nothing more than fancy algorithms/classic frauds disguised in glossy branding and false-promises. Now all the curtains are beginning to fall and the “Wizards” are being exposed as what they always were – men in suits using smoke and mirrors. 
To put that to the test, have a look at this week’s Tash. It’s Ben Stiller in Anchorman and his Tash is just outstanding. But is it real? TF knows the answer, but what do your instincts tell you?
Have a cracking weekend folks!

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