It was a snap heard ‘round the world – the night U of L player Kevin Ware’s tibia burst through flesh and sinew in the court battle for the Elite Eight win over Duke.
We all felt it, those who saw it couldn’t look away. It was a lesson in anatomy and odds, a perfect storm that had to occur between body, bone and impact.
How could this happen? There was nowhere else for a thin bone to go but out.
And though the bone was shattered, the dream was not. As surgeons were binding Ware’s leg, the nation pulled together in an empathetic sweep that stunned even those who couldn’t care less about the Final Four.
These young athletes – with legs longer than most of us are tall – sprint, dodge, and often become airborne. Maybe it’s a bone like the tibia that links human athletes to our equine superstars. Like ... fillies.
With compound fractures in both front legs, the filly stumbled into death after finishing second in the 134th Run for the Roses.
Sorry to cast such darkness over a time when our city is spread before the eyes of the nation. My traditional and cultural side enjoys the first Saturday in May, as flowers, hats, bosoms and bourbon flow throughout the Commonwealth. I’m not really a track person any other time of the year – kind of like basketball, I’m not into it until the big playoffs.
At the core of this uneasy feeling is the health and welfare of our beautiful animals, the horses that so many hopes and so much money is riding on. All on those fragile legs.
Washington Post sportswriter Sally Jenkins wrote of Eight Belles, “She ran with the heart of a locomotive, on champagne-glass ankles.” Citing the racing industry, Jenkins claimed, “Thoroughbred racing is in a moral crisis, and everyone now knows it.”
True, the sheer expense and dedication to the breeding and upkeep of these animals borders on celebrity status and is an income generator. But those who don’t make the cut are part of another story.
How this 1986 Kentucky Derby winner was shuffled through auctions, sold to Japan for breeding, and ultimately slaughtered – in the name of either pet food or meat for human consumption – should be a humiliating nightmare for our country.
Thankfully, the annual Ferdinand’s Ball raises funds and awareness for Old Friends, a thoroughbred retirement facility in Georgetown, Ky., begun by former Boston Globe film critic Michael Blowen in 2003 after hearing the news of Ferdinand’s demise.
Kevin Ware was a sports hero before and after his injury. The camaraderie of his team was the story, with images that brought tears. And the waterworks will flow this year as I sing “My Old Kentucky Home.” I cry every time – all those toothy ladies in hats, half-naked people in the infield, dandies in their seersucker, and muddied jockeys will blur beneath my tears until the gates fly open.
This lady does not want to weep anymore, mourning the destruction of another horse. I don’t want to see that damned tent driven onto the track, while everyone fumbles with their racing forms and downs their drinks, looking away, anywhere but the track.
Mud clots fly beneath a field of super-powered thoroughbreds. Sneakers squeak on shining hardwood courts. For humans, the risk is fresh and ready to be taken to victory. For horses, there is no choice.
LOOKING FOR MACK? Due to space limitations, Mack Dryden’s column, “Dryden, Ink.,” normally seen in this spot, will return next month. In the meantime, you can find him at www.mackdryden.com.