28 January 2008

20 Questions (well, almost) with Joe Pappsqueak

Now this is a real coupe, or whatever it’s called -- an exclusive interview with professional cyclist Joe Pappsqueak, formerly of the Whistle-Dick Cycling Team. This thing is outta of my league, so I asked legendary interviewer Mike Walrus of the TV news magazine “60 Minutiae” to come out of retirement and handle things here. --FF
MW: Thank you for granting this interview, Joe. It seems congratulations are in order – you now have your very own Wikipedia entry.

JP: Thank you. It really is an impressive profile and an excellent way of showcasing my distinguished palmares. I must say, it was deeply gratifying to be recognized for my accomplishments.
Here’s the link, for the benefit of anyone who missed it.

MW: Forgive me for pointing this out, Joe, but you wrote the entry, and it’s more about the notoriety, not the success, that you’ve achieved . . .

JP: What’s the difference? I mean, how many people can say they’ve been featured in VeloNews, not just
once, not even twice, but three times, plus cyclingnews.com to boot. Look at this head shot of me giving my sworn testimony. Quite a profile, isn’t it? I have a blown-up version of that hanging on my office wall. Here I am afterward, holding forth with the media like a pro. And how about this one of me enjoying the warm Florida sunshine?

Who doesn’t wish they could be me, even for just one day? Of course that’s impossible, because no one else is nearly as intelligent, talented, handsome, and fortunate as I am, but at least they can imagine what it’s like – thanks to me – by keeping up with my blog and web site.

Plus I have met Greg LeMond. He’s a real hero and inspiration to me, and I devoted a special article to him at joepappsqueak.com so that his courageousness could be properly recognized and validated.

MW: He must have really appreciated that.

JP: More recently, I was interviewed on National Public Radio. Check this out, another head shot of me at the microphone.

MW: Good grief, it looks like you polished your head for the occasion.

JP: The audience was estimated at over 10 million that day. Have you listened to it yet?

This was my fifth appearance in a major media outlet (both print and electronic), and I will soon be featured in Outside magazine. I’ve also been featured on ABC’s "20/20" in a segment debunking cycling-induced impotence, and–

MW: But Joe–

JP: have you seen the one of me–

MW: JOE . . .

JP: hey, wait a minute, I’ve got some more links–

MW: EARTH — TO — JOE . . . all this recent attention you’re so proud of is a result of your having cheated by ingesting large quantities of numerous performance-enhancing drugs that are deleterious to health, against the rules of the sport you say you love, and a crime to possess in many countries, as you yourself admit. Apparently for you, the only bad publicity is no publicity.

JP: I don’t appreciate your attitude and your tone, Mike. They are not appropriate for someone of my stature, and if they don’t change, I will be forced to conclude this interview prematurely. My actions stem from a deep sense of obligation to keep my fans and the sporting public informed of what’s going on in my life.

MW: Like your last diary entry at cyclingnews.com, where you felt obligated to inform the public about having a catheter inserted into your penis, but not about the multitude of drugs you were taking at the time?

JP: Look, you started off by giving me your congratulations, and I thought this was going to be a friendly interview–

MW: OK, fair enough. I wanted to begin on a positive note, and that was about all I could come up with. So, moving along, one of your personal highlights seems to be that you once got a job interview with the Central Intelligence Agency. Tell us about that . . .

JP: Yes, I was flown to C.I.A. Headquarters in Langley, Virginia. You need a clearance just to get in the building, so I have a Top Secret security classification.

MW: Wow, just like that. I had no idea it could be done so quickly.

JP: Yes, and they gave me the VIP treatment. I dined with the Section Chief for Eastern Europe in a luxurious private room, where we enjoyed a sumptuous buffet lunch. I got to see some things you would not believe, but of course, I can’t discuss any of them with you.

MW: What background do you have to prepare you for this sort of work?

JP: Well, I’ve watched a lot old episodes of “Get Smart,” “I Spy,” and “Mission Impossible,” plus all the Bond flicks, several times over. I also have an official “Man from U.N.C.L.E.” spy kit, including the decoder ring, which still works. It’s a real collectible that very few other people have. Oh, and “Secret Agent Man” is my all-time favorite song. I listen to it almost every day – dig this cover version by the Avenger Penguins.

MW: What came of the interview?

JP: They said I was a very interesting applicant, and that they would get back to me.

MW: Have you heard from them?

JP: Not yet, but I’m still waiting, and getting a lot of practice with my decoder ring in the meantime. I still e-mail the Section Chief – I am not at liberty to divulge his name for national security reasons – whenever I update my web site.

MW: Does he ever respond?

JP: Um . . . no, no, he hasn’t yet.

MW: On a related note, what exactly is it that you do?

JP: If you had read my Wikipedia entry more closely, you’d know that I hold the position of technical service representative for Blue Arrow, a company that makes graffiti-tracking software.

