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A tale of athletic greatness

JEFF TULLY

(The year is 2055, 50 years in the future).

Gather ‘round children while grandpa Jeff tells you an amazing

story about athletic greatness.

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Pay close attention, because this isn’t just an average tale. In

fact, I will tell you about the most profound, the most amazing and

the most impressive sports accomplishment in the annuals of athletic

competition.

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Now, if any of you have questions you would like to ask during the

story, just raise your hand and I’ll do my best to answer them.

The tale goes back to July 2005, a time when gasoline was under $3

a gallon, people used to go to things called theaters to see movies

and our nation’s president, Macaulay Culkin, was just an out-of-work

actor.

On a hot summer day, a cyclist named Lance Armstrong made history

by winning his seventh straight Tour de France. For 21 days, the

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33-year-old peddled his racing bicycle over mountains and hundreds of

miles of tough roads to claim the title.

Yes, Tommy, I see your hand up. Do you have a question?

“Grandpa Jeff, you mean there was a time when people actually rode

bicycles and got all sweaty doing exercise stuff? That seems kinda

gross.”

That’s right Tommy. Some people even used bicycles to get places

and they were popular for people who wanted to stay in shape. But

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that was before the exercise pill was invented in 2051 and people

didn’t have to work out any more.

This Armstrong character did something that had never been

accomplished before. By winning his seventh consecutive Tour de

France race, many considered his feat the finest ever recorded.

However, there were those who said Armstrong’s exploits were not

that impressive because all he did was ride a bike.

But saying all Armstrong did was “ride a bike” is like saying all

Hemingway did was write, or all Picasso did was paint.

What made his accomplishment even more impressive is that he was

able to overcome cancer to win all those races.

On Oct. 2, 1996, Armstrong got the news he had testicular cancer

that had spread to his lungs and brain. For six hours, doctors

removed tumors from his brain. The surgery was followed by cycles of

painful chemotherapy treatment.

Mary, you had a question?

“My daddy told me about that cancer stuff. He said that a long

time ago, people used to die from it. Is that true?”

Yes, Mary. But we don’t have to worry about cancer today. There

haven’t been any cases of the disease since scientists developed a

cure in 2039. That’s why many people live past 100 these days.

Back to Lance Armstrong.

There has been some other outstanding sporting feats turned in by

athletes over the years. But take it from me, Armstrong’s will always

be the best.

On March 2, 1962, professional basketball player Wilt Chamberlain

scored 100 points in a game for the Philadelphia Warriors against the

New York Knicks. But that’s when the NBA had just nine teams --

compared to 210 today -- and players weren’t yet drafted out of

junior high school.

Another amazing accomplishment came during the 1941 baseball

season when New York Yankees’ slugger Joe DiMaggio hit safely in 56

straight games.

To this day, no other player has come close to the record.

James. You want to ask me something?

“Yes grandpa. What was a New York Yankee?”

Well, my little one. The Yankees used to be the most successful

organization in all of sports. However, when the stock market crashed

in 2010, the team’s owner, George Steinbrenner, lost all of his

money. With no funds to run the organization, he chose to fold the

team instead of letting someone else run it.

The Yankees are kind of like the Tampa Bay Devil Rays of today,

expect New York never won 10 straight World Series championships like

the Rays have.

We also can’t forget about the feat by baseball’s Barry Bonds on

Oct. 7, 2001, when the San Francisco Giants’ power hitter belted his

73rd home run of the season.

But just five years later, in 2006, Bonds’ head expanded to such

an enormous size that he wasn’t able to play baseball any more

because he could no longer fit in a batting helmet. And in 2007,

baseball wiped out all of his records after it was determined he used

illegal substances to enhance his athletic prowess.

I realize these other records seem pretty impressive, but they

pale in comparison to what Armstrong was able to do.

Along with his unbelievable physical abilities, the fact that

Armstrong battled back from cancer to become a successful athlete is

truly amazing.

Now my little ones, you can tell your children and grandchildren

about the great Lance Armstrong, and what he was able to accomplish

in 2005.

Yes, Jenny, you had one last question?

“Grandpa, can I go out and ride my personal spacecraft now?

Certainly my dear. Just look both ways when you cross the

stratosphere.

* JEFF TULLY is the sports editor of the Burbank Leader. He can be

reached at 637-3245, or by e-mail at jeff.tully@latimes.com.


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