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Brother, Bonds, Title, Lance

I had a crazy day recently that will surely be one of the most memorable of my life. It started with a long lost half brother. I know that sounds like the start of a bad novel, but this is all true. A few months ago, I met a brother I didn't know existed. He spent the first 35 years of his life as an only child, but that changed a few months ago when I paid him a visit during a family barbecue. He had murky childhood memories of my existence, but they had faded as he progressed through life. He greeted his insta-brother with open arms and we arranged to meet at a later time to spend a day together.

This week he came to San Diego with his wife to cram some three decades of absence into 24 hours. I decided we'd spend the morning at the "world famous" San Diego Zoo. The Zoo never disappoints. The underwater viewing at the polar bear plunge was the hit of the day.

John Moores, Michael Robertson,
and Lance Armstrong

From there we traveled to Petco Park, where my San Diego Padres were pitted against his San Francisco Giants. As luck would have it, the Padres were one win from clinching the National League West Division Championship, which added some extra excitement and anticipation to the late-season game. We showed up early to watch batting practice as guests of John Moores. Besides being the owner of the Padres, he's also an outstanding entrepreneur and a personal friend.

My wife pointed down to the field and said "Isn't that Lance Armstrong?" Unlikely, I thought. What the heck would he being doing at a San Diego baseball game?But before I could dismiss the observation as lunacy, the public address announcer introduced "special guest Lance Armstrong and members of the 2005 Tour of Hope," a pan-US ride designed to raise awareness for cancer research.

I've followed Lance Armstrong closely since my unremarkable but fun amateur collegiate cycling career. For those unfamiliar with Lance he's the now retired seven-time winner of the hardest race in the world - the Tour de France. (My 6-year old thinks his name should be Lance Legstrong.) As if seven victories is not impressive enough, he's also a cancer survivor. And by survivor I mean "almost died, had to have brain surgery, doctors didn't think he would make it" survivor. Unimaginably, his Tour victories came after he endured surgeries and his body withered away by the ravages of chemotherapy. His transformation from talented, arrogant Texan to cancer battler to a more humbled (but still Texan) husband, father and best cyclist of all time is chronicled in his book It's Not About The Bike. The title refers to a cycling maxim emphasizing that it's the peddler that matters not the equipment.

The Padres jumped out to an early lead scoring runs in the first three innings and slowly building a cushion. About that time I was summoned by someone from John's staff to a reception area. Much to my surprise, Lance was there drinking a cold beer.

I approached him and told him I was a huge admirer. I had to attempt the word "admirer" three times before it came out cleanly. Admirer is not a word I use lightly or regularly, and I was a little nervous. We chatted for a few minutes about cycling and digital music. I asked him who would lead Team Discovery next year and he said there was no clear leader but to watch the young Ukrainian Yaroslav Popovych.

I know he's an iPod fan and so I mentioned how I played a role in battling for the legality of the first MP3 player, which paved the way for such devices. He said that music played a critical role in his lengthy training regiment and he couldn't do it without it. Before I left, I told him his threats to "un-retire" and ride in next year's tour to "piss off the French" was quite funny and appropriate given the unfair treatment he has received at their hands.

Lance Armstrong and I
at Petco Park

He agreed to pose for photos and even signed a baseball that was given to me. I'm sure there are many Lance-signed cycling jerseys, but I doubt there's many baseballs. My half brother came up and met Lance as well. The photo and signing were arranged by John Moores which is a favor I'm not sure I'll ever be able to repay.

Meanwhile, the Padres were pounding out more runs leading to a 9th inning appearance by ace reliever Trevor Hoffman. He closed out the game clinching the playoff spot and triggering fireworks and celebratory champagne.

On the ride home, I tried to reflect and move the memories over to long-term storage but it was tough. I was exhausted - not physically, but mentally. A new brother. A new bond. Beating Bonds. Division championship. Lance Armstrong.

I told my new brother not to expect this kind of day on his next visit.

-- MichaelThe Michael's Minute Meter
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