A horse is a horse but a man is an ass.
Shortly after the gallant filly Eight Belles was euthanized on the track of the Kentucky Derby yesterday, former UT Longhorn running back Cedric Benson was pepper sprayed by a Texas Parks and Wildlife officer and dragged from his boat in an inebriated state. He was booked for resisting arrest. The drunk and abusive Mr. Benson had been skippering his boat with 14 other people on board when he was “pulled over” and refused to cooperate in a sobriety test or to leave his boat to go ashore.
Now I will not go so far as to say that Mr. Benson should have been euthanized on the deck of his ship “The Drunken Longhorn” but frankly, I was in such a state on Saturday night, that it would not have upset me too much if he had been. Let’s put it this way. Eight Belles lead a blameless life. She was forced to do what she did for a living and was not given a penny for her troubles. She LITERALLY ran herself to death for the viewing pleasure of 157,000 people in Lexington yesterday, a good percentage of whom even managed to make money off of her second place finish in the most important of American horse races. Benson, on the other hand was drafted out of college by the Chicago Bears. At the University of Texas he had distinguished himself by forcing his way into an apartment looking for a stolen T.V.. Drug and alcohol charges against him were dropped. This scholar was then paid tens of millions of dollars by the Chicago Bears to go up north and become a complete bust as a professional football player. Of the two, I’d miss Eight Belles a hell of a lot more than I’d miss Cedric Benson. Most of his teammate on the Bears would probably miss Eight Belles more than they would miss Commodore Cedric and his 3.4 rushing average. But then neither the Bears not myself was given a choice so we will never know. Just as we will never know if Eight Belles would have skipped this whole horseracing thing if she had been given the choice.
The horse that beat Eight Belles yesterday is an amazing colt named Big Brown. He was trained by another genuine American Sports hero named Rick Dutrow, Jr. Dutrow is being lionized for overcoming his drug addiction problems but little is said about his many suspensions from the sport including one for ,ahem, “ medication violations”. Did anyone make Big Brown pee into a cup ? Dutrow, who was reduced at one point to living in a barn with three horses and a microwave, is also one of the more notorious bettors among the racing crowd. He claimed that he was “all in” on Big Brown on Saturday and that the bet had been made through “friends” who he knew could be counted on to pay off right away, but give him extra time to pay if he lost. Well that’s exactly the kind of friends I’d like to have. I guess that you have to be a trainer of a world class horse to have friends like that.
The fact that these magnificent horses are forced to get mixed up with these sleaze bags is really more than I can take. I love horse racing. I love to spend time at the track, but I wonder how much of that I should really be doing if all I’m doing is paying the salaries of those hoodlums and bums who run the sport. I guess I should stick to baseball. In 1989 I paid $50 to see Roger Clemens pitch against Nolan Ryan. As good a game as I ever saw. Who knew that Roger was running around at the time with a 15 years old Country Western Starlet ? It’s enough to make you sick. At least Eight Belles does not have to put up with all of it anymore. She is off to where the grass is always green, and you only run when you feel like it. I’m left here with Cedric and Rick and Roger. As Socrates said to Plato on his death bed “which of us has the better way, only God knows.”