The Apology of the Year award, although it is admittedly a little early to bestow it because who knows when the next delinquent will come forth, may well go to Lance Armstrong for his having lied for years about his performance-enhancing drug use. The doleful quality of his apology with his lips compressed in what I took to be an imitation of contrition has me thinking that this whole mea culpa feels like the harbinger of a book deal. I’ve been mulling this over for days now and feel a little mean for what I am suspecting. I could be wrong. He may be truly upset with himself.
The whole public episode brings to mind the question of how in the world to apologize to the whole world for a double-cross; something only badly behaved public figures have to face since most of us offend in easily reachable smaller circles. Where can this apology be most effectively directed?
I have always been a real fan of an apology in writing. There is something emotionally elegant about coming clean and taking responsibility for regretful behavior. It is something that can be done only from strength. It has the force of any signed contract. I like that.
But the reality is that some offenses are too monumental in substance, or too grave a crime, for a letter to be effective. And, for misdeeds that effect untold throngs, practically speaking you cannot write a handwritten letter to millions of people, most of whom you do not know. So, what to do.
Maybe he should write an apology anyway - to himself. He, after all, having lost the trust and admiration of millions who once rooted for him, is the one most damaged by his dreadful behavior. He will know best what to say, and because he is not under the public microscope, he can, if he wants, speak freely.
As I understand, it was his son’s defending him that propelled Lance Armstrong to come clean about this issue, so how nice it would be to write a letter also to his children that tells flat out that they did not deserve to be humiliated by this turmoil and how sorry he is to have been the instrument of their pain. I would like to add that a real apology makes no excuses, does not contain the word “but”, has no crocodile tears, no performance about it and holds no prospect of any economic reward.
And, on the subject of money in sports, my own feeling is that the specter of whopping financial gain that has become a standard reward in popular sports can easily butcher what would, under normal circumstances, be good judgment.
From me to you with love in the air,
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