2013年1月22日 星期二

Lance Armstrong: When A Hero Confesses

 


阿姆斯壯演砸了
英國《金融時報》中文網專欄作家 顏強

一直以來中國媒體和受眾都不太關心蘭斯·阿姆斯壯。但過去一周,這位已從職業生涯巔峰墜落至穀底的前自行車明星與奧普拉的對話,成了世界體育界的頭條新聞。阿姆斯壯這次處心積慮的公共行動,最終招來一片罵聲,體育歷史上曾經包裝得最成功的勵志英雄傳奇,如今成了市場行銷和危機公關的反面案例。

對於阿姆斯壯的競技,中國體育迷們或許興趣不大,自行車本來也不是靄深毒重的中國城市能進行的運動。不過他最新的觸電表現,倒是能給市場行銷者提供各種參考。

在因為服用違禁藥品被蓋棺定論為騙子、七個環法自行車冠軍頭銜被剝奪, 2000年悉尼奧運會銅牌被取消之後,“壯哥”沉寂了幾個月,突然選擇以對話脫口秀女王的方式,第一次面對公眾。他有著顯而易見的目的:利用一次高光露面機會,低調溫情地講述他那一面的故事,讓人看到他不僅是一個鐵骨錚錚的硬漢——儘管那是他自己長久以來努力包裝成的樣子,他還想讓世界看到他的痛苦、他無法自拔的窘迫、和在不知情狀況下犯的錯誤。這樣博同情的路數雖然老套,但通常管用,因為看到阿姆斯壯,人們很容易能回想起他七次贏取環法的輝煌,他戰勝癌症的堅強,以及LIVESTRONG這個黃手環對全世界抗擊癌症的人們以及青少年的激勵。

阿姆斯壯就是要將自己打扮成一個好人,一個犯了錯誤幡然悔悟,但內裏仍然品質優良的好人。他知道他不可能再贏回已經失去的世界,他那1.25億美元的財產大部分也將在官司中失散,但他倔強地想要堅守住哪怕最後一寸陣地。他骨子裏不會認輸,即便在宣佈他是個騙子,而他無從辯解時,他已經輸了。

然而阿姆斯壯實在是一個“單一類型”演員。我收看了他和奧普拉的對話,只有在講述到不久前耶誕節,他13歲的兒子向他詢問真像,促使他決心面對公眾時,阿姆斯壯才有些動情,而整體上,他表現得強硬頑固,和他依舊分明的面部輪廓一樣堅實。

他只能演英雄,他只能扮演勝利者。他不會博同情。哪怕他像鐘斯那樣痛哭流涕一番,多少也會讓人覺得是真情流露,但阿姆斯壯做不到。他的確真實,真實得讓人感覺到,從他內心深處,他根本沒覺得自己做錯了什麼。

在這次公關活動的最初設計中,低調與溫情可能是主線索,阿姆斯壯原本是來道歉、來挽回損失的。但強梁如“壯哥”者,做不到低調溫情。過去十幾年,他裹挾媒體、裹挾國際自行車聯合會,對所有懷疑他成就的媒體、管理者、隊友、對手、車隊經理、贊助商,都手段鐵腕毫不留情。他代表著“美國夢”刻骨的另一面。如今要他放下身段,他就算有這樣的意識,行為上卻根本做不到。

所以和奧普拉的對話,不但沒有起到危機公關的作用,反倒坐實了阿姆斯壯的完整敗局。這段長時間對話還不是直播,更讓人懷疑其誠意。錄影結束後,奧普拉第一時間在Twitter上言簡意賅地說:“阿姆斯壯有備而來”。個中深意,值得品味。

我越看這些對話,越覺得阿姆斯壯就是“美國夢”的代言人——他將自己洗腦洗得無比徹底乾淨,轉身就能給其他人洗腦。這樣的告白,如果是肥皂劇,也只會是最低劣的肥皂劇。

遺憾的是,這樣的肥皂劇,不論中西,每天都充斥在我們的生活中。

(注:本文僅代表作者個人觀點。本文編輯王昉 fang.wang@ftchinese.com

阿姆斯特朗演砸了



SPORTS

Armstrong stripped of Tour de France titles

Cyclist Lance Armstrong has been stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned from cycling for life, in a much-anticipated ruling by the sport's international governing body.
Monday's announcement by Pat McQuaid, the president of the International Cycling Union, ratified recommendations in an October report from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), which ordered Armstrong's Tour de France titles be wiped out.
"Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling," said McQuaid.
Addressing his remarks to cyclists, McQuaid said the fight against doping was his priority.
"UCI is listening and is on your side. We’ve come too far in the fight against doping to return to our past. Cycling has a future and something like this must not happen again."

UCI upholds ban on Lance Armstrong

The scathing USADA report included testimony from 11 former teammates, accusing Armstrong of running the "most sophisticated" doping program in the sport's history. The USADA said it had collected evidence to prove the seven-time Tour de France winner had engaged in the biggest doping conspiracy to date.
Effect on cycling and sponsorship
Monday's decision comes as the sport of cycling reels from Armstrong's well-documented fall from grace. Organizers of the Tour de France will be trying to move on from the scandal as the race prepares to celebrate its centenary next year.
Sponsors have been deserting Armstrong and the sport in general. Last week, Nike - one of Armstrong's main corporate sponsors - said it was terminating its relationship with the cyclist and accused him of deception.
Trek, the company that made the bicycles Armstrong rode to seven titles, announced on the same day it would terminate its sponsorship contract - as did the beer maker Anheuser-Busch.
The Dutch institution Rabobank ended its association with professional cycling after the doping allegations came to light, leaving 17 riders in need of a sponsor.
Last week Armstrong also announced he would step down from his own charity, the Lance Armstrong Foundation, also known as Livestrong, a move believed to have been intended to limit the damage to the organization from the USADA report.
Armstrong appears
Lance Armstrong spoke briefly to thousands of riders in Texas at a benefit organized by his charity, the day before UCI's decision.
"I've been better, but I've also been worse," he said. "Obviously it has been an interesting and difficult couple of weeks."
jr/rc (Reuters, AFP, AP)

