Sunday, March 14, 2010

Feet of Clay

The time comes, in nearly any relationship, where we find out that our heroes have feet of clay, or even hooves of clay. The day dawned when my beloved Joe Montana couldn't engineer the 2-minute-warning miracle comeback that all 49er fans had come to count on. There was also a time when the mighty number 16 was felled by a low-blow by the Minnesota Vikings Joey Browner. (Yes, I can hold a grudge that long...) And there's the moment where you realize, as a Minnesota Twins fan that there's no longer a fit and healthy Kirby Puckett to pluck fly balls from the hefty-bag outfield of the Metrodome.

Or, in a completely different arena, consider the many Sophomore efforts of our favorite novelists and how often they fall far short of the ability promised in their first books. Even the second seasons of some of my favorite television programs fall short of their blockbuster first episodes.

It happens. Winner lose, losers win, and the great ones find a way to come back. And therein, I think, is the key. The getting up after the falling down. And our respect for their accomplishments is maybe made even greater than before we saw them struggle.

I'll fully admit that I probably cried during an NFC championship game where the 49ers lost (hey, I was a little girl, it hurt!!) and I know I've set down a book in disgust when I thought an author took the easy way out or didn't live up to MY expectations. While that's unfair, it's the way of the world. We all have expectations, and when it comes to our heroes they are often lofty and sometimes even unreasonable. But that's the rub of being the hero, sometimes you disappoint your followers. And the fickle ones will leave you as soon as they find someone or something else to idolize. The ones who are really in your corner, though, they will accept your defeat (or fall from grace, or disappointment) as part of the package.

All this to say that I'd be less than honest if I said I wasn't disappointed with the result of yesterday's New Orleans Ladies Race at the Fair Grounds. I love both Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta, not equally, maybe, but like Champagne and a good glass of red wine. I'll always choose the Champagne (Veuve Clicquot, please) over the red wine, but I enjoy both a great deal. And yes, in this flawed analogy, Rachel is Veuve Clicquot. (Zenyatta fans I am NOT knocking the undefeated Queen Z...just saying in my little Paper Tyger world, RA is my bubbly.)

I'm in no position to comment on the decisions of the owners and connections of either horse, I don't know any of them at all and can only hope that both are indeed doing what is in the best interest of their horses. And honestly, most days horses make a lot more sense to me than most people do, but I digress. Clearly there are a lot of folks who have animosity toward either the Mosses and Zenyatta or the Jacksons and Rachel Alexandra, which I think is unfortunate. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, though, and heaven knows I have mine, little grudges included. And I think rivalries make for more interesting comment and contests. My Red Sox loving heart would not beat quite so fast in September if it weren't for the Sox-Yanks's the best part of the season!

So now that we know Rachel has feet of clay, like most of heroes do...what next? For me? I continue to love a horse who made 2009 a really great equine year for me. I don't get to the races as often as I'd like so my trips to Belmont to see Rachel in the Mother Goose and to Saratoga for the Woodward were HUGE events in my personal racing scrapbook. Nothing and no one will ever diminish those days in my mind. Rachel could have a spotty career from here on out and it wouldn't matter. Will I be disappointed when she loses? Yes, of course I will. We wish success for the teams, horses, people we love, it's human nature. But Rachel gave me SO much more than I could ever have hoped for last year with her courageous campaign that I'm prepared to accept the lows as well as the highs. Her defeat yesterday does nothing to diminish my respect for her truly amazing athletic efforts.

I'll likely shake my head and wonder at some of the decisions that come on the heels of her defeat yesterday, but that's part of being a fan. I do the same thing when my Canadiens start Price over Halak in a clutch game for seemingly no reason.

My hope is that the Jacksons do what is best for Rachel Alexandra, period. Not what is best for them, or we the fans, what is best for the horse. I'm really selfish, I want to see her run again so I can feel those same thrills I felt time and again in 2009.