How many times have you seen greatness?
Greatness as in you can’t take your eyes off the TV because you’d smack yourself if you missed witnessing a moment of brilliance that may never happen again.
Greatness as in seeing something so magical it dominates your conversation for days – if not decades – because you saw something that you’ll never forget.
And that’s why it was going to take a medical emergency to keep me from watching the Belmont Stakes on Saturday.
At 6:40 p.m. ET, we would have had the chance to watch potential greatness – until I’ll Have Another retired about 36 hours before a race that could have made him as big a household name as My Little Pony.
His quest to become the 12th horse to win the Triple Crown ended because the swollen left front tendon was the beginning of tendonitis, which could have taken six months to treat.
So I’ll Have Another retired. He took the easy way out, which is the exact opposite of striving for greatness.
You might as well change the horse’s name to “I’ll Have Another – Not.”
And that my friends, seals the deal: Horses aren’t athletes. They are vehicles, basically primitive race cars.
There is no debate.
Do you think Michael Jordan or LeBron James would sit out the NBA Finals because of a sore leg? Hell no. If they did, the media would light them up like a Christmas Tree and they’d be labeled so soft they’d become spokesmen for Charmin.
Do you think Tom Brady, Tim Tebow or Ben Roethlisberger would take a seat on the bench if they had a boo-boo? Hell no.
A few years ago, I saw Roethlisberger get his nose broken by the Ravens’ Haloti Ngata in the first quarter and got beat up so badly he was on crutches and a walking boot after guiding the Steelers to a win that ultimately gave them the division title, propelling them to the Super Bowl.
In the visitor’s locker room at M&T Bank Stadium as he made his way for the exit, I opened the door because I don’t think he could.
He smiled, said thanks.
Pointing to his walking boot, I asked him: “How bad is it?”
His response, which I’ll never forget: “It doesn’t matter. I had to be out there. My teammates needed me.”
And now look at I’ll Have Another.
I’ll Have Another didn’t have tendonitis. He had the beginning of tendonitis, trainer Doug O’Neill said.
Is calling it a career really what was in the horse’s best interest?
Now, I’ll Have Another isn’t great, he’s an answer to a trivia question: Who’s the first horse to be scratched from the Belmont Stakes after winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness since Bold Venture in 1936?
I’m so upset that I was robbed at the chance to see possible immortality at the Belmont Stakes that for the remainder of this column, I will refer to “I’ll Have Another” as “Glue stick.”
And I don’t even really like horse racing. I watch – at most – three races a year – and I won’t waste your time listing them.
I’m tired of hearing people talk about Affirmed winning the Triple Crown in 1978.
I was 2. I didn’t see it, so did it really happen?
I’m sure Affirmed was a wonderful horse, just as Seattle Slew was in 1977 and Secretariat in 1973. Honestly, if you told the eight other horses that won the Triple Crown were so terrific it was like Zeus drew them and breathed life into them, I’d believe you.
It just wouldn’t mean much because I never saw them race.
It’s like when my dad tells my how awesome Jim Brown and O.J. Simpson were at running the football and how Otto Graham could fling a football like not other. It’s like when a baby boomer tells me that Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain were God’s gift to the hardwood as Hank Aaron and Stan “The Man” Musial were to the diamond. And don’t even get me started about Pele.
Yes, they were all worthy of the highest praise.
But I’ll take Walter Payton and Emmitt Smith, Joe Montana and Brady and James, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan and Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire over all of them. And no, I don’t care that Bonds and McGwire may have cheated – I saw them hit balls so far the only parks they wouldn’t have left are Yellowstone and Central.
But Glue stick won’t be added to this list of those who I watched make the impossible possible because he has a better chance of ending up on a plate at a Chinese restaurant than in a winner’s circle.
My daughter fell down at Disney World last week, drawing a bloody knee. Did she quit? Did she want to return to the hotel and call it a day?
No, she still ran as fast as she could to go on the Dumbo ride.
OK, I know you are thinking: Jon, why are you being so mean? Look at what happened to Barbaro? He died racing. How could you live with yourself if Glue stick’s leg crumbled like Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign and had to be put to sleep?
My answer: Glue stick would have died a glorious death. How many animals can say that? King Kong? Bambi’s mom? Lassie? Seriously, we’re talking about an aminal here, people. Not a human. There’s a difference.
Look at Barbaro. His death made him a legend, one so great it spawned a religion. How many humans can say that? Michael Jackson was as popular as one could get when he died and what happened when he croaked?
Nothing, really. I don’t see anyone wearing a sparking glove in his honor.
What’s next for Glue stick?
I’d say sex, lots and lots of sex. His owner will get top dollar to let someone’s mare take a roll in the hay with Glue stick, hoping the offspring is the next Affirmed.
That’s too bad for Glue stick.
I thought the next time any horse would get a good look at Glue stick’s butt would be when he crossed the finish line on Saturday.
(Feature photo courtesy of Flickr 137 Preakness. Baltimore Preakness winner I’ll have Another with multimillion dollar winning lead horse Lava Man on May 19, 2012.)
Jon Gallo is an award-winning journalist and editor with 19 years of experience, including stints as a staff writer at The Washington Post and sports editor at The Baltimore Examiner. He also believes the government should declare federal holidays in honor of the following: the Round of 64 of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament; the Friday of the Sweet 16; the Monday after the Super Bowl; and of course, the day after the release of the latest Madden NFL video game.