My daughter asked to see Secretariat over the weekend. At first I thought she wanted to go into New York City to observe some staid UN officials mediate international disputes, but I quickly discovered she was talking about the new Disney movie.
As a rule, I am not wild about Disney movies unless I am in need for a nap in a dark theater. “I don’t really want to see a cartoon with a talking horsie,” I complained to my wife.
“It’s not that kind of movie,” she said. And then, as an afterthought, she added, “It’s a drama,” as if this somehow made it more palatable.
She was quick to remind me that Secretariat was no ordinary talking horsie. Secretariat was perhaps the greatest race horse that ever lived. Secretariat cinched the Triple Crown in the 1970s setting two track records which still stand today.
My wife shared other impressive facts as well. “You are forgetting Osama Bin Laden,” I said sarcastically when she told me Secretariat was the only horse to grace the cover of Newsweek and Time.
When I was in college, whenever that was, my residence hall allocated money for entertainment. It was a paltry amount to stage a wild dorm party as we, the elected members of the party committee, envisioned entertainment to be. So we did what any fiscally responsible governing body would do; we went to the track to increase our holdings.
Unfortunately, there were no Triple Crown winners running that day. In fact, for many years Secretariat had been prancing happily in Kentucky siring four-legged UN delegates. So, knowing nothing about horses, we studied the race forms and conversed with the wizened race veterans who smoked acrid cigars and liked to spend their winnings on cheap whiskey which they drank from the bottle.
In the end, we did what most casual betters do. We selected the horse with the best name. We put all of the dorm’s money on That’s Entertainment, a long shot in the field, but a horse who had done well in his last showing. He was big and red. And that was good enough for us.
It was a high stakes bet to be sure, and several of the more staid, diplomatic members of our committee were reluctant to place all of our money on a single horse.
“What’s the worst that could happen?” I asked. No one had enough life experience to answer.
I remember elbowing my way to the rail as the bell signaled the start of the race. That’s Entertainment was last out of the gate. I watched the pack rumble around the first turn with my stomach at my knees.
As they rounded into the backstretch the horses were too far away to see accurately. But from the trailing end of the pack I could just make out a big red colt. He moved slowly at first, but then willfully deliberate, like a well-tuned machine, he passed horse after horse.
When they came around the last turn I could no longer distinguish our big red horse from the others. But I could hear the announcer as they entered the stretch; That’s Entertainment was closing on the outside.
I remember screaming with abandon even though I could not hear the call over the deafening equine quake that was now coursing down the length of the grandstand. Twelve tons of muscular horse flashed by my eyes like lightning before thunder as the pack pounded through the wire.
In 1973 Secretariat grabbed the Belmont Stakes by a commanding 31 lengths, and became the first horse to win the coveted Triple Crown in 25 years. That’s Entertainment was not quite so awe inspiring. He lost by a nose to a three-year-old filly named I Told You So.
Here’s the thing. Like fast moving horses, the moments of life are here and gone in a second. But if we are lucky, our coveted collection of life drama replays in our memories like well-edited, slow motion Disney Movies.
Experience has shown that I don’t remember college dorm parties; or even much of college for that matter. But I certainly remember losing all of our money on a bright Sunday afternoon during the 8th race at Golden Gate Fields; it is a slow motion race in which graceful horses are replaced by colliding freight trains.
I can smile at the memory now that I am no longer in imminent danger of being pummeled by disgruntled dorm mates who hate Disney movies.
At least this is what I tell my daughter as our family party committee waits in line at the theater.
I enjoyed seeing Secretariat. But most of all, I enjoyed spending the time with my family. It is something I will fondly remember long after the DVD is released.
Now That’s Entertainment!
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