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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Can Racing Generate America's Next Great Hero?

I'm thinking the timing is right.

A-Rod (I refuse to call him A-Fraud) is campaigning for forgiveness for taking performance-enhancing drugs. Michael Phelps has potentially lost millions for his recent appearance with that piece of equipment that rhymes with "wrong". The NFL is a daily police blotter, this week alone, Marshawn Lynch, Ahmad Bradshaw and Super Bowl winning kicker Jeff Reed were in the news for being on the wrong side of the law (and the law won). Lest we forget to mention what Michael Vick has done to his fans. How 'bout the Plaxico fiasco? Basketball is not exactly unscathed, I've run out of fingers to count the number of paternity suits currently pending. The closest we can come to the Great American Hero out of the four majors is Lebron James, and we'll see what the King does to his hometown Cleveland when the Big Apple comes a callin'.

So with all of the bad news out there in sports lately, isn't the timing perfect for a horse to capture a nation and propel our sport back on the front pages? The question we face annually, is whether there is a horse out there that can corral the Triple Crown, one of the most challenging feats out there over a timeframe from May 2nd to June 6th. When I googled "Triple Crown Hero", the horses who show up, first and foremost, are Secretariat, Affirmed and Seattle Slew. Horses that did the trick back in the 70's. So who is it? Old Fashioned? Not sure he can go the mile and a quarter, especially if he gets hooked into another speed duel up front (highly likely) in Louisville. What about one of the SoCal horses (The Pamplemousse, Pioneerof the Nile or Chocolate Candy)?

How about a jockey? When I googled hero above, the only jock that showed up was Stevie Cauthen. That's right, the 1977 Sportsman of the Year who has four SI covers under his belt. Can you believe it's been 32 years? With the new Animal Planet series bringing jockeys to the forefront of reality television, is there any chance a jockey can capture the hero role this year? Garret Gomez will most likely be on Pioneerofthe Nile for Bob Baffert, can the two time Eclipse winner grab the spotlight by winning his first Derby? Last year Desormeaux and Big Brown had it within reach, only to pull up short, but the major sports weren't on the downer they are mired in the controversy they are in today.

The Vacancy light is ON, I just hope, for our sports sake, there's a horse or jock out there that flips the switch. Whaddya think?


Ernie said...

Unless there's a Triple Crown winner, or owners commit themselves to hyping and staging races that have our best facing the best (Curlin vs. Big Brown---during halftime of a major sporting event), it ain't gonna happen.

Wind Gatherer said...

That Ernie character is beginning to bother me. Every single time I have something to say, he was already there, said it and handicapped the card at Aqueduct...

I think we have the same thing every year. The Derby winner is, by definition, the next great hope to win the Triple Crown, and will dominate the press cycle. IEAH screwed us last year, being unsavory as they were and Dutrow put BB's hoof in his own mouth, so it was understandably hard for anyone to get behind them. Eight Belles...

The only thing, anybody outside of racing understands, is the Kentucky Derby and the Triple Crown. Once that is gone, it's gone. We need the Derby winner to actually, you know, run some races. Keep him/her around. Maybe make some part of the Derby purse contingent on the winner running in a certain number of GI's.

Not that anyone will like that but you need to market something...


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