Friday, May 14, 2004

Smarty Pants | Horse racing for me is a third-tier sport, below even golf and tennis in the activities I'll stop to watch when I'm channel-surfing. So my middling interest in this weekend's Preakness Stakes can be attributed entirely to the presence of the favorite, Kentucky Derby winner Smarty Jones.

Smarty, of course, is a Philadelphia horse, a fact that the local media overload has rendered as omnipresent as the atmosphere. Bill Lyon actually leads his column today with several paragraphs Smarty's ass -- no, really. I'm expecting a 6,000-word profile any day now of the guy who forged his horseshoes. Of course, this being Philadelphia, we can't be content with merely having a winner -- we have to build a backstory that screams "Underdog!" as loudly as possible. You know, Smarty being all but poured into an Elmer's bottle before being rescued; training, Rocky-style, in a low-tech, hardscrabble environment; being ridden by a recovering-alcoholic jockey; and so on and so forth. It's a nice story, but the notion that our heroes have to get by on will and heart instead of talent plays perfectly into the region's inferiority complex. It's yet another reflection of a pathetic mental state that way, way, way too often keeps us from thinking about, and accomplishing, big things.

Like, oh, I don't know, putting a sparkling diamond of a stadium in a cool downtown spot instead of surrounding it with countless acres of South Philly asphalt... .


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