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Opinion

Lance Armstrong and Steven Seagal: Doing good?

Lance Armstrong and Steven Seagal: Doing good?
Actor Steven Seagal, in a scene from the A&E; show “Steven Seagal Lawman,” is helping teach Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s armed volunteers how to handle school shootings.
(Michael Muller)

Well, well. Two famous men, both wanting to give back.

No wonder that hackneyed phrase “give back” makes my skin crawl.

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Lance Armstrong is reportedly volunteering to “help clean up” cycling and become the repentant poster boy crusading against drugs in the sport.

And Steven Seagal, the action actor, is teaming up with Maricopa County (Ariz.) Sheriff Joe Arpaio to teach Arpaio’s armed volunteer cadres about how to handle school shootings. More on that in a few paragraphs.

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The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has given Armstrong until later this month to spill the beans under oath about the doping practices he’s confessed to, and the BBC quotes the agency chief, Travis Tygart, saying: “We understand that he does want to be part of the solution and assist in the effort to clean up the sport.”

Sure he does — after he got caught, and after he cleaned up rather tidily himself in the bank-account department. Armstrong’s cancer support foundation, Livestrong, has parted company with its founder, so Armstrong finds himself at loose ends, charity-wise.

A stint as the “just say no to steroids” guy would tweak his Google search results, and maybe leverage him back into some kind of good graces in the sporting world, which after all seems to be a very forgiving kind of place. Billy Cannon, the Heisman Trophy winner who served a couple of years for counterfeiting, got into the College Football Hall of Fame, after all. And Crenshaw High’s Darryl Strawberry, who has his own foundation, too, still got a gig with the Yankees after testing positive for cocaine (one among many legal bumps), and still gets TV and charity and baseball veterans’ bookings.

Armstrong as the “scared straight” character warning others away from the vice that once ensnared him would still not make him the Michael Vick of cycling. Vick’s crimes, vicious cruelty to animals, touched only peripherally on his sport, pro football.

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After his prison time, Vick approached the Humane Society of the United States, which ultimately agreed to use him as a spokesman in a campaign against dogfighting. Nike gave Vick another sponsorship; Vick started up two foundations bearing his name (neither of them having to do with animal welfare), and returned to pro football.

If that model for rehabilitation is not at least somewhere in Lance Armstrong’s mind, I will bet on the Mets sweeping next year’s World Series.

As for Steven Seagal, he was as good as his word to Arpaio, and just put about four dozen of Sheriff Joe’s boys through their paces in an exercise at a Phoenix-area elementary school.

After the Sandy Hook school massacre, Arpaio thought to repurpose some of his 3,500 posse members, who have patrolled the malls at Christmas, investigated President Obama’s birth certificate, and been on the lookout for illegal immigrants. “I said to myself, ‘Hey, let’s transition the mall patrols to the schools,’ ” said the sheriff. “The mission is to patrol the perimeter of the schools as a prevention measure.” The uniformed volunteers are on patrol at about five dozen schools.

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Seagal is an action-film actor, an aikido instructor and a volunteer in Arpaio’s posse. He has also been deputized over the years by sheriffs in Louisiana, Texas and rural New Mexico.

None of that impressed some Arpaio critics, like Chad Campbell, Arizona’s Democratic House minority leader. “Steve Seagal is an actor. That’s it. Why don’t we also have Clint Eastwood and Chuck Norris and Bruce Willis come out and train them too while we’re at it,” Campbell said.

Bruce Willis and Chuck Norris may not be booking flights to Phoenix, but each in his own way has been in synch with Arpaio. Willis, whose latest “Die Hard” movie opens, touchingly, on Valentine’s Day, has pooh-poohed the idea that more gun safety laws can curb crime. Norris has endorsed armed school patrols and talked up civility, the restoration of the founding fathers’ “elevated value of human life,” although presumably not in shoot-'em-up movies; Norris has racked up 338 movie kills, according to a body-count-tracking film website. But Stallone, Eastwood, Schwarzenegger and Willis all smoke Norris’ numbers.

I’m just spitballing here, but imagine three of these guys — say, Seagal, Willis, Norris — in an action-comedy about volunteer school patrols. They flirt with the crossing guards, they supervise the students’ lunchtime brown-bag food swaps, they mistake the ethnic PE teacher for a terrorist — it’s “The Expendables” meets “Kindergarten Cop.”

Seagal’s retort to Campbell is that anyone who criticizes their efforts “to help the children” is “an embarrassment to the human race.” His training exercise used real guns with no ammo, and actual SWAT deputies (were they being paid overtime? volunteering?) posing as gunmen in a school where, Columbine-like, “students” hid under tables. In this scenario, Arpaio’s posse got their man.

Seagal also offered the volunteers pointers in martial arts, although how useful that would be against someone armed and armored up like the Aurora gunman wasn’t, on the face of it, self-evident.

Seagal is, I have read, a follower of the Dalai Lama, who, in May 2001, appeared at a Oregon high school where a few years earlier a student had killed two fellow students and wounded two dozen others. When a girl asked the Dalai Lama what you should do if another student is trying to shoot and kill you, he said it would be reasonable to shoot back — but not to kill. Just to incapacitate, in, say, the leg.

Methinks His Holiness has been watching too many movies.

ALSO:

The many assaults on women

PETA, Westminster and dog politics

Gun control debate creeps into Dorner manhunt


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