Tomorrow is the 149th running of the Belmont Stakes. In terms of “buzz” and excitement, this race had generated just about nothing. Not only is there no possible Triple Crown winner in the field, neither the Derby winner – Always Dreaming – nor the Preakness winner – Cloud Computing – will go to the post. Lest you think that their trainers and owners have them entered somewhere else, that is not the case; both horses are stabled at Belmont park. For 2017, the Belmont Stakes is really not much more than your garden variety Grade 1 Stakes race run on a summer weekend – – except for the fact that the race is a mile and a half.
If you have never been to Belmont Park, it is a huge facility; in terms of size it dwarfs Pimlico and Churchill Downs; the record attendance for a Belmont Stakes was 120,000; it would surprise me if the live gate tomorrow is more than half that figure. The Belmont has always had to be its own draw because the New York Racing Association has never been known for its promotional acumen. Let me give you a couple of tidbits about the race so that you might be tempted to use the remote to tune in and see it tomorrow around 6:30 PM EDT.
- Hall of Fame trainer, Woody Stephens, saddled the winner of the Belmont 5 times – and all 5 of those races were in succession from 1982-1986.
- Trainer D. Wayne Lukas saddled the winner 3 years in a row from 1994-1996.
- The record time for the Belmont Stakes is 2:24 set by Secretariat in 1973. That record is 2 full seconds – about 10 lengths in handicapping terms – better than the second fastest time in the race.
That last item leads me to share with you something #2 son pointed out to me. Someone has taken the telecasts of the 1973 race won by Secretariat and put it side-by-side with the telecast of the 2015 race won by American Pharaoh and posted it on YouTube. Let me be clear, Secretariat would have beaten American Pharaoh by 13 lengths based on their times but there is an interesting aspect to the race comparison.
As you watch the 1973 race, Secretariat blazes through the early fractions and then continues on a pace that leaves the second place horse 31 lengths in the dust. If you only look at that race, it appears as if Secretariat is actually accelerating in the final portions. However, when the two races are juxtaposed, you can see – and you can verify by looking at the split times for the ¾ of a mile and for the mile that American Pharaoh actually ran the final half mile faster than Secretariat did.
Just for fun, here is the video comparison…
For what it is worth, here are my picks for the race. Until late yesterday, I liked Epichris (#11) to be part of the superfecta but then I read he had been given a pain killer shot for an abscess on his foot. That convinced me to look eslewhere for a runner in a mile-and-a-half race so here is my wager:
- Exacta Box: Tapwrit (#2) and Irish War Cry (#7)
- Trifecta Box: Tapwrit/ Irish War Cry/ Twisted Tom (#1)
- Superfecta Box: Tapwrit/Irish War Cry/Twisted Tom/ J Boys Echo (#4)
I want to switch gears here and talk about a relatively new phenomenon in sports radio and sports TV commentary. It did not start yesterday but yesterday put me over the top here. It seems the latest fashion is to discuss how current ongoing events may or may not affect the “legacy” of some star player or some team. Yesterday’s versions of this sort of nonesnse went along these lines:
- If the Warriors sweep the Cavaliers, will that tarnish LeBron James’ legacy to the point that any discussion of him as “The GOAT” is “off the table”.
- If the Warriors sweep the Cavaliers, does that make this team the greatest basketball team of all time?
I guess the producers of the radio shows and the TV shows have to come up with items to fill time, but these sorts of discussions have gotten tiresome very quickly. For starters, what the Hell difference does it make if I think the 1990s Bulls teams are better than the current Warriors team and you think the obverse? We could have that “debate” privately over some beer and chips and it would probably move on to another topic in about 3 minutes – if we got really worked up over the “debate”. On radio and TV this goes on forever and ever and ever…
The idea of a “legacy” should not – because it cannot – be assessed in the current time. A player’s legacy or a team’s legacy is only capable of measurement once a decent interval of time has past. Legacies are things that are more on the “mental” or “intellectual” end of the spectrum; in the immediate moment, “mental” and “intellectual” things tend to get clouded by emotions and adrenaline and endorphins. Let me give you two examples:
- In 1979, OJ Simpson retired from an 11-year career in the NFL. If, during the final weeks of his career, you had discussed his “legacy”, the focus would have been on things like “first-ballot Hall of Fame RB” and “2000-yard season” and “five time first Team All-Pro” and “in the conversation with Jim Brown as the best RB ever”. That was then. In 2017, with the perspective of history, is that OJ Simpson’s legacy?
- In 1986, Pete Rose retired from a 24-year career in MLB. If during the final weeks of his career, you had discussed his “legacy” the focus would have been on things like “all-time leader in base hits with 4,256” and “sure-fire first ballot Hall of Fame” and “played the game the right way” and “Charlie Hustle”. That was then. In 2017, with the perspective of history, is that Pete Rose’s legacy?
Having dismissed these “legacy debates” as frivolous at best, let me try to answer briefly the two sorts of questions that dominated a lot of yesterday’s air-time:
- Getting swept in the Finals by an opponent cannot possibly be a positive entry on any player’s résumé. At the same time, a career is much more than a single 4-game series.
- I doubt that the 2017 Golden State Warriors could possibly have beaten – let alone dominated – the original Dream Team.
Finally, here is an item from Norman Chad’s syndicated column, The Couch Slouch. It is one of a list of “facts, tired and true, about the widening world of sports television”:
“Best thing about having kidney stones? It takes your mind off Stephen A. Smith.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………