On Saturday, June 7, the sport of horse racing took center stage as California Chrome attempted to win The Belmont, the third jewel of The Triple Crown. Horse racing has been waiting 36 years since Affirmed won the last Triple Crown in 1978. There have only been 11 Triple Crown winners in the storied history of this event and the sports world was energized with the possibility of California Chrome becoming number 12. However, he fell short, finishing tied for fourth place. Many sports experts have stated that winning the Triple Crown is the most difficult thing to do in sports. Three year old horses will run 3 races in 5 weeks, with The Belmont, being the longest at one and a half miles in length. Most horses don’t run three races in three months. It takes tremendous talent, bloodlines, an expert trainer and a skilled jockey to all play a role in the possibility of achieving this elusive goal. As I have mentioned numerous times in my newsletters, my great uncle, Hirsch Jacobs, is in horse racing’s Hall of Fame and was the winningest trainer in horse racing history when he died in 1970. He won 3,596 races, but never won a Triple Crown race. His daughter, Patrice Wolfson with her late husband, Louis Wolfson, owned Affirmed. I was lucky enough to see Affirmed race 7 times and grew to appreciate how fortunate I have been to have seen such a tremendous horse compete in person.
Immediately after The Belmont, California Chrome co-owner, Steve Coburn was interviewed by NBC Sports. Obviously, he was terribly disappointed. The media had been focusing on Coburn and his co-owner Perry Martin as the nation was captivated by the story of two “normal guys” who got lucky enough to have a horse with no great bloodline history to win the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. Coburn appeared to enjoy the media attention and was not afraid to speak his mind, while Martin stayed in the background. Coburn erupted in the interview, pointing his finger at the camera, stating that it wasn’t fair that all of the horses racing in The Triple Crown races weren’t required to run in all three. He claimed, “This is the cowards way out”. He vehemently complained about how The Triple Crown racing system is not fair. The next day, after having time to calm down, Coburn was once again interviewed and repeated his rant. It wasn’t until this morning that a tearful Coburn apologized on “Good Morning America” for his rant. Obviously, someone with some common sense got to him before he destroyed everything that was so wonderful about this story.
So what do we learn from this? After watching the interview after the race, I felt this was one of the poorest displays of sportsmanship I have ever seen. A lot of people were extremely disappointed that California Chrome didn’t win, but as I’ve stated many times,
“Sports is the greatest theatre in the world, everyone knows their part, but no one knows what will happen”. Coburn’s behavior reminded me of a 10 year old who just lost a big game, not of a 61 year old man. Coburn knew the Triple Crown rules before his horse ran in any of the races. Would he have acted the same had his horse won? Of course not. Numerous times I have discussed that we do not spend enough time teaching kids how to lose and how to fail. We spend too much time talking about winning and success and the excitement associated with coming out on top. Losing/failure are the greatest teaching tools we have in sports, as well as in life. However, failure happens and is inevitable at some point in sports. Learning how to react when you lose, what to say and how to respond to other’s is probably more important than yelling “We are number one”. It took Coburn almost two days to apologize for his rant in a tearful interview. If he had been prepared to deal with his emotions better, had his horse lost, this issue would have never occurred. There was a proper time and place to discuss his concerns about the Triple Crown rules, but it wasn’t immediately after his horse lost. He will now have a reputation as a “sore loser”. I learned years ago, “Be humble in victory, and gracious in defeat”.
As always your thoughts…