They ignore you and continue on their infuriating way.
You start counting out loud. Slowly. You warn them at two that if you get to three, there’ll be consequences. They turn their head to a nook of the house known as the Naughty Corner and then back to you with a look that says: ‘Game on’.
You get to three. It’s a red card.
One of three things is going to happen.
They take their punishment on the chin, apologise and ask for a cuddle. A blue moon rises that evening.
Or… they go to the corner, all the time bemoaning the lack of fairness in this dictatorship called the family home and complaining that ‘Johnny did it too’.
Or… they do this.
Enter Lance Armstrong. “Of course I want to be out of timeout,” he says. “What kid doesn’t?”
Yes, that’s an actual quote. It’s Lance speaking to BBC sports editor Dan Roan in his first television interview since his Oprah Winfrey outing backfired so spectacularly on him two years ago.
As we all know, Lance didn’t play nicely in the sandpit. Lance played so deplorably, in fact, that he has been banned from the sandpit for life.
Lance says repeatedly that he gets it. Lance doesn’t get it.
Lance is on a charm offensive to get his ban reduced. Emphasis on the offensive.
He plays the pity card. The past two years have been ‘pretty brutal’, he says. “The deepest cut was (his cancer charity) Livestrong saying: ‘You need to step away’.” It’s OK, I’ll wait while you get a Kleenex.
He plays the it’s-not-fair card. “If my mum got [multiple sclerosis] tomorrow — and thank God she hasn’t — and I wanted to run the Boston Marathon to raise $100,000 for the MS Society, I couldn’t do it.” You need another tissue? I understand.
He plays the Johnny-did-it-too card and trumps it with the scapegoat card. “It seems like people are thinking: ‘Some guys get no punishment, some get six months, he got life, how does that add up?’”
He plays the it’s-not-my-fault-really card. “It was a terrible time, an imperfect storm,” says our hapless victim of circumstance. “I think we’re all sorry… We’re sorry that we were put in that place.” Yes, we saw how soul destroying it was pulling on that yellow jersey for seven years.
He even plays the there-were-people-much-worse-than-me card, arguing that compared to State-sanctioned doping programs in East Germany and the like: “Lance Armstrong is not the biggest fraud in the history of world sport.” Yup, when you’re at the bottom of the barrel, well, the only way is up.
And he plays the I-said-I’m-sorry-now-forgive-me card. “We’re getting close to that time,” he says. Wow, Lance, you took more drugs than we thought.
Lance plays every card in the deck. Except the contrition card. He doesn’t know how to do that one.
Because, when asked if he’d dope again, he says: “If I was racing in 2015, no, I wouldn’t do it again, because I don’t think you have to. If you take me back to 1995, when it was completely and totally pervasive, I’d probably do it again.”
You got that, right? He wouldn’t dope now, not because it’s wrong, but because it’s not necessary.
In Lance’s narrative, he doped to address an unfair advantage, not to gain one. In his mind, he competed on a level playing field. A chemically altered level playing field, but level nonetheless. He takes no responsibility for shaping that playing field. Instead, it shaped him.
And he’s apologising now, not because he means it, but because it’s expedient.
Lance doesn’t see the world through anyone’s eyes but his own. He’s not an ambassador for his sport. The sport is there to serve him. Everyone is there to serve him.
He thinks just like a toddler.