Music Armstrong faces may just be a jingle

MARK REASON
Last updated 05:00 16/01/2013

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OPINION: Cue the music. The harpsichord notes of Golden Brown drift by on the Texan wind.

Oprah knocks on the door.

"Hi honey, anyone home?"

The wind is now howling, but even Hurricane Katrina would not shift the lacquered layers of Oprah's hair.

Lance Armstrong opens the door, a look of faux surprise on his face. He's in a sharp-cut suit.

"Well, look who it is," he says.

And the show is on.

At 3pm on Friday in New Zealand, (streamed on Oprah.com), Lance Armstrong will come clean to the world. Under forensic examination, the epic drugs cheat will break down and confess his sins to the high priestess of American television.

And there is so much to look forward to. How many cushions will be on view? Is Lance a fabrics man? Flowers or no flowers? What choice of drinks will be on the table? Will Oprah's team have tidied away the used syringes?

So many questions to be answered.

And the assumption is that Oprah will play softball. But I'm not so sure.

She was rightly panned a few years ago for turning her interview with athlete Marion Jones, another exposed drugs cheat, into a "Soap Oprah".

Jones said she had never knowingly taken drugs, believed the stuff she was ingesting to be flaxseed oil, was at fault for being too trusting and didn't love herself enough to tell the truth.

Jones then read out a letter she had written to her children when in jail. The rivers of tears were staining the arms of the cream-covered armchairs. The flow of saccharine rose to critical levels as thousands of viewers were admitted to hospital with suspected diabetes.

Winfrey was so dismayed by the critical reaction to the Jones interview that no longer is she such a soft touch. Last year she went to American pop star Usher's home in the wake of his custody battle to talk about ... pause for dramatic effect ... EVERYTHING.

"Ooh, what a wonderful kitchen," she gushed.

"Ooh, is that children's art? I love children's art," she gushed some more.

Doubtless Oprah's Kids Art Club will soon be in galleries all over the United States. But then Oprah asked the questions she was supposed to ask.

"Were you faithful?"

"Were you with another woman sexually?"

"Did you have sex with her bridesmaid?"

So do not expect Armstrong to get off lightly. It won't be Frost/Nixon. For a start, the programme is not live, and that is something of a cheat. But Oprah will go after him. She cannot afford another Marion Jones fiasco.

And yet... This is what Betsy Andreu, a whistleblower who was viciously pilloried by Armstrong down the years, had to say about the upcoming show.

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"I just don't want to hear the bulls... any more ... I'm convinced Lance is going to use this to serve himself. There will be crocodile tears. There's going to be no sincere contrition. He is going to be the victim of a crappy childhood who used sport to get out of it, found out the sport is corrupt and didn't do anything that anybody else didn't do.

"That's complete bull because he intimidated people and destroyed their lives ... Oprah was absolutely complicit in hanging me out to dry."

That last statement is a reference to a previous interview when a supine Oprah let Armstrong tell his lies.

She helped Armstrong to cheat the world. She promoted his deceit and went along with it. And this is the point at which Oprah has as much to prove as the disgraced cyclist.

Can we really believe in her? Can we really believe in this sort of stage-managed TV? Or have we all just become part of the show?

There is a moment in the prophetic film Network when Howard Beale says: "You are television incarnate, Diana. Indifferent to suffering, insensitive to joy.

"All of life is reduced to the common rubble of banality."

Is Oprah television incarnate?

Three years ago Tiger Woods emerged from behind a curtain, like a presenter at the Golden Globes, to make his mea culpa to the world. The print media was excluded, bar a token representative. The rest watched the show on television in a Marriott hotel down the road. The truth was a confection prepared by Tiger and American television.

Two months later, Tiger eventually had to front up to the press at Augusta. It was ticket only and the atmosphere was electric when Woods walked into the room. It was the only time I have seen an emotion close to fear on his face. He finally had to face the music.

The music faced by Armstrong will be more of a commercial jingle. He has a future to sell. And Oprah has a product to sell.

By its own admission, the Oprah Winfrey network is not a serious news outlet. "OWN is a multiplatform media company designed to entertain, inform and inspire people to live their best lives."

Heave. Don't expect the television equivalent of Watergate on Friday.

When I called up Oprah's website, I was ambushed by the following pop-up advert - "enter to WIN the Great Getaway Sweepstakes".

Were they serious? Could they not spot the irony? Enter to win the great getaway sweepstakes?

I think Armstrong just did.

- Stuff

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