'Calvin Slam' drama falls short with horse-loving, jockey-loathing fans
As a sometime member of the human race,
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
To understand why human error has slighted Borel, first we must recount, as well as humanly possible, how bad horse sense got us to this apologetic state of affairs:
The best 3-year-old thoroughbred in the nation --
(Oh, sure, she was at Churchill Downs that weekend, but she ran in a race there
Then, after winning the Preakness, Rachel Alexandra decided not to run in the Belmont Stakes.
(My goodness, this horse has a busier social calendar than the
Still, horse racing -- long lamented as a dying sport -- got an unprecedented break: The person who rode 50-1 shot Mine That Bird to victory in the Kentucky Derby, Borel, then rode Rachel Alexandra to victory in the Preakness. So, at the Belmont, Borel -- aboard Mine That Bird again -- had a chance to become the first jockey to sweep the Triple Crown races on different horses.
Now, in a watered-down sports world in which we treat NBA playoff triple doubles as reverentially as
And yet ...
We've been told, time and again, that a Triple Crown winner could save horse racing. Yes, they meant a horse. But if a human comes along and does something that's never been done before Triple Crown-wise, how do other humans collectively yawn at such a feat?
What, we're supposed to feel a greater emotional attachment to, say, Big Brown than Calvin Borel?
Big Brown is A HORSE.
Calvin Borel is A HUMAN.
Humans produce art and music, science and math; horses produce massive horse droppings along the Central Park Bridle Path.
When's the last time you saw a funeral procession for a gelding, or a gerbil?
As a culture -- and I think I can speak here for all cultures, from Norwegian fishing villages to Peruvian Incas to Pennsylvania Dutch -- we tend to invest most of our passion to those areas of life that involve people, rather than animals, lampposts or sagebrush.
I love horses, but not a single one of them is crossing the finish line without a human sitting in the saddle.
(Secretariat was a great athlete, but he wouldn't know the difference between a racetrack and a rock concert.)
Trust me -- you can lead a horse to the starting gate, but you can't make him think he should run unless you tell him. That's where the Calvin Borels of the world come in.
To me, a Calvin Crown would've been comparable to the Tiger Slam, minus a caddy. And during its Belmont coverage Saturday, ABC dutifully tried to hype Borel's bid for history, but America wasn't buying it.
(By the way, ABC's
As it turns out, Borel fell three lengths shy of overlooked immortality, and many blamed him for making his move on Mine That Bird too soon. But people shouldn't be too hard on Borel -- after all, he's only human.
Q. Another interminably boring baseball season is upon us. Without the Summer Olympics to provide distraction this year, I fear I will wander a televised wilderness. Are there any summer sports I can follow besides baseball to occupy myself? (
A. Late at night, I love grazing upon the ESPN family of networks until I hear, "He needs a king -- and a king only -- or he is wamboozled!" Then all is right with my world.
Q. I know The Slouch is anti-progress, but certainly someone with your TV cravings favors cameras in the Supreme Court, no? (
A. Think about it, sir. Today: Supreme Court on TV. Tomorrow: "Supreme Court Tonight" on ESPN2.
Q. Do you play bridge? I'm sick of playing with the blue hairs. (
A. I just won a no-limit bridge tournament when I went all-in with a bid of 3 hearts and my
Q. When you "retire" a wife, do you hoist a banner with her number to the ceiling of your house? (
A. Pay the man, Shirley.