Using Your Words

Pondering Disappointment
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Leveling Our Own Playing Field

Ponderings by Julie J. Bryant

Once again this past weekend, we clinched our fists, held our collective breath and leaned forward in hopes that finally we would see a winner in Thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown.


CoburnTrue to form, however, the connections to California Chrome kept it interesting with the “spokesman” for the Dumb Ass partnership, Steve Coburn, bitterly declaring the winner had taken the coward’s way out while Perry Martin, the other half of the partnership – some would say the smarter half – keeping mum.

It wasn’t until most of the cameras had been put away that California Chrome’s injury to his right front quarter was made known and certainly well after Coburn’s comments. Had Coburn known of the injury, it appears doubtful that his sentiments regarding “fresh” horses being allowed to run would have been different, as he continued to stand by his post-race emotion-filled words the following day on the “Today” show.

Those of us who have been at this horse game for any length of time know life just ain’t fair.

Forget horses. If you get involved in competition of any kind, whether it’s sports or the work place or wherever, it’s just not fair . . . to somebody.

That’s where you have to make the choice to level your own playing field. And that playing field is right between your ears.

The same weekend of the Belmont Stakes, NBC, the network that aired the Belmont Stakes, broadcast a tribute to golfer Payne Stewart on the 15th anniversary of his 1999 U.S. Open win of one stroke over Phil Mickelson. Stewart died that year in a freak airplane crash when the Lear Jet in which he was a passenger lost cabin pressurization, incapacitating all aboard.

In the tribute, friends and family talk of how the man, who once played with a sense of bravado, drank a lot and at times was tough to be around, had become more humble and spiritual in the last five to six years of his life. Some pointed to his post tournament interview in 1998 as an example when he lost the Open to Lee Janzen. The reporter’s question was not unlike the same one posed to Steve Coburn after the Belmont . . . basically, what’s your reaction to this disappointment?

“Two things,” said Stewart. “One, I didn’t play as well as I could have. And two, I got beat by a better round of golf.”

Payne Stewart“When I won I just wanted to shake his hand and get to the scoring tent and get on with it because I knew he just lost and I didn’t think he’d want to talk with anybody,” said Janzen. “But he put his arm around me and he pulled me in and he started talking to me. He said, ‘Great playing, way to go, I’m happy for you. It will change your life. Great job.’ It was amazing he was so genuinely happy for his competitor that he tried to beat all day long.”

It is doubtful such an exchange took place or will ever take place between Dumb Ass Partners and the connections of Belmont champion Tonalist.

But it could have, even though the circumstances were totally different, and Steve Coburn would have had the same right to voice his opinion about the rules of racing and the Triple Crown, but do it in a way that every kindergartner knows . . . “Use Your Words.”

In Kentucky there is a saying at Thoroughbred sales that when the hat brims get wider, the horses get cheaper . . . and when you’re from Texas living in Kentucky, you know exactly what that means. Coburn and Martin had become media darlings, but I can assure you, not Thoroughbred racing darlings, because they represented the antithesis of the Thoroughbred stereotype with their stained cowboy hats, rough talk, blue collar jobs, cheap mare and Cinderella colt. Millions watched because they not only wanted to see a Triple Crown winner, they wanted to see a “regular Joe” make good.

Regardless of the outcome, Coburn could have leveled the playing field not just for himself but for all those who share his viewpoint by remembering the words of King Solomon in Proverbs 18. “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.”

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