Sunday, May 6, 2012

From behind

Yesterday, the Kentucky Derby a/k/a the Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs featured a whole mess of horses running, running, running to win dungpiles of dough for people putting down wagers, small to huge, and get honor for the owner, trainer, jockey, and the horse itself.  I'll Have Another came from somewhere -- when I answer a trivia question that I didn't know I knew I say the answer came out of my ass but I don't think I'll Have Another was in anyone's ass, well maybe he was, but that's another story -- and won by not very much over Bodemeister.  I'll Have Another won the Santa Anita Derby by a nose.  This is a horse who was bought for $11,000, a freaking bargain in the bank of horse racing.

The Kentucky Derby is a very weird spectacle.  In the stands, the men and women with money sit in their hats and gowns and coats and ties, respectively, having a good time in the way that people with money have a good time.   In the center of the course are the normal citizens wearing what they want to wear also having a good time.  It's the same good time observed two different ways and then they all sing, "My Old Kentucky Home."  The derby is a pure slice of Americana no matter how you look at it.

When the race is over, a blanket of roses is put over the winning horse's neck.  Then the owner or the trainer or both are very excited and proclaim their excitement about going to Baltimore, Maryland, for the running of the Preakness at Pimlico, the second race in the Triple Crown of horse racing.  If they win there, they are even more excited and salivate about New York and the Belmont Stakes and if they win, the horse will be worth not a dungpile of money but a national-debt-pile of money and will be the first Triple Crown winner since Secretariat won in 1973.  It was 25 years of no Triple Crown winner before Secretariat won -- taking the Belmont Stakes by 39 lengths -- and for all you math majors out there, it's been 39 years since Secretariat galloped to glory.

Dan O'Neill, the trainer, picks horses to train in a very unusual manner.  His brother, Dave, goes and picks the horse, then turns it over to Dan to train.  Dan gave I'll Have Another a stable pony -- a horse that escorts the racing animal on the track as a calming influence -- who happens to be an 11-year-old ex-racehorse named Lava Man who won $5 million in his racing career.  (Lava Man is a gelding so "man" is an honorific in "his" case.)  Dave picks the flesh, Dan trains the flesh, and as Dan said after the Kentucky Derby, "Maryland, here we come, baby!"

How the horse got its name has nothing to do with anything but a sweet tooth.  Owner J. Paul Reddam's wife asks him this question every night:  "Do you want any more cookies?"

So what if a football player got concussion after concussion and banged his head repeatedly and his noggin got bumped around a lot but he never complained about it?  And what if he thought of himself as a warrior and the game as his battlefield and warriors on the field of battle don't complain, they get up and continue the fight?  And what if he not only never complained but only mentioned it in passing a few times?  And then committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest, much like Dave Duerson committed suicide, so that his brain could be studied by the Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy?

This past week, Junior Seau, ex-NFL linebacker, took his own life with a gunshot wound to the chest.  He left no note.

Join me in condolences to his family, his friends, and his many fans.  Details on autopsy results will follow.

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