I will be the first to admit I know nothing about the intricacies of horse racing, except perhaps that Secretariat was the most spectacular horse I have seen. But I do know a considerable amount about the perception of things, particularly in regard to sports (assuming you agree horse racing is a sport). What I know about horse racing is the Kentucky Derby is still one of the dates in the sports calendar that is an important spot on the sports landscape.
And, while the pageantry of the Derby is what stands out, whether it is because of mint juleps, hats or the legends of the infield at Churchill Downs, the sport needs the Kentucky Derby as the first step of the Triple Crown, which make the television ratings go up. Last week, Maximum Security was disqualified, allowing 65-1 longshot Country House to become the second-biggest underdog to win the race, going all the way back to 1913 when Donerail upset the field, paying out $194.90 for a $2 bet.
I have always felt if we had the technology in sports to keep or overturn a call, we should use it, which is what happened in last week’s Kentucky Derby. And don’t forget the horrible non-call in last season’s NFC Championship game. In baseball, a call on a sliding runner should not be made if the umpires are looking to see if a tag was applied, but in the process determine the runner’s foot came off the bag for a split second.
There is something to be said for the spontaneity of the play and the call. The obvious one was the non-perfect game pitched by Detroit’s Armando Galarraga against the Cleveland Indians on June 2, 2010, when umpire Jim Joyce missed a call at first base which would have been the 27th out. Joyce missed the call, but even if they had gone to replay and changed the call, the anticipation by the crowd would have been taken away. Sometimes the missed call becomes part of the play or the legacy of the game.
Maybe that is not a great example, but maybe it would have been better if the Derby stewards would have just looked the other way, or they could have left the call alone, which would be a more memorable outcome than waiting 20 minutes to make the call. Most people would understand that the weather conditions and the slight interference were understandable. The point is, human error has always been a part of sports. I just think there is a time and a place in sports for the letter of the law to be overlooked.
The 2019 Kentucky Derby reminded me of a family story that may be true or may be false. More than 40 years ago, some ladies in my Aunt Sarah’s Hadassah group decided to put up some money on the Derby. My father supposedly told her he could get the bet down for them. One of two things happened. He either put the money in his pocket and forgot to place the bet or he said there was no way that horse could win, so he kept the money. You know what happened. Do I need to tell you the horse won and he had to pay out the money himself? There went the Levine inheritance.