MW: Yes Joe, I know you work for them, and what your title is, but what precisely are your duties?

JP: [Sheepishly] Well, actually . . . I’m the one who goes out with a can of turpentine and a rag to remove the graffiti.

MW: So that’s what ‘technical service’ is. As I understand it, there’s quite a bit of Pappsqueak-related graffiti around Pittsburgh, and rumor has it that you, of all people, are responsible for much of it.

JP: [Softly] Mike, please . . . this is supposed to be a friendly intereview.

MW: OK, so what else do you do at Blue Arrow?

JP: My other responsibilities include running general errands, making coffee, washing the boss's car, taking out the trash, and some occasional filing. I was allowed to answer the phone for a while last November, but that didn’t work out too well. Last but not least, I go out at noon every day to buy lunch for my uncle.

MW: Your uncle?

JP: Yes, he’s a senior partner in the company, and has the final say on all hiring.

MW: I see. Changing the subject, it must be gratifying for you to see Mike Friedman doing so well.

JP: Who?

MW: You know, Mike Friedman – your former teammate – from right here in Pittsburgh? He’s won a World Cup race on the track, and is truly a rising star with the Slipstream-Chipotle team.

JP: [Curtly] I wasn’t aware of that. That’s nice. But apparently I must remind you of the ground rules for this interview. As we agreed, the subject is me, all me, and only me, all the time, and I would appreciate you keping that in mind. Consider yourself warned: no more links to non-Pappqueak related pages. Is that clear to you, Mike?

MW: All right. If I understand correctly, you must give back the prizes you collected when you were taking performance-enhancing substances. How is that coming along?

JP: I’ve been too busy to get much done with that.

MW: Busy . . . with your web site, your blog, your page at Facebook, your Wikipedia entry, and uploading videos at YouTube?

JP: Right. Have you seen my latest updates?

MW: You mean the article from VeloNews, “Landis lashes out”? Yes, the link was in the pre-interview information you sent me, and you gave it again just a moment ago; you changed the title to “Landis attacks Papp” for the short excerpt you posted. In any case, his comments were strewn with profanities, as you point out.

JP: Disgusting, wasn’t it? But even worse, that f***king b**tard says he doesn’t even know who I am. How dare he? I’ve done 10 times as much for cycling in Pennsylvania as that a***hole. I’ve promoted races, managed teams, attracted thousands of dollars in sponsorship, coached and mentored numerous riders to international success, and he has the unmitigated gall to act like he doesn’t know me. Can you f***ing believe that? What a crock of f***ing bullsh**.

MW: Cool down Joe, cool down. Getting back to the terms of sanction imposed on you, I understand you have spoken to a group of high school coaches; what did you say to them? Something like “Hi, I’m Joe Pappsqueak, and I’m living my dream”?

JP: I don’t understand the question.

MW: Well, I notice you’ve kept the quote by Henry David Thoreau at your web site: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.”

JP: No, I said it’s bad to use drugs, and my message to them was “Do what I say, not what I do.” At that point, many of them began filing out of the room for some reason, but all in all, it was a real positive experience for me.

MW: For you. I see. In other words, it got you some attention, got you an audience, got you some material to promote yourself with at your web site, and made you feel better, I take it?

JP: Well yes, of course. All of those things.

MW: You know Joe, someone recently observed that the thought of you speaking to groups is scary. He went on to say, and I quote,

“Joe Pappsqueak is the ultimate media whore. He could be convicted of running a dog-fighting operation . . . the next day he’d be pimping the story at his own web site – and he’d serve as his own audience. He’s like a kid with a toy.”

JP: Why is it scary for me to speak to groups about my experience?

MW: [Sighing with resignation] As the saying goes, “If you don’t know, I can’t tell you.” Nevermind.

JP: [Growing agitated] No, I want to know, why is that scary? Again, it’s been a really positive experience for me, so how could that possibly be scary? I’ve learned a lot about myself in the process.

MW: Really? That’s interesting, because I actually did listen to your NPR interview. You seemed uncharacteristically tentative, speaking softly and stammering a lot, but what really struck me was your statement

“Why did I do something that was fun-da-men-tally unethical and immoral and basically flew in the face of everything that I had been raised to believe in? I still ask myself that same question today . . . I know that for me personally, the environment in which I was competing, the use of performance-enhancing drugs was not some fundamentally horrific thing that you spent a lot of time agonizing over. It was just another tool in the toolbox of performance enhancement . . . I wish I could say exactly why it happened.”

Now come on, Joe, how effective is your anti-drug message if you don’t even understand your own actions? Indeed, why should you even be allowed to speak publicly at all?

JP: [Rising abruptly] That does it. I’m out of here. You, my friend, are an a**hole. You no longer enjoy the privilege of interviewing me.
Here’s my business card. You can text me when you’re ready to treat me with the proper respect.