Jan 29, 2007

On Racehorses and the Cult of Personality

Left: Barbaro, a horse

I just finished scanning the major televison news stations and news sites on the Internet, and without a doubt the biggest news story today is the death by euthanization of Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro. The horse fractured three bones in and around the ankle of his right hind leg, and lingering infections forced owners Roy and Gretchen Jackson to make the decision to put the animal out of its misery.

As an animal lover, I agree that it is sad to watch a poor creature suffer, and I feel sorry for the owners. I know how difficult it was for me when I had to say goodbye to my faithful Labrador retriever Hershey. We become attached to our animal friends, and their deaths can hit us as hard as our human companions.

But is this story really deserving of the sort of media frenzy we might expect with the death of, say, Mother Theresa? Every news network broke in with a report on this dead horse.

Screen capture of the "breaking news" on CNN

The blogosphere is filled with gushing comments like these from Taylor Marsh: "What a glorious animal. What a fighter. What a winner."

What a load of hooey. Barbaro was a horse bred to run races and make money for its owners. Nothing more, nothing less.

Maybe it's the cynical mood I am in today, but I tend to think that this story should be more like a quick obituary notice. Sure, Barbaro was a prize-winning thoroughbred, but shouldn't a bigger news story be - oh, I dunno - the fighting near the holy city of Najaf that killed hundreds of suspected insurgents?

The best words I have seen written on the topic of Barbaro came from another blogger, Brian at Sports Frog:
Our long national nightmare is over -- Barbaro is no more. Housewives all over America are shedding a tear at the demise of the bravest horse to ever live. Somewhere in heaven, Jesus is riding Barbaro and they're eating carrots together and laughing at Saddam Hussein in hell.
After I get done laughing at Brian's comments, someone please shoot me. My head hurts from all this Barbaro blathering.

Addendum: Be sure to check out Subcomandante Bob's "Barbaro Trifecta" of stories addressing the frenzy over the dead horse: here, here, and here.


Anonymous said...

LMFAO at the Sports Frog snippet!!!!


Anonymous said...

It is sad, he was a beautiful animal; but, he was just an animal.

How much money was spent on this horse in the last few months? How many people could have been helped with what was spent on a horse?

It makes me sick to think about it.

historymike said...

Glad to brighten your day, JD.

historymike said...

Anonymous -

You raise an important point about the money we as Americans spend on animals. It's an odd world when dogs in America get better health care than 75% of the human beings on the planet.

While I love my dogs, there is a limit to what I can justify spending on their health.

I once had an employee who wanted to get a payroll advance for his dog to have heart surgery. The guy needed $900 for the vet to perform the surgery.

Luckily for me, the advance was out of the question, since the guy only made $300-$400 a check (I had a policy of never loaning out more than I was sure to recoup).

But I can't imagine spending that much money on fixing a dog. Heck, I have never spent more than $150 buying a dog.

Anonymous said...

The money spent on Barbaro's hoped-for recovery would have been made many times over had he lived, thanks to stud fees.

Doesn't bother me at all that the death was all over the news. People followed Barbaro's struggles for a long time. The media were merely informing people about something they'd already shown an interest in (clicks on web stories would have given them some measure of the interest, lo, these many weeks). It's not like all other news of the day was overlooked or dumped. It's just that, for a while, this was something that got a lot of attention. And now we will go on to the next story...

Hooda Thunkit said...

He has his final reward being food for someone's pet dog; who could ask for more than that?

Cold, I know...