A Horse is a Horse is a Horse, Of Course

Cue the twinkling piano, usher in Jim Nantz's hushed, reverent tones and get PETA on speed dial, because I'm about to beat a dead horse. While Sammy Sosa and Mike Singletary are coming to town, Barbaro is gone.

The tributes, of course, are pouring in. During the eight months the Kentucky Derby winner battled a broken leg, fans sent him get-well cards, baskets of apples, even Christmas stockings. And, in the wake of his death, bushels of flowers, a scholarship and this story comparing the animal to sports legends Ali, Ruth and Jordan. How touching. How effin' ridiculous.

Barbarella or Barbarino maybe, but Barbaro?!

As a kid I had a horse named Spook, and currently two dogs regularly sleep at the foot of my bed, but, come on, people. You'd think we'd lost a president, or at least a human being. Should we fly the flags at half staff for another 30 days? Should we cancel the Super Bowl? Or at least make the Colts -- it is a touching coincidence, no? -- wear mourning-black decals on their helmets in XLI?

I'm not saying it isn't sad. I'm saying it's sensationalized.

Barbaro was a really fast horse, proven when he smoked the field at Churchill Downs. But, face it, he broke his leg before he raced to immortality -- not unlike Bo Jackson, who was on his way to being America's greatest athlete when he shattered his hip. Staying healthy is part of becoming a legend, right, Cal Ripken?

Hey, shit happens. In fact, it happens every day, on our Dallas streets and in an ugly arena called Iraq. But while the deaths of American soldiers are diminished to dot-dot-dot items alongside more forecasts for a wintry mix, credit card abuse scandals and pothole woes, we canonize Barbaro as, according to Jeremy Schaap on ESPN this morning, "a horse who did so much for so many."

Other than the millions he made for his owners, who, exactly, did he do so much for? Sorry, but on the all-time rankings Barbaro is well behind influential horses such as Fury, Mr. Ed and Silver. More than capturing America's imagination, I'm afraid Barbaro was yet another example how the manipulative media can not only break but make headlines. We were fed almost daily updates to the horse's condition, preventing news' natural flow of "out of sight, out of mind" -- like, oh, I dunno, the once-monumental NHL gambling scandal?

Honestly, I hope Barbaro finds a green pasture in horsey heaven. But considering how he was placed in a comfortable sling each night, fed grass hand-picked by human volunteers, afforded round-the-clock treatment from high-tech vets and showered with love, gifts and attention, it's hard to imagine he's in a better place. --Richie Whitt

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky