Columnist: Remind me again- why did the USPS sponsor Lance?

In today’s New York Times columnist Gail Collins weighs in on the continuing saga of Lance Armstrong, asking what the point of the whole fiasco was in the first place:

Collins_New-articleInline-v2Let’s consider the U.S. Postal Service Pro Cycling Team. Between 1996 and 2004, our American mail system invested an estimated $40 million in this venture, in return for which Armstrong and his teammates rode around with the Postal Service insignia on their shirts.

This would be the same Postal Service that lost $16 billion last year, and I believe I speak for every stamp-buyer in the nation when I say: What?

The Armstrong heyday was back in the era when the Postal Service, having been spun off into a quasi-private enterprise, was having delusions of corporate grandeur. The era when it lost $8.3 million in a failed attempt to start a retail operation in the Mall of America. Its leaders liked the idea that “they could rub shoulders with other C.E.O.’s who were sponsoring sports activities,” said Ruth Goldway, the chairwoman of the Postal Regulatory Commission.

Goldway was never a big fan of the postal service cycle team, although she felt it was a better marketing tool than some of the other ideas put into play, like “buying free tickets for postal employees to go to football games.” And, she said, she had some sympathy for Armstrong, “until I saw how he treated Sheryl Crow.”

Read more: The Point of Lance Armstrong – NYTimes.com.