You can’t please everyone

THE story is told of a young man and his father who set out one morning for the fair, in a bid to sell their donkey. Funds were low, the rains had not come for a long time, and they needed some way of putting food on the table for the next month or so.

When they set out, the old man rode on the donkey and his son walked alongside the beast. But they had gone just a few miles, when they came upon a number of women who stopped and stared, and then started to shout at them.

“How can you ride on the beast when you have a boy of such a tender age? You are forcing him to walk while you have a nice restful journey. Shame on you,” they yelled.

The old man was taken aback. Ashamed of himself, he quickly stopped the donkey, dismounted and then asked his son to get up on the beast. And they continued towards the market this way.

A few miles later, they encountered another group of peasants. This bunch too stopped and stared and then started to rant.

“Look at that overfed fellow. He rides on the donkey while his old, frail father is forced to walk. Have you no respect for age?” they shouted.

The old man wondered what to do. He was leading the donkey and so he stopped the animal, climbed on top himself and both father and son rode on the donkey.

But they had not made much progress before they came across a bunch of people leading their own donkeys in the opposite direction. One of this crowd went ballistic. “Have you ever seen such a shameful spectacle? Here are two grown human beings, well-fed, and in the prime of life, yet both have no consideration for that animal. How would you like it if I rode on your back?” this man asked.

The old man had nothing to counter this argument. He asked his son to dismount and did so himself as well. They both walked besides the donkey after that.

But the story is not over. Several miles down the road, they were again criticised for making a young donkey walk when it looked like the animal was about to collapse (or so the accuser said). “Carry that animal, you blighters,” he barked.

When they reached the fair, the old man and his son were carrying the donkey on their heads. They could not sell the beast because people thought they were both insane as they were carrying a beast of burden; there were also doubts that the donkey was on its last legs.

Lesson: You cannot please everyone. Make a reasoned decision and stick with it.

The fraud of frauds gets a chance to vent

ON JANUARY 17, US time, world sport’s worst serial cheat, Lance Armstrong, will make a confession of sorts to the world’s best known chat show host, Oprah Winfrey. Not surprisingly, both are Americans.

Armstrong was indicted by the US Anti-Doping Administration and the level of proof that the agency gathered would have put anyone behind bars. It was a dream case, one where the evidence was so startling that even a serial liar and cheat like Armstrong kept silent.

Armstrong won seven consecutive Tour de France titles from 1999 onwards, with every possible chemical helping him to the podium.

He has bullied, threatened and bribed his way to the top and gained a massive financial fortune, not to say a reputation that is unmatched in sport worldwide.

But he is a sad human being, a cheat, a liar, and a brazen one at that. He has ruined many lives, he has spoilt the sport of cycling forever, and he has made crooks out of many with his bribes.

Winfrey is known for soft, weepy programmes; she has built up a reputation as someone who empathises with her guests and never puts them offside.

She is no journalist.

In her early days, Winfrey was tried out as a news reporter on TV stations. But her bosses noticed that she had a tendency to come down on the side of the underdog every time, even if that individual was a convicted child molester.

She moved on to chat shows and there she found her real metier. A legend was born.

Armstrong will not be put on any rack on Winfrey’s programme. He will be treated with kid gloves and it will be akin to the Boston strangler being given a back rub.

Armstrong has already extracted about $US16 million from Winfrey for giving the interview – which will be very helpful in paying legal costs which are expected to mount when people start suing him for his lies, and sponsors start demanding their money back.

Hence this is not anything to do with journalism. It is fraud from the word go, cash for comment. But it is a big story to be covered with all the cynicism and sarcasm it deserves.

Armstrong is doing the interview because he wants to take part in sport again. Not cycling, other sports like athletics.

But given the fact that his entire sporting life has been a lie, he does not deserve a second chance. This is one case where one must lock the door and throw away the key.