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NO SUBSTITUTE FOR TALENT

Small boys growing up PVG (pre-video game) were nourished on a diet of sports books with one basic theme: Through hard work, determination and self-discipline, a klutzy, no-talent kid, the laughingstock of his teammates, becomes an all-star shortstop, halfback, power forward or whatever.

And then along comes Michael Jordan.After an 18-month absence and a few light warmups, Jordan ambles onto the court and scores 55 points against the Knicks and 32 points agains the Hawks - on their courts.

It was a soaring demonstration, as Rush Limbaugh might say, of talent on loan from God.

For those nurtured on uplifting adolescent novels, the realization comes hard that some people simply have more talent than others, and no amount of hard work will overcome that fact. If those books reflected real life, they would be one page long.