Our 2013 Bum Steer of the Year is a famously tough competitor, so I think he’d like this factoid: over the years, seven Texans—Rick Perry, Ross Perot, Tom Craddick, Jerry Jones, Tom DeLay, Anna Nicole Smith, and Matthew McConaughey—have pulled off the spectacular turnabout of appearing on the cover of Texas Monthly in recognition of their considerable accomplishments at one time and in honor of their misdeeds and/or buffoonery at another. Pretty impressive, but not when compared with the roster of Texans who have managed the much more difficult achievement of appearing on this magazine’s front cover wearing a halo (see below), only to reappear wearing our institutional dunce cap. That club is limited to just one member, a man who, as usual, is in a class by himself: Lance Armstrong.
Let us now pause to admire the truly magnificent fall from grace that has transpired since October, when Lance decided not to fight the charges in a damning report from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which accused him of running a massive doping ring from his perch atop the U.S. Postal Service cycling team. The case against him was so convincing that he was quickly stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and, in short order, lost most of his corporate sponsorships. He stepped down as the chairman of his cancer foundation. He may yet have to give back his Olympic medal, and, as if to further break the hearts of his former fans, there is talk of scrubbing his name from the Lance Armstrong Bikeway, in Austin, where he has lived for the past 24 years. Meanwhile, magazines that once celebrated his exploits, from Outside to Sports Illustrated, have made an abrupt about-face. In 2002 SI named Lance its Sportsman of the Year. In November it made him its Anti–Sportsman of the Year.
As for this magazine, Lance has been on our cover four previous times: in 1999, as one of our “Texas Twenty,” with the Dixie Chicks and Stone Cold Steve Austin; in 2001, as he was preparing to win his third consecutive Tour de France; in 2008, as part of our Future issue (it was suggested he would lead the way); and in 2005, wearing the aforementioned halo. He has, over the past fifteen years, been one of the most heroic figures in Texas, or anywhere, and for many readers the halo remains affixed. I have no doubt that the minute this month’s issue is released, we will begin receiving a steady stream of angry letters and emails reminding us that our cover boy passed more than five hundred drug tests, that he denies everything, and that he has done much to help cancer victims. Sure, sure. The only thing that matters, for a competitor like Lance, is whether we’ll get more correspondence on his behalf than we did on behalf of Rick, Ross, Tom, Jerry, Tom, Anna Nicole, or Matthew. I, for one, am certain he can beat ’em.