Everyone Hates Floyd Landis

Daniel MuthSenior Analyst IMay 22, 2010

In a time of an ever-embittered political scenery in which no one can seem to agree on anything, there has emerged a ray of light that has united the country across political divisions.

One hoped that might be Wall Street reform, Health Care, or the burgeoning crisis in the Gulf of Mexico (again). One hoped that might be some realistic exit from Afghanistan such that the Taliban wouldn't just retake it within seconds of our departure. One hoped it might regard foreclosure relief, job security, or something else meaningful to the bottom line of America.

But what the hell, it's something to build on.

Everyone Hates Floyd Landis.

It's official.

A recent online poll at ESPN.com addressed the subject with the following question:

What do you think of Floyd Landis implicating athletes, officials, and others in cycling on their involvement in PED use?

A) a commendable attempt to come clean and take a stand.

B) a sad attempt to pull others under the bus with him.

Out of an incredibly robust sample size of 82,718 individuals (so far) representing every state in the union in statistically significant numbers, 87 percent of the respondents went for choice "B," making Floyd the most unifying figure in America at the time being.

In a similar poll asking respondents whether they had more or less respect for Landis now that he was "coming clean," 86 percent of the respondents indicated that they had less respect for him now. 

This trend held up in every state no matter the political leaning, and even neighbors embroiled in current disputes held hands in their contempt for Floyd Landis.

In the wake of the immigration law turmoil in Arizona and accompanying boycotts, threats, and re-threats with California, one wondered whether they could agree on Landis's decrepitude—and indeed they did, with 88% of Arizonans losing respect for cycling's marked man, and 87 percent of Californians reaching the same conclusion.

And while this symmetry of feeling across the United States is interesting enough, what makes it profound is that it is seemingly inspired regardless of whether or not people think he's actually telling the truth.

For example, in an interesting follow-up poll in the New York Times, 52 percent of the respondents felt that Landis was probably telling the truth this time with regards to his accusations of wide-spread doping, whereas only 35 percent felt that he was still lying (13 percent were unsure).

The amazing implication here is that people don't necessarily care if Landis is telling the truth, and are predisposed to dislike him for one of two reasons:

1) Because his admission proves that all his ballyhoo about being innocent was about the most played-out lie in the history of lies. 

And it totally was. 

The dude wrote a 320-page book for Pete's sake, detailing his infallible innocence. He traveled the nation collecting donations from Average Joes to help pay for his defense, and he even threw his family in the fire with their spoken and financial support of his integrity.

The guy is a fraud to the Bernie Madoff-ian degree.

2) No matter the information being presented, most people just don't like a stool pigeon no matter how virtuous the motives.

Nobody likes the whistle blower, be it a Canseco or a deep throat, as values like loyalty and duty are unwritten rules that often supersede general honesty and decency. This is not to say that Floyd Landis is being either honest or decent, only to point out that even if he was, he would be wearing the stool-pigeon label that would get him offed in prison and generally spurned in society.

In essence, if Floyd Landis was looking for some sort of public reprisal by finally exposing all his dirty laundry, he's got another thing coming.

The media has joined with the pollsters and have almost unilaterally labelled Landis as "pathetic," "a snitch," and any number of degrading adjectives, a number of which he certainly deserves.

And most articles have pointed out that Landis has little credibility and even less proof with which to strengthen his claims.

And yet, nobody is really saying that he's not telling the truth now either.

Oh sure, a couple are, but most people think that Lance Armstrong did dope at one time or another, and there's a pretty decent trail of evidence and accusation to support that claim.

But here's the rub. No one really cares. Why?

Well first of all, cycling isn't exactly the most popular sport in the U.S. and though it has a loyal following, the mainstream media hardly mentions it outside the continuous doping scandals, such that most people assume that everybody in the sport is cheating.

And get this, there are now accusations of "motorised doping," such that investigations have commenced into allegations that some riders have placed small electric motors on their bikes to aid in victory.

What's next?

The second point is that what Lance took wasn't really ours, it was France's/Europe's.

The casual fan of cycling (most all of us) rooted for Lance as an American , not as a team member, or a even a Texan.

If Armstrong had won seven World Series Titles under the suspicion of doping, the fans would've demanded satisfaction, as he would generally be stealing from them ; their team; their game.

This is why the Armstrong witch-hunt has been so much more vigorous in France.

The third point is that Lance has very publicly taken his gains (ill-gotten or other wise) and made a meaningful difference in the lives of millions of cancer patients at home and abroad.

One author I read called this the "cancer pass," basically meaning that most people didn't care so much if Armstrong was cheating because he overcame cancer and then helped others do the same.

On the balance sheet, most people figure he's made up for any transgressions, though his most ardent fans of course will defend his integrity to their dying breath.

And I guess that's the point, Mr. Landis.

When you decide to "come clean" after telling a long, drawn out, sustained and incredulous whopper, while going after the Teflon Don of the sport who has dodged accusations and evidence like a Barry Sanders protege, and has a long list of good deeds and loyal followers to support him, you're pretty much setting yourself up for a public backlash.

Everyone hates Floyd Landis.

And as with all things political, it ain't got nothing to do with whether he's telling the truth or not.



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