Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Peace Out, Barbaro

Well, Barbaro's dead. Didn't see that one coming.

That wasn't sarcastic; I genuinely had no idea they were even discussing euthanizing him. That horse was getting better medical treatment than hundreds of retired NFL players and the media was irrationally obsessed with bringing the nation all the irrelevant minutia of the horse's progress and setbacks. I actively tried not to make myself aware of anything Barbaro-related and even I knew about laminitis and all those screws in his leg (29, I think) and the thousands of people with nothing better to do than make crappy cardboard signs and hang them on Barbaro's fence.

(Let's be honest: those signs sucked. I mean, if you are gonna hang a sign wishing the horse well, don't hand in some half-ass effort that looked like you did it in the car ride over. At least get a stencil or something. You want the horse to live, and yet you can't be bothered to stay inside the lines? Nice.)

I wasn't hoping the horse would die - really, I didn't care either way - but I'm glad he's going to the glue factory in the sky (actually, that makes no sense; he's going to the glue factory here on earth) just so I don't have to here any more breathless updates on Sports Center (Honestly: how the hell wasn't Pedro Gomez assigned to this beat? What lottery did he win?) or see headlines on SI. I'd rather hear about Brett Favre's retirement plans or about Barry Bonds' contract negotiations. The horse was like highlights of split-squad exhibition baseball games during Sports Center. It isn't even a real game, and only half the team is there. Can we move on now? I wouldn't be moved in the slightest if those games got the ax, and I'm equally reactionless that Barbaro is sleeping with the fishes. (Incidentally, how do they kill a horse? A huge needle? An electric stable? Cut his head off, Godfather-style? I wouldn't mind knowing this.)

The amount of time and energy devoted to this animal drove me nuts. I think it was like seeing Peyton Manning in all those commercials: he didn't really do anything to me personally, but I don't really care, and I would like you to go away. Now. (Actually, that analogy doesn't work either because I have totally lol'ed at every commercial Peyton has been in. But you get the point.)

The whole thing baffles me. I really don't get it. If someone can explain to me how this horse can galvanize a nation and move seemingly normal people to tears, I would love to hear it. I mean, it's a horse, correct? It doesn't have a personality, he never connected on an emotional level with anyone, no one can relate to its plight...really, what is the appeal? If anything, wouldn't the inordinate amount of time and effort being given to a horse piss of the average citizen? It's not lke there's a shortage of horrific things involving actual human beings - New Orleans is still in tatters, thousands of soldiers are dying overseas - but a horse is worthy of tears and vigils? Why?

I guess I can see the level of sadness and grief from those who where around the horse, the trainers, owners, grass pickers - I guess - but the people who have never met him, who saw him once on TV or maybe twice at the race track, how did they become this emotionally attached?

I think it is fair to say that if the jockey riding Barbaro was thrown from the horse, was stampeded by the rest of the horses and was on life support for a few months before finally reaching stable condition, he wouldn't have received nearly this much attention. There certainly would not have been a wall covered in posters wishing him a speedy recovery or a message board set up where endless amounts of people would wish him well, that's for damn sure.

Admittedly, I don't really understand people wailing and sobbing when famous humans die, either, so maybe I just don't get the whole concept. Like all those Americans who were so saddened when Princess Di died...it was tragic and awful, but you never knew her or anything and she never really did anything for you. Why the tears? But at least that's a human; I'm not going to criticize anyone for crying over the loss of a human life, regardless of their connection to it. At least that's a person.

I understand crying over the death of a pet, too. Hey, it lived with you for years. Tears are legit. But would you cry if your neighbor's dog died? Would you even be sad? Maybe for your neighbor - and only if you really liked your neighbor - but would it really tear you up that the dog was gone? I'm doubting it, and this was a dog you saw running through the neighborhood all the time. A lot of these people never even saw Barbaro in person!

The other thing that confused the hell out of me was that Barbaro died without passing on his, ah....seed. Wasn't that the entire point of keeping him alive? I thought the owners wanted him alive so they could make millions of his sperm. This makes it seem like they just wanted him alive because they liked him. I always thought those insane Barbaro supporters were missing the boat here; the horse was being kept alive solely so the owners could profit from him later down the line, but I guess I was wrong. Learn something new every day, I guess.

Either way, he's dead and the updates are finally over with (Jeremy Schapp had a touching piece on him; I'm sure he was thrilled with that assignment). My Sport Center viewing just became a little bit more pleasurable and I enjoy reading headlines just a little bit more now. If my convenience requires a horse being put to sleep, so be it.

Read the Rest After the Jump...