El Chatico might be last word

People have been saying things about sport for a long time now, often saying them on television; for the purposes of entertainment or enlightenment or devilment or to obtain a small fee or maybe to express bewilderment at fresh proposals to rework the national leagues.

But you get a feeling that all such talk has all been leading to Thursday night.

And by the time Friday dawns, there may be no more to be said. Sport could well be the new Ronan Keating.

That’s how big this one is.

For an egomaniacal, once-mighty philanthropist with fast-dwindling influence, it might all come down to this.

And there’s a fair bit riding on it for Lance too.

So have we any faith in Oprah to do the job right? Will our greatest chancer be subjected to 90 minutes of sheer hell, like Barnesy in the Lucozade ad? The formline doesn’t look good. Oprah often sends her audience members home with presents, but her guests, too, rarely leave without what they came for. You will be required to cry. But absolution, redemption, forgiveness – something from that shelf is invariably on the table.

Oprah may not even ask how long it’s been since your last confession.

In the tightly-controlled world of American telly, there are unlikely to be surprises. This is not the kind of gig where, just as Lance reckons he’s home and hosed, Oprah will blurt out a rogue text she thinks is from Pat McQuaid.

When it was Marion’s turn to spill the beans on why it had been so difficult to keep up with the Joneses, tears easily dissolved the tissue of lies.

Even after all the deceit and skullduggery and jail-time, she was afforded leeway to spread a fresh layer of guff on top. Marion just didn’t know. “I blame myself for trusting people. I’m a very trusting person.”

Slowly but surely, the syringe was re-purposed as a moral compass — Jones now runs a ‘programme’ for young people ‘faced with a difficult decision’.

You could see Lance relishing a slice of that action for his humanitarian portfolio.

All the same, we might be underestimating Oprah ahead of the big one. With her network flagging and her relevance diminished, she needs an enhanced display too.

And the queen of self-help hasn’t often let herself down at pivotal moments. She has gushed over Armstrong in the past and an Oprah that feels personally betrayed is a formidable Oprah — as James Frey and his dodgy memory discovered.

So if both these messiahs bring their A-games, El Chatico might just bring us the last word.

Perhaps Oprah will throw it all out there; the drugs, the system, the lies, the payments, the coercion, the intimidation, the bullying, the defamation.

And since the commercial wing of Livestrong is all about ‘the limitless potential of you’, we can hardly doubt Lance’s ability to dig deep for the answers.

A skim through It’s Not About The Bike confirms Lance has said ‘sorry’ at least once before — to an old mentor who gave him his first bike, but from whom he became estranged.

Perhaps tellingly, the recipient of that apology had a chequebook on him at the time. And promptly wrote one for $5k to Lance’s new foundation.

With a lot more than five grand at stake now, Lance will probably say whatever it takes. And when he comes away from this one, head bowed, but gamely riding the climb to redemption, we will probably shake our heads and wonder what we have just heard.

These are apocalyptic times. This week we heard that Bowie’s new album cover — a white square slapped over an old album cover — evokes the existentialism of Godot and the hopelessness of Macbeth’s final soliloquy. It’s safe to presume we will hear no more from the worlds of music and graphic design, since we have heard it all now.

Equally, when we have heard Lance’s story, however outlandish, when we have heard, from his mouth, how he had the stomach for it — how will we go back to asking Cody about the hunger or Becks about the future or Suarez about his wandering hands? Maybe it’s best for us all if he just denies everything. At least then, there will be plenty left to say.

Scots no longer alone in wilderness

Unlikely bedfellows, you’d have to say, but there they were this week, curled up spooning one another; the Scottish Premier League and the GAA’s Football Review Committee.

Two sets of people who have disappeared deep into the forest, yet there is no wood to be seen.

In fairness to the Scottish lads, they have been wandering around in search of a clearing for a long time now, so their latest restructuring proposals don’t come as much surprise.

This weak cocktail is a remix of the usual ingredients. Splitting divisions, resetting points, playing one another many times. However it works, it takes some explaining, which means they’re losing from the off.

Also new in the land of confusion are black cards, the GAA’s inbetweeners, the latest import from fencing after Johnny Maher. The swordsmen brandish them to punish deliberate brutality and it’s the deliberate miscreants football is after too. But surely, if this proposal comes to pass, there will be sundry fresh loopholes for the cynics to exploit?

For a start, the soften-up merchant will be allowed a regular personal foul and a deliberate foul before he can saunter off the pitch to be replaced by a lad who can play football.

And will we have created the curious situation where a player already on a yellow card is incentivised to package his next foul to look as cynical and professional as possible, lest he only receive a second yellow and be sent off, rather than a black and be substituted? Still, no panic. The black card won’t be delivered until 2014, so there’s plenty of time to wake up and get out of bed with the Scots.

Name the best players to manage in Premier League

In a week where the coronation of the world’s finest footballer was a foregone conclusion, I saw a more interesting question posed somewhere. Who is the best player to manage in the Premier League?

In another fine week on the pitch for the man with the presidential hair, the answer proposed was another Barca legend, Michael Laudrup.

Two more of Barca’s finest might clash slightly on the verdict. Pep once called the Dane “the best player in the world” and expressed his disbelief he never officially claimed that title.

But Cruyff attributed him the skills but not the drive. “Had Michael been born in a poor ghetto in Brazil or Argentina with the ball being his only way out of poverty he would today be recognised as the biggest genius of the game ever. He had all the abilities to reach it but lacked this ghetto-instinct, which could have driven him there.” It’s still hard to detect much of the ghetto in his demeanour, but Swansea will hope Laudrup has found the steel from somewhere to drive them further on their impressive journey. More pressingly, what does your Top 10 look like?

Laudrup > Kenny > Zola > Keano > Gullit > Bryan Robson > Souness > Keegan > Ossie > Mancini?



Didi Hamann: Tweeted the proposal of the week; “The best person to look after Lance Armstrong would be Eamonn Dunphy from RTE #fireworks.”

Innishvilla FC: Good luck to my old pals tomorrow in their FAI Junior Cup 6th round tie against City Utd from Sligo (At Mayfield Utd’s grounds, 12.45pm). A proud day for a growing club. Oh to be 5, maybe 10, alright 15 years younger.


Jose Mourinho (above): Maybe winning isn’t the only thing – 62% of Real Madrid’s members this week voted that he has damaged the club’s image during his tenure as manager.

Jon Champion: Surely the only choice to interview Armstrong. If he can get that worked up over a handball…

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