I watched the second half of the Lance Armstrong interview with Oprah Winfrey over the weekend, and I’m glad I did. I found what I was hoping for in all of this–a drop of humanity in someone the man himself even describes as arrogant, dishonest, and defiant. It came in the 36th minute, when Armstrong retold the story in what was, for me, the most defining moment of the entire interview: telling his 13-year-old son, who had been defending his dad to kids at school, “Don’t defend me anymore.”
Armstrong welled up and had trouble breathing and speaking. The pain of disappointing his son, the fear of losing, really losing, what matters most in life, the love and respect of your child, overwhelmed him. As well it should.
The moment made him human. Had he told that story in the rather unemotional, nonchalant, less-than-forthcoming way he did in Part 1, Armstrong’s interview would have amounted to no more than a shoulder shrug for most people.
You could see the enormous weight being removed from his being. You could feel the painful catharsis in revealing what must have been a gut-wrenching, heart-twisting father-to-son exchange.
Forgetting sport for a moment, I can only hope it was an authentic first step in what is going to be a taxing healing process, perhaps even more difficult than recovering from cancer was. At least mentally and emotionally.
But a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
photo: Laurent Rebours/Associated Press