The world of professional athletics presents itself to us as honour bound, fair and honest. It appeals to us to see women and men work hard and beat rivals. We love to cheer the winner and stick with our underdog through thick and thin.
We bind ourselves to these public personalities and enjoy their journey through competition after competition.
It is understandable then, that there should be an outcry against those who have not played by the rules. Each time a Lance Armstrong or Tiger Woods is exposed for a cheat or a fraud, the trust we had that other human beings could be as honourable as (no, even MORE honourable than) us is torn. It is important for the existence of public justice and civility that the majority of people agree as to what is fair. We each have to ‘feel’ rightness and wrongness in our guts.
So when this illusion is spoiled and we see the stagehands carry the rabbit cage onto the stage for the next act, it doesn’t just ignite our sense of injustice: It shakes the very ground of that feeling of justice.
Maintaining the illusion becomes increasingly difficult as money and power increase. It is as though through human efforts individuals and organisations begin to transcend the boundaries of physical existence.
So it is understandable that we might throw their books out, parade them on television and demand snivelling apologies in the papers.
We need to keep believing that this world is just.
Lance Armstrong becomes our scape goat and we cover him with our sins, exiling him from the camp into the couch of Oprah.
All the while HSBC launders money for the mob and Royal Bank of Scotland fixes the Libor lending rate with near impunity.
Thus says the LORD: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place…
But you have eyes and heart
only for your dishonest gain,
for shedding innocent blood,
and for practicing oppression and violence.
-Jeremiah 22:3, 17