On Saturday I had about 75 people over for a party, and since it was Kentucky Derby Day, we ran a pool. About half the party got in on it, and at 6:03pm we had 30 people wedged into my den, gearing up for the fastest 2 minutes in sports.
29 of these people don't think much about horse racing the other 364 days, 23 hours, and 58 minutes of the year. The 30th is a casual fan at best. But this didn't stop any of us from being an expert for the day. The room filled with talk of changing odds, a filly in the field, the importance of post position, and the proper way to make a mint julep. The names of past champions were bandied about. There was talk of quarters and quinellas, maidens and mudders.
And I thought to myself, I'm going to blog about this. I'm going to blog about how people suddenly get deeply engaged in something that, deep down inside, they really don't give a pit about.
But alas, before I wrote that, I read this:
"Two days before they begin, if the eight best 100-meter butterfliers in the world were competing in your BATHTUB, as a sportswriter you would be be like, “Hey, listen, I’m going downstairs to watch the third round of the Chrysler Classic, but can you guys clean up in there after you finish? You guys always leave such a huge mess. Water everywhere.”
But then the Olympics begin, and without any warning the 100-meter butterfly is your whole life. I’m serious. Your whole life. You know all about all the swimmers. You know that this guy is a side breather like Melvin Stewart (my old pal) and this guy started swimming obsessively when he was 7 because his father got sick, and this guy is dedicating his swimming victories to the rebel forces in whatever country he happens to be from, and this guy learned to swim fast by practicing in crocodile-infested waters. You know the history. You know who has won the 100 meter butterfly each of the last 12 Olympics, and you know who has a chance to break the World Record, and you know if the American is supposed to win or not.
But, no, it’s more than that because, see, it isn’t just like you can go and cover the 100-meter butterfly, no, no, no, you need a special TICKET to go to the event, something beyond the regular Olympic credential you have, because every sportswriter from every country in the world wants to cover this 100-meter butterfly, and the Olympic Committees are only giving out a limited number of these tickets — what I’m saying is that these tickets to see the 100-meter butterfly, tickets that a few days before would not be worth the cardboard, are now GOLD, man, they now have a sportswriter street value of roughly 3.9 billion dollars, you are willing to bribe Olympics officials to get these tickets, you are willing to call in political favors to get these tickets, you are willing to hire people to open up Wonka Bars to get these tickets, because you HAVE to cover the 100-meter butterly, I mean, you came across giant seas, to get here and you’re staying in a dorm room that is closing in around you like the garbage compactor in “Star Wars,” and your shower sprays scalding water in all directions, and you’re sleeping three hours a night on a bed roughly the size of a ham sandwich with the crusts cut off, and you’re never precisely sure what time it is at home, and you’re never precisely sure what you’re eating, and you’re constantly surrounded and bumped by swarms of desperate sportswriters who haven’t bathed in weeks because their showers also spew scalding water — and you know that the reason you’re doing all this is because THIS 100 METER BUTTERFLY IS THE MOST IMPORTANT FREAKING SPORTING EVENT THAT HAS EVER TAKEN PLACE IN THE WHOLE LONG HISTORY OF THIS PLANET."
That is very similar to what I was thinking about writing...but much better. It's written by Joe Posnanski on what is arguably the best baseball blog* out there. Check it out. Here's the link...
* oh yeah...this whole bit is a parenthetical aside in a post about a catch he saw Felix Pie make at the Cubs-Reds game the other night...