Lance Armstrong just another fallen idol who’s become a tribute act of himself

Don’t expect freewheeling revelation when disgraced cyclist comes to the RDS

Lance Armstrong will appear at the RDS in October. Photograph: Elizabeth Kreutz/Reuters/Lance Armstrong Foundation/

Lance Armstrong will appear at the RDS in October. Photograph: Elizabeth Kreutz/Reuters/Lance Armstrong Foundation/

 

I know someone heading to Desert Trip next weekend, in Indio, California, a new three-day music festival which features a grand total of six artists: Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Neil Young, Roger Waters and The Who.

He’s paid $1,599 for a standing ticket, a lot of money even for a zealous man such as himself, considering all six artists are now essentially tribute acts to themselves (with the obvious exception of Dylan). The 70,000-capacity is a virtual sell-out, so they’ve just added a second weekend. If it all comes together the organisers plan to make $50 million (€45 million) – for each weekend.

Fomo factor

There is no easy explanation for an event like this. Why anyone would pay that amount of money to see six essentially tribute acts (sorry, five) is hard to fathom, because they certainly won’t be hearing anything they haven’t heard before. What drives them, some of them anyway, is a curious mix of dismay and fascination for these once great movers and shakers – and of course the Fomo factor.

It also makes Lance Armstrong’s talk in Dublin later this month sound like pretty good value, if only on similar grounds. Anyone who has listened to Armstrong talk recently (especially on his “The Forward” podcast) certainly hasn’t heard anything they haven’t heard before.

It’s as if Armstrong has become a tribute act to himself, still living off his past to give himself some sense of a future.

The reason behind his visit to Dublin – the One Zero conference at the RDS on October 21st – is at least a noble idea. The organisers are bringing together several experts in the industry to help better understand why sport has become such a global giant, flaws and all.

Expert on doping

Armstrong is certainly an expert on doping, without which we know he wouldn’t have won his seven successive Tour de France titles. And he’s already given some insight into the corruption and bullying that came along with them, beginning with his Oprah Winfrey confessional four years ago.

Touted as a “fireside” chat with Armstrong, with “all the cards on the table”, the RDS event will seat only 1,000 and is certainly not cheap: €175 for general admission, €475 for premium seating, and €775 for the VIP package.

Still, that same curious mix of dismay and fascination means Armstrong will get his audience, even if he provides nothing more than hopes and soundings for sporting redemption and yet another reminder that it’s not about the bike.

Part of the problem is that he’s still facing a $100 million lawsuit, filed by former team-mate Floyd Landis, on the defrauding of the US Postal Service. Armstrong has admitted he’ll be “out on the street” if US district judge Christopher Cooper rules against him, so the idea he’ll put “all the cards on the table” while that case is still pending is absurd. (Landis, by the way, is currently selling ‘dope’; look it up on Yahoo.)

It doesn’t matter who gets to interview him either. Armstrong may as well be up on the stage talking to himself – a bit like Mike Tyson does in his show, back for another extended run at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas (premium tickets priced at $282.40). The irony here is that Tyson’s show is called “The Undisputed Truth”, when most people in the audience surely understand that he’s actually up there disputing a lot of it.

That show actually popped up on Sky Atlantic recently, and like Armstrong’s podcasts, there’s nothing much we haven’t heard before. Still, Tyson’s ranting about his ex-wife Robin Givens and an unlikely meeting with Brad Pitt at least makes for entertaining listening. And that’s ultimately what these shows are about – his boxing career little more than a backdrop to tales of notoriety and celebrity self-destruction.

Flawless portrayal

Because “That’s entertainment!” as Jake LaMotta used to say, the man who started up these one-man shows to help assist in his sporting redemption. It’s impossible to know what part of Raging Bull sealed Robert de Niro the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1980 such is his continuously flawless portrayal of LaMotta, although my guess is it might have been the closing scene: LaMotta, dressed in a tux and badly overweight, backstage before his one-man show, riling himself up.

“Some people aren’t that lucky,” he says to himself, “like the one that Marlon Brando played in On The Waterfront, an up and comer who’s now a down and outer. . .” before finishing up, while shadowboxing, with “go get ‘em champ. . . I’m the boss, I’m the boss, I’m the boss . . .”

LaMotta turned 94 in July, his sporting redemption possibly complete, given he’ll probably be best remembered as a former middleweight champion, not for nearly beating to death his first wife, raping his best friend’s girlfriend, throwing a fight to earn him a title shot, and introducing friends to an underage girl when he was a bar owner in Florida.

This is ultimately the same reason Armstrong and Tyson are now up on stage talking about themselves, and it’s easy to imagine them riling themselves up beforehand.

Even Harry Houdini went down this road, launching a one-man show at the end of his career where he’d outline his famous escapes and then slowly debunk them as fraud.

Because that’s entertainment, and anyone who thinks Armstrong is doing otherwise up one stage is honestly being taken for a ride.

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