Barbaro would have turned four this Sunday (April 29), and his fan Sharon Crumb has organized a celebration of his life at Delaware Park, site of the colt’s maiden win in October 2005. I think that’s a nice idea, and she’ll have plenty of company; apparently over 500 FOBs (Friends of Barbaro) have committed to showing up. Some things do give me pause though:
“I can’t let Barbaro go,” a choked-up Crumb said. “I won’t let Barbaro go.”
I don’t doubt for a moment that Ms. Crumb’s distress is very real, and that the death of an animal she may never have seen in person has hit her hard. I do have to ask why, however. We all grieved when his valiant fight was for naught, taking comfort in the fact that his medical saga will benefit future injured horses. Refusing to “let him go” smacks of deeper problems, or at the very least a good ol’ fashioned dramabomb. On Sunday, NBC will be airing a one-hour documentary called Barbaro: America’s Horse (not to be confused with the HBO documentary in the works). The compulsion to mark anniversaries this way is a perfect expression of what Pat Forde refers to as “drama-addicted America”.
Five months ago I wrote:
If you are still moved by Barbaro, if you really love horses, don’t send him a card. Don’t make another video pastiche for YouTube. Do something for all the other horses who don’t have the world on their side…If you really love horses, and not just because it’s cool to be sentimental over Barbaro, do something meaningful for all the horses who serve us, and suffer in silence, yet still trust humans to do the right thing. They deserve it just as much as any Kentucky Derby winner.
I still stand by what I said. If you were and are genuinely moved by Barbaro, and love horses, then for God’s sake dry your eyes, pick up a shovel, grab your wallet and get moving. He’s dead and we can do no more for him. We can remember him, yes, but if he is to live up to his fans’ claims of greatness then those fans should be working on leaving him a more tangible legacy than a heap of tear-stained tissues on the grounds of Delaware Park.
Update: Oh, all right. Here’s a slightly more sympathetic take from ESPN, The Church of Barbaro.