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Why we forget Lance

July 25, 2002|By DAN KAUFFMAN

Ask your average sports fan who the five most dominating athletes in sports today are, and you'll likely get a list looking something like this (no rhyme intended):

Tiger is numero uno. Duh. Who doesn't know Tiger Woods is the most dominating athlete in sports today?

Venus and Serena are two and three. They've faced each other in each of the last two grand slam finals (French, Wimbledon), and one of them has won four of the last five.

Shaq and Kobe are four and five. They ARE the Lakers, no apologies to Robert Horry needed.

Arguments could be made ... say, where do Barry, Sammy, A-Rod and the Marshall plan fit in? ... but otherwise, it's an easy list to make, and a seemingly accurate one.

The key word is seemingly.

There is one athlete who is more dominant than anyone else mentioned so far. Even Tiger. And he should be on a first-name basis with the American sporting public, too.

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Lance.

Yes, Lance.

The most dominating athlete in the world today is Lance Armstrong.

Sorry, Tiger.

All Lance has done is win three straight Tour de France cycling championships, and No. 4 is three days away, with the odds of him losing as slim as Big Aristotle missing a dunk.

This, after Lance defeated testicular cancer that had spread all the way to his brain, giving him less than a 50/50 chance to live.

Yes, we all know Lance's story by now. We celebrated it three years ago, with Tour victory No. 1. Victory two was significant, three less so, and this latest one is barely a blip on our sporting radar.

Why?

For one, few of us understand how difficult the Tour de France is. Cyclists race more than 2,000 miles, up several mile-high climbs, in a span of three weeks and 20 stages. It's the equivalent of running a marathon a day for 20 straight days.

For another, Lance is in our consciousness for these three weeks, and that's it. Not so with baseball (seven months), football (six, counting training camps), basketball (eight) and even tennis (aside from the Australian Open, June to September) and golf (year-round).

Cycling, much like track and field, swimming and gymnastics, gains a national following only for very specific events -- the Olympics, for instance. Once out of sight, Lance is out of mind, forgotten until next year, same place, same time, same story, and on and on and on until Lance gets a new hobby.

So it is, that Lance Armstrong is winning ... indeed, riding away with ... another Tour de France. So it is, we don't care as much as we used to. The story is old, stale, used up. The most dominant athlete in sports, reduced to a quick checkup in our sports sections.

Soon to be forgotten again.

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