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The television cameras were long gone and only a handful of people were milling around at the finish line when I finally arrived. I was declared the last-place finisher and some race officials briefly interviewed me.
I was hoping for a larger reception from the media, but was buoyed by my ability to match my boast and finish last. Victory was, at last, mine!
To my joyous surprise when I returned home that evening, I was interviewed over the phone by the Associated Press and The Miami Herald. The New York Post sent a photographer over after midnight to get me with my Santa Claus hat and victory cigar.
The following day I came to understand the joys and strains of celebrity status. Nearly every TV station and newspaper in New York City called me at work requesting an interview. My boss told me that I was disrupting the office (even more than usual) and that I should take a vacation day and go home.
During this hectic activity a staffer from a local TV station, while arranging an interview with me, mentioned that a check of the computer showed that someone else had finished last, but that they would interview me anyway. I confidently shrugged off the suggestion that anyone could have lost to me and thought to myself that this must be a feeble jest.
I spent the rest of the day taping interviews, posing for photographs and then watching myself on the early evening news. Two promoters actually called to tantalize me with the possibility of endorsements, wealth and national fame. It was reassuring to see awfulness so richly rewarded.
But I was surprised, to say the least, by what happened next. On the late news, Salazar was shown with the last-place finisher in the marathon, and I astutely observed that he wasn't me. The world was informed in no uncertain terms that Anthony Geremia, a 38-year-old engineer, was the official last-place finisher. About that time I began to suspect that the television staffer hadn't been kidding me. My phone stopped ringing.
The final blow came in the following day's edition of the New York Post. It carried an AP story with the headline WEISBERG LOSES LAST PLACE FINISH. The story said that my claim to fame as a last-place finisher in the New York Marathon had been undermined and I was declared to be "a loser all the way around." Apparently, the ambulance had lost track of Geremia and on Monday race director Fred Lebow declared him to be the last-place finisher. The promoter who had promised to get me endorsements for a thirst-quenching beverage and a line of durable sporting-goods equipment didn't return my phone calls.
People on the streets of New York were ignoring me again. The only phone calls I got were wrong numbers. My friends stayed up late to watch Geremia on the Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder.
But, if my fame was gone, I still had a book full of newspaper clippings with which to impress girl friends and to silence doubts of future friends about my moment of glory. And, of course, there is still this year.