Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Does Secretariat Translate to the Millenium Crowd?

"He's moving like a tremendous machine!" went the most famous horse call in Triple Crown history.  I was just a toddler myself when Secretariat dominated the Triple Crown season in 1973.  My memories of the Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont that year are instead from the numerous videos on YouTube.  Just Chic Anderson's calls on grainy color TV footage - that's all any of us really have now of Secretariat.  But after Secretariat - the movie - starring Diane Lane as reluctant owner, Penny Chenery, came out, I thought it would be another opportunity to force my children to enjoy some of the same pursuits that I do.  Of course, life got in the way and we had to wait a year after it came out to watch on TV, but this isn't a Michael Bay movie, HDTV is just as good as the big screen.

Many of us know the story of how Chenery, a housewife in the Midwest, took over her Father's stable in 1969 just to find a couple of decent horses and millions of dollars of debt.  As a result of a lost coin flip with one of the richest men in the country, Chenery was relegated to taking the Bold Ruler foal from the mare Somethingroyal.  It turned out to be an auspiciously failed coin flip as the foal turned in numerous victories during his two year old season and "Big Red," as he was known, ended up winning the Triple Crown, setting records that still stand in the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes.  The movie, also starring John Malkovich, details not only the horse and his travel toward immortality, but also Chenery as stubborn owner who fought resistance from her family, the old boys club that was horse racing and herself and her own misgivings.

8pm.  Tonight was a combination of family members watching the movie.  It is 2 hours after all.  We started with LC, DLG and me watching with G close by playing the Wii.  Once in a while he would stick his head over making sure we were still here and taking a peek at the movie.  Questions like, "Why is the horse red" and "When will the movie be over?" crossed his lips.  I tried to ignore those questions and focused him on how cool it was to see history being made.  He's a little bit of a front runner too so I thought explaining how Secretariat dominated the other horses that year would get him excited.  Instead he just stared at me blankly thinking of the next question he would ask us.  Oh well.

In the next moment, I looked over at DLG to find her sleeping next to me on the couch.  Seriously, the one night I don't want you to go to bed and you fall asleep!  Alright, we'll try this again some other night.

9pm. Three days later.  This time DLG was in bed.  She must be having a growth spurt or something.  C and G come in at the end of the movie when Secretariat begins to win the Triple Crown races.  Then the questions start as the boys get interested in the movie.

"Why do they call him Big Red when his name is Secretariat?"  One is the jockey club name, one is his pet name.

"Is he going to win this race?" Ah, yes.

"Is Sham's owner the bad guy?"  Yes, to create tension, Sham's owner was portrayed as the bad guy.

And as the races start, we all sit on the edges of our seats as Secretariat's slow beginnings always create nervous energy everywhere, even though we know who wins.  The boys start cheering as Secretariat comes from behind to win the Derby and then the Preakness.  The boys then recognize the Belmont - one of my favorite races - as I've shown them this race before.  Yes that's right.  I've made them watch this race before on YouTube.  And just as Secretariat was disappearing from the field, the boys disappeared from the living room.  One to play basketball and one to do some Summer homework.

We're getting there.

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