Deservedly, Armstrong tops America's detested athletes

Deservedly, Armstrong tops America's detested athletes
February 6, 2013, 11:00 am
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Lance Armstrong beat out Manti Te’o and Tiger Woods to be crowned America's most detested athlete. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

Lance Armstrong is finally being investigated for the real reason people now wear a Hazmat suit in case his name comes up.

Obstruction. Witness tampering. And the one thing most people will not tolerate when they tolerated everything else, intimidation.

The federal government is actively investigating Armstrong for all those things in their pursuit of the seven-time Tour de France winner, cancer survivor and spokesman, and admitted doper and bully.

He won something most Americans care nothing about more often than anyone else. He did survive cancer, and he raised money and awareness for the disease, which nobody seems to have a real issue with, even if his Livestrong Foundation wasn’t the engine it purported to be.

But admitting to cheating, which he did under the withering questioning of Oprah Winfrey, did put some folks off even though they already knew that he couldn’t be the only champion in the entire sport who wasn’t chemically enriched.

Again, something few people cared about, and now that it is finally becoming clear to even neophytes that the chemists are still winning and are going to keep winning for a good long time, even fewer care.

But messing with other people while playing at messiah never goes over well, and while that won’t be the crux of the government’s case, it is the main reason why Nielsen/EPoll’s latest list of most detestable athletes has him at the top.

He stands well ahead of Manti Te’o, it should be added, someone else who hasn’t managed to corral the truth of his nonexistent dead girlfriend and the motivations behind it no matter how many times he and his family take a stab at it. And Tiger Woods for being a spectacular philanderer and losing the plot on the golf course as well.

And Armstrong should be at the top of the list, because fraud wrapped in bullying is something we all understand, and most of us loathe. Being lied to alone doesn’t get it, because lying is the WD40 of human discourse, and bullying is something we tolerate as a character trait from nearly every football coach in America. Win, after all, and the world pays off 15-to-1.

But Armstrong managed in his colossal arrogance to be a mean-spirited cheater while painting himself as a selfless nobleman and obeyer of rules. He strongarmed and muscled and threatened and dismissed his fellow sportsman/conspirators and their friends and relations so comprehensively that the line to bring him down stretched around the block like he was the next Harry Potter book.

That’s some remarkable vengeance right there. You have to go a very long way to get everyone to want a piece of you.

So in that way at least, this investigation is more in line with why people are revolted by him now. They could tolerate his character flaws if they stood alone, but the combination was so breathtaking in its scope that the only sensible reaction was revulsion.

I mean, he couldn’t even fall to his knees in supplication right, saying to Winfrey that he didn’t cheat in two Tours when the blood evidence shows he did. You do not screw with Oprah even when she is only a cable channel now.

The investigation may not lead to an arrest, let alone a trial or conviction. The feds aren’t always on their A-game when aiming at celebrities. Armstrong is now famous mostly for being a swine, thereby making him easier prey, but one should assume nothing when it comes to the end game here.

But more people are fine with this investigation than the earlier ones, before Armstrong was revealed/revealed himself to be . . . well, what his detractors always said he was, but worse. And he doesn’t have the NFL Draft or The Masters to use as a diversion.

Next year’s Nielsen/EPoll data may have Armstrong taking all three spots on the medal stand, but without knowing (or caring) what science they use to determine this, let us say simply that Armstrong is finally getting closer to what most people want coming to him – a punishment built for a bully.