Saturday is gonna be one helluva sports night

May 04, 2007 | Nestor Aparicio

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The best part of having so many voices here at WNST.net is
having a “second opinion.”

And in reality, that was my favorite part of doing sports
radio every day for more than 13 years — hearing other people who know more
about something than I do, tell me something I didn’t already know!

So, Rex Snider blogs this morning that he knows very little
about horse racing and that, basically, it’s the horse racing industry’s fault.

Agreed.

He also wisely predicts that 50-some hillbillies driving
really fast tomorrow night in billboards on wheels in Richmond will outdraw one
of this country’s oldest and most dignified traditions, The Kentucky Derby.

Agreed (but grudgingly!)

For our part, we await the Preakness, which always has the
one thing the Kentucky Derby can’t brag about having — and that’s the Kentucky
Derby WINNER!

Every year that the Preakness stumbles back into Maryland, I
count my blessings as a resident that it’s still here. Because as long as it’s
here, it still has a prayer of being salvaged.

But the sands do appear to be slipping through the
hourglass. How much longer is the industry going to allow this state, that
God-awful track and this city to torture and waste this incredible event,
filled with pageantry, tradition and dignity?

Make no mistake: the Preakness IS our Super Bowl, and should
be treated as such. When a state like Maryland has basically said, through its
many actions over the past 20 years, that horse racing doesn’t matter (as a
sport or an industry that feeds thousands of families in our state) and that
The Preakness doesn’t matter, we shouldn’t all be crying in our Natty Boh when
the industry demands that the race pick up and move to Gulfstream Park, which
is a palace in Hollywood, Fla. that was paraded out in front of 2,500 Super Bowl
journalists and major money sponsors three months ago during Super Bowl week.

As for Rex’s prediction and NASCAR’s incredible appeal to
everyone, it seems, but me: look, I know NOTHING about NASCAR probably because
I know nothing about cars. I know how to put the key in and can barely fill it
with gas.

I also know nothing about horse racing, really. I didn’t
grow up on a farm, didn’t know anybody who owned a horse and certainly didn’t
have a father who knew much about horse racing because he didn’t gamble.

The closest I ever came to seeing a real horse as a kid was
when the “A-rabs” would hustle bruised fruit on a cart being pulled
by a donkey down my alley on Bank Streetin Dundalk .

But I was almost 5 years old when Secretariat won the Triple
Crown (and I defy you to show me ANYTHING in sports more impressive than that horse
coming down the stretch at The Belmont…go ahead!).

And a few years later Seattle Slew, and Affirmed and Alydar,
and Spectacular Bid caught my eye. And this kid from Dundalk named Ronnie
Franklin put the Triple Crown on the map in my house and in my neighborhood.

Many of my neighbors would have a house pool for the
“Big Three” races. We’d all put a dollar in the pot and draws names
before the race. But I was still never “called” to the track by the
industry, despite the fact that Vince Bagli read the results from the
“late” races every single night in my living room around 6:20.

I never set foot into Maryland racing facility until 1985,
when I went to Pimlico for the Preakness to run pictures back to The News
American. (Incidentally, I met Howard Cosell that day back in the barn area.
He was VERY tall and he said hello to me…what a thrill that was for me!)

I went to Bowie a few times with Rich Petro, who was a cool
dude who did racing picks for the paper and who liked me. He also lived in
Dundalk.

I still have never set foot in Laurel in my life and I’ve
never seen a race at Timonium either.

But I ALWAYS watched the Kentucky Derby! I haven’t missed a
Derby since at least 1975.

And of all of the thrills I’ve had in sports and in sports
journalism, my seven trips to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby would
ABSOLUTELY rate with any Super Bowl this side of Tampa.

The Kentucky Derby IS the greatest sporting event in this
country, bar none!

So, with all due respect to Rex, and to the many who are FAR
more interested in tomorrow’s “other” race in Richmond, I say
“have fun at the races.”

Whatever your race of choice!

Tomorrow’s a big day at the Nasty Palace. I’ll be mixing up
my favorite Mint Julep recipe, awaiting the race in Hi-Definition (thank God
the race isn’t on MASN) and preparing for the O’s-Tribe game and the late-night
dust-up out in Las Vegas between Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather!

(We got to hang out with both fighters during the week of
the Super Bowl and my wife is mandating that the fight be purchased in our
living room! She actually lobbied me hard last night to fly out there this
weekend to see it in person! So here’s the evidence from Miami…for the record,
I’m pulling for Mayweather!)

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The Derby, the ballgame and a championship fight from Vegas
on a Saturday night.

The only thing missing is the beer and the pizza.

My Pop would be proud.

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