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So who out there really thought Smarty Jones would win the elusive Triple Crown? Okay, that would be almost all of you. Some of us were skeptics, and rightfully so. Every few years, when a horse wins the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, NBC goes into publicity overload to convince us that this plucky steed will be the best damn horsey since Secretariat and dammit, you’re not an American unless you tune in for an hour and a half of filler about the jockey and the stables and turds that make this animal a champion. And wouldn’t you know it? Smarty Jones didn’t have the love jones to go all the way.I fell for this silliness two years ago when everyone got swept up in War Emblem-mania. Remember that horse? Didn’t think so. Well, in 2002 he was the favorite to beat going into the Belmont Stakes. Yes, I sat through two hours of soft-filtered interviews set to music seemingly lifted from The Natural. I learned about the horse and the owners and how this race was a moment of fate and destiny. I was convinced that War Emblem would not only win the Triple Crown, I thought he might run for president too. Then suddenly, after hours of anticipation and hype, the race zipped by in about two minutes’ time. War Emblem had lost (5th place, jerk) and a hollow sensation overcame my life. Did I really just get emotionally invested in this anticlimactic race? The answer was an emphatic yes.
I don’t actually begrudge the races or the Triple Crown. I actually think it’s pretty fun and sort of cool to get excited about this old-fashioned pasttime. What I think is ridiculous is the week prior to the Belmont Stakes when everyone suddenly becomes an expert on equine racing. “Oh, yes, I think Smarty Jones has what it takes. War Emblem was nothing. But Smarty Jones, that’s a horse.” Just because you watched Seabiscuit doesn’t mean that you can start opining about this stuff. Meanwhile, no one realizes that they’ve turned into an armchair jockey because of NBC’s relentless promos. Granted, this is all great for the network which has since lost its baseball, football, and basketball coverage to places like CBS and ABC. NBC Sports is happy to have at least something to bring the viewers in (sorry Arena Football fans, but your sport sort of sucks).
After 2002′s letdown, I avoided the Belmont Stakes coverage this year. I did see however that when Smarty Jones did in fact lose, everyone booed the winner. Now come on people. Let the guy enjoy his moment. Winning the triple crown isn’t a right. I bet Smarty’s cocky jockey went out the night before and boozed it on up with some hookers and tequila. So it really was his own fault. Okay, that probably didn’t happen, but regardless, Birdstone won fair and square, and the poor jockey had to spend his acceptance speech apologizing to the fans.
In the end, all is well because I get to be that annoying asshole who goes around saying “I told you so.” Hopefully that will apply to the Pistons/Lakers series. But more on that later…