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I left my house at around 2:30 and began the significantly long 45 minute trek to Belmont Park. Sweat poured down my brow due to an unrelenting 92 degree day plus humidity. My mother had a seminar to attend in Queens, so I had no means of transportation other then putting one good leg in front of the other.
As I walked with my pores opening up like a hole created by Lorenzo Neal, I pondered over how much humidity sucks and how badly I wanted a cold front. I’m talking about a cold front that would have made the Packers/Giants NFC Championship Game look like nonsense. But every lingering thought came to the same conclusion: This would all be worth it if Big Brown closes the deal. Humidity would become a blessing and as for the cold front….well it would have to wait till December. I got to the park at around 3:15 to 3:20 but had to wait for my friend from my youth group as he was late because he had to pick up another guy from the group who wanted to go. 3:45….4:00 … 4:15…4:30. After an hour and 10 minute wait, three voicemail messages and several Lou Pinella-like paces back and forth, I finally get a response. Apparently the guy had showered, dressed and was ready to go, but backed out of the last minute because he couldn’t handle big crowds. Everything in me instructed me to summon my inner Ozzie Guillen, but instead I summoned my inner Tony Dungy, assumed the guy was claustrophobic and left it alone. As usual, I ended this decision with:
If Big Brown closes the deal, it will be all worth it.
At around ten minutes to 5:00, he arrived and we quickly paid to stand at the grandstand and hopefully witness history. The atmosphere and vibe was amazing and I wouldn’t have been surprised if I were picked out by many of the regulars immediately as a first-timer. My friend and I got in where we fit in and was in the middle of a huge crowd with barely any standing room in the grandstand. I immediately thought of the friend who had changed his mind due to his animosity towards crowds. A blessing in disguise, indeed. There was a middle-aged man behind us who clearly had a few too many and would later sing the worst rendition of “New York, New York” in the history of mankind. If you think the rendition of “Take me out to the Ball Game” by the Chicago Blackhawks legends a week or so ago was bad, then consider yourself blessed you didn’t have to hear this glass-breaking crap. A bunch of us had no choice but to override his version with ours. While we weren’t at the level of Mariah Carey, it wasn’t too bad either.
Then I spoke to this guy who told me a story about he had hung out with former St John’s coach Mike Jarvis at last year’s Belmont Stakes and how for some reason he was more psyched for last year’s event than this one today. A look of bewilderment appeared on my face, but I was not about to argue with a regular. We were able to make it in time for the final race before the Belmont Stakes and it wound up being a photo finish with a horse by the name of DancingForever edging out a horse named Out of Control. It was an exciting race that made me appreciate the sport even more. And then came the granddaddy of them all. A Big Brown sighting on the screen across from us got a rousing ovation. “Let’s go Big Brownie!!!” “Let’s go Big Breezie!!” The race started and Big Brown was lingering around third place. The universal belief among the assembled was that Big Brown was biding his time and waiting for the right moment, but many also said that he was riding very hard for a horse waiting to make his moment. All of a sudden, shouts and screams turned to utter shock and bewilderment. Shouts of “Come On! COME ON!!” turned on to “He’s Fading, He’s Fading!!” All of a sudden, Big Brown’s number on the leaderboard disappeared like David Copperfield. When the race finished, a small roar erupted from the Da Tara group below us. You could hear a pin drop in our group. Just imagine bubbles over all our heads with big question marks. There was this voluptuous girl with a nice dress and a top hat that squealed because she bet on the two horses that finished first and 2nd.
So I didn’t get to witness sports history, but I definitely was introduced to horse racing in a new form and horse racing in a new light. Based on the conversations around me, I can definitely see why there are those who practically live on the racetrack and have such a passion for this sport. Now we will see the aftermath of what was really up with Big Brown and what led to this disappointing finish. Perhaps there won’t be another Triple Crown winner in our lifetime. But there is definitely passion with this sport.
I will be definitely taking more 40 minute walks to Belmont Park.