Lance Armstrong's second interview since spilling the beans to Oprah Winfrey is inside this week's Sports Illustrated, and the biggest nugget so far is that his first sit-down might not have been with the confession expert but the resident hero-worshipper at NBC News, Tom Brokaw.
Sports Illustrated's resident law expert Michael McCann released an online preview of his forthcoming interview in this week's print issue, on sale Wednesday. McCann sat down with Armstrong for about three hours after the cyclist started following him on Twitter. (Seriously.) Armstrong refused to be recorded in the interview — and apparently SI, which put Armstrong on its cover 11 times and named him Sportsman of the Year in 2002, complied — but he was fine with being paraphrased, so for much of this followup we have to rely on McCann's word alone. He reveals that Armstrong had two alternatives for the original public confession. It was either Oprah, Brokaw, or... a vlog:
One of Armstrong's most interesting revelations was that he was strongly considering giving Tom Brokaw his first interview, but ultimately went with Oprah. Armstrong also mentioned that instead of interviewing with a television personality, he thought about producing a short online video in which he would have spoken directly to a camera about his misdeeds.
Armstrong went with Oprah because she does this confession thing all the time. She's the image-rehab pro. The vlog idea would have been terrible. But there's an argument to be made that Armstrong probably should have gone with Brokaw first instead.
The reason Armstrong was considering Brokaw isn't hard to track. The two are something of old acquaintances. They first met in 2002, as Brokaw disclosed in a 2006 interview with Armstrong for Men's Journal, and perhaps Armstrong thought their decade-long relationship — and Brokaw's noted nostalgia for old guys doing important things — would lessen the blow with a friendly interview. Granted, the longtime NBC Nightly News anchor does little more these days than appear on Today or Morning Joe to discuss the big news story of the moment, but it's these situations for which you keep a guy like Brokaw on payroll. When someone like Armstrong comes knocking, you hand it off to your veterans like Brokaw. Or, you know, Brian Williams, but it's unlikely NBC would have turned down an Armstrong exclusive just so its Rock Center host could snag the sit-down. It is likely that NBC, in any form, would have given Armstrong a wider audience, between a preview on Nightly with Brokaw, who the network considers a special correspondant, (still snagging around 10 million viewers a night!) and either a Rock Center special or some sort of standalone special, similar to what ended up airing on OWN.
In the end, Armstrong still got a huge audience... even if it was on OWN. Because this story was a 360-degree thing, from Oprah's previews on CBS This Morning to the online live streams to the actual 4.3 million who ended up tuning in. Still, the confession itself aired from the depths of the average person's cable box, and if Lance wanted everyone to watch him come clean, to see the real tears being shed, he probably should have gone with Brokaw. And he probably should have scheduled a follow-up elsewhere beyond SI's paywall.