For years Lance Armstrong sold a bill of goods that seemed too good to be true. We bought it because the seven-time Tour de France champion sold it so passionately. He did not cheat on his bicycle like everybody else. He only cheated death, or so he said.
So we bought yellow bracelets, 80 million of them, because we supported Lance Armstrong. He became a face, if not the face, in the battle against the dreaded disease. We all wanted to Livestrong.
Now, after his mea culpa on Oprah's couch, we know Armstrong was a cheater, a liar and a bully.
"Show me a hero and I'll write you a tragedy," F. Scott Fitzgerald once said.
What makes Armstrong's fall from grace so tragic is the distance from where he was to where he is -- and the fact that much of that good he performed at the pinnacle of his career was inspiring, great and enduring.
Last summer it was reported that the Lance Armstrong Foundation raised more than $470 million dollars for cancer research in the past 15 years. Think about that number for a minute and realize Lance Armstrong has arguably done more good off the playing the field than maybe any other athlete in history.
How do we balance these facts? Those who never bought into Armstrong's act will have an easy time of that decision. The millions who own a bracelet and the memory of why they acquired it will have more of a stake in Lance Armstrong's second act, if there is one.
After time rounds the edges off this fall from grace -- rivaled by the likes of Tiger Woods or Barry Bonds -- Lance Armstrong may have enough momentum left to make another run.
The way he became the face of cancer, Armstrong may become the face of reforming performance-enhancing drugs. He needs to come completely clean, atone with those he abused, and learn to live through and beyond his disgrace.
Lance Armstrong has already made a difference, larger than most. He has also suffered a fall, deeper than most.
If he has within him the strength of character that many believed him to possess, Lance Armstrong may just make it back up that hill.
We cannot imagine a challenge more daunting nor -- if he makes it -- a greater testament to the words embossed on those millions of yellow bracelets.