Lance Armstrong: When A Hero Lets Us Down

Lance Armstrong speaks to the media after the February 2011 Xterra Nationals triathlon. On Friday, the cyclist said he would no longer fight doping allegations.
Enlarge Jim Urquhart/AP Lance Armstrong speaks to the media after the February 2011 Xterra Nationals triathlon. On Friday, the cyclist said he would no longer fight doping allegations.
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August 24, 2012
Lance Armstrong. He has a superhero's name, right out of the comic books. He moved from conquering stages of one kind — bike racing — to stages of another kind — cancer. He's chiseled and driven and known all over the world.
But now we learn that the superhero has given up in one of his biggest battles. He says he will no longer continue to fight charges by the United States Anti-Doping Agency that he used performance enhancing drugs to win bicycle races.
Because of the charges — and the subsequent stripping away of seven Tour De France titles — the popular image of Armstrong may be forever tarnished.
"We are all going to be let down by this news," says Harvey Shapiro, professor emeritus at the University of California, San Diego, medical school and an avid cyclist. "Those people who believe that he couldn't possibly dope are still going to believe it. And those who staunchly believe that he did dope are still going to believe it."
To some, Armstrong will be seen as a fallen idol. To others he remains a powerful symbol of someone who battled against the odds. The simplicity of loving him as a winner, however, has grown very complicated.
But in early 21st century America, we are accustomed to complex heroes — people thought to be good who ultimately disappoint. Our popular culture is teeming with conflicted champions and superheroes who discover their dark sides and turn out to be mirror images of archenemies.
So how are we supposed to feel about Lance Armstrong?
Shadow Over Everything
Tom Stokes, co-owner of Plum Grove Cyclery in Leesburg, Va., says his feelings about the conflicted superhero Armstrong are, well, conflicted
"When I was following Lance's tour victories," Stokes says, "I kind of knew in my heart of hearts that he was getting some help."
As a purveyor of high-end bikes, Stokes knows well the world of high-level professional biking. "It's dog eat dog," he says.
But Armstrong's apparent straight-from-the-lab advantage was OK with Stokes because he sensed that many other professional cyclists were pumped up on performance enhancing drugs as well. "I sort of knew that everybody was doing it," he says.
After all, bicycle racers have been trying to improve their endurance and speed for decades. "They were taking strychnine in the '20s and '30s," Stokes says. Enhancement was "always sort of a given."
Stokes is especially bitter that the Anti-Doping Agency continued to pursue Armstrong. Going after, and finally triumphing over Armstrong, Stokes says, comes at a great cost for biking. "There won't be positive fallout from this."
They are, he says, "making everybody look bad."
On one hand, Stokes says, Armstrong is still a winner. He has battled cancer. He has started the Lance Armstrong Foundation that employs a lot of people and raises piles of money for cancer research. Countless bicyclists and other people wear — and are inspired by — the foundation's bright yellow Livestrong wristbands. Stokes worries what might happen to those heroic efforts.
But Stokes also takes the news somewhat personally. He pauses and recalls magical moments — watching Armstrong break away on mountains and cross the finish lines first, time and time again.
"I don't think I'll ever get that feeling back," he says with a sigh. "There's a shadow over everything now. But that's just life."
Marred Masterpieces
The Hall of Fallen American Heroes is long and wide. There is a portrait of Bill Clinton. Over there is a sculpture of Tiger Woods. Toppled from that pedestal is Gary Hart. Watch out for the broken busts of Richard Nixon, John Edwards, Pete Rose, Mark McGwire and many, many others.
Should the curators now make room for Armstrong?
If Armstrong did what he's been accused of — and no longer officially refutes — does he belong in the museum of marred masterpieces?
As Shapiro points out, our society is already addicted to performance enhancement technology for ourselves. We use drugs and machines and other boosters to work and play in more advanced ways than our ancestors.
Such behavior creates tacit acceptance of performance enhancing in sports as we cheer on athletes to break one record after another, says Shapiro, who wrote a novel, Morphed, about doping athletes. The result is a demand for ever greater, often drug-supported, superheroic feats.
Rather than fight against the evidence, Shapiro says, Armstrong should have taken the opportunity "to commit himself to helping to wipe out doping, especially for young kids and young athletes, because he is a hero to them."
Heroics, Not Heroes
Maybe our adoration is misplaced. Perhaps we should all be focusing on the feats and not the performers. Heroes let us down; heroics don't.
In a 2009 Psychology Today piece about our fascination with the destruction of heroes, Lawrence Rubin, a psychology professor at St. Thomas University in Miami, posited that rather than focus on our fascination with fallen heroes, "we should turn attention from them to ourselves, and search for real and tangible ways to be heroic in our own lives."
Following the Armstrong news, Rubin says in an interview, "Heroes are part of both popular and the broader culture as well."
They "are the rarefied and purified elements of the best of humanity," Rubin says. They are "the distilled essence of our hopes, dreams, strength and desire for immortality."
Ultimately, Rubin says, sullied superheroes do teach us something about ourselves. Fallen heroes "don't let us down. Their 'fall' merely reflects the inevitability of our mortality — the inescapable awareness of our fragility and transience."
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