I’ve attempted to put events I’ve attended into words for years.
Baltimore Ravens football games, University of Maryland football and basketball games, a multitude of local hoops and lacrosse games and even a press conference or twenty have quickly turned into 600-1400 words worth of type off my fingers.
Almost every time I’ve written something, even the columns I’ve been particularly pleased with, I’ve looked somewhere else on the web and thought to myself “damn, that person can WRITE” after reading what they had to say about the same event.
Such was the case again this weekend. I had already decided my Monday morning column would be related to the 137th running of the Preakness Stakes, but I hadn’t exactly decided what angle I was going to take. It only took me a trip to my friend Kevin Van Valkenburg (of ESPN The Magazine/Hug It Out Radio fame and late Baltimore Sun)’s Facebook page for me to once again utter the phrase.
It wasn’t because of something KVV had written this time though. It was one of his colleagues’ stories he had linked, and it made me say “damn, Jeff MacGregor can WRITE.”
MacGregor scribed this exceptional postscript to an incredible victory from Kentucky Derby champ I’ll Have Another, celebrating the excitement of an underdog champ at the coming buildup to a Triple Crown chance in the context of a fledgling sport.
Many commenters on ESPN.com and throughout social media however were turned off by the nature of MacGregor’s tone, most notably this line…
“None of which matters, because horse racing is dead.”
MacGregor didn’t really say anything we haven’t already accepted as fact, we’ve just been more apt to use a kinder term like “struggling” or “suffering” instead of flat out placing the industry in a black bag and shipping it to the morgue.
Horse racing HAS been troubled for some time. The depth of the fall has been particularly evident in the state of Maryland, where “the sport of kings” has been all but nonexistent for years. Sure, the industry shines for a few days each spring at Pimlico and each fall at Laurel Park, but even on the brightest day the problems in the industry are obvious.
Unlike some, I have no interest in fighting with MacGregor. I think he’s absolutely right. I just feel as though the potentially monumental turn for horse racing in the next month can be celebrated whether or not the sport is staring into the face of imminent doom.
I’ll Have Another’s charge to the wire Saturday was breathtaking. 14 days earlier we had no way to know that an unknown trainer (Doug O’Neill) and jockey (Mario Gutierrez) had a longshot in position to track down the exceptional favorite (Bodemeister) trained by the Hall of Famer (Bob Baffert) and ridden by a Hall of Famer (Mike Smith) as well. On Saturday we knew it was possible but found it no less amazing.
“There’s no way this can happen again.”
You definitely heard me make the argument for Bodemeister throughout the week. “There’s no speed horse to take Bodemeister out to a dangerous speed this time. The race is 1/16 of a mile shorter. There are nine fewer horses to crowd things at the front and push the favorite too much early. There’s just no way things can shape up for I’ll Have Another as perfectly as they did in Louisville.”