We are two days away from the Belmont Stakes and the possibility of a Triple Crown winner in the form of a 3-year-old colt aptly named I'll Have Another. But will we get another? After all, there have only been 11 Triple Crown winners ever, and none since Affirmed became the third one in five years back in 1978.
We just might get the ultimate trifecta this year, but the Belmont is far different from any horse race, especially for a 3-year-old. Sure it's about distance. The mile and 1/2 distance is rarely run any more and certainly hasn't been run by such young horses at any point in their careers up until now. It's about timing too. The massive oval that is Belmont is unlike any other track in the country. It's all a big mystery with a bouquet of new variables that is all part of the mystery and anticipation.
When Affirmed completed his magnificent run with the courageous Alydar, the year was 1978. 34 years down the road, on the verge on what quite possibly be the last Triple Crown winner I'll ever see, I was wondering who we were back then and who we are today.
A quick review shows some remarkable differences that offer another perspective on just how long it's been. In 1978, we were in the thick of the Disco era. But we weren't just dancing our way through days filled with gasoline at 63 cents a gallon. Affirmed was sharing the headlines with serial killers like The Son of Sam, and cult leaders like Jim Jones, whose People's Temple Kool-Aid suicides were six months away. While Affirmed was adding his name to the record books, people were buying houses at an average cost of just under $55,000. We were trying to find a use for the Susan B. Anthony dollar and complaining about the rising cost of rent which averaged about $260.00 a month.
Yup, it's been a while.
But we are not just these facts and figures. We've evolved in other ways that are not easily measured. In 1978 we were not using personal computers, so everything from banking to telephones was rather simple. We had no social networking, so we rarely counted our friends and still wrote letters on occasion. Music was on vinyl, and there were still 3 major TV networks in most households. No, I wouldn't go back, I've no desire for any version of the good old days, because that's not going to happen.
Still, I'd like to think that a horse like I'll Have Another could reprise a little of Seabiscuit's magic for an ailing nation. Our economy continues to be gravely wounded, people continued to become de-sensitized to the violence in techno-wars and techno-action movies. Half of us didn't read a book last year and half of those that did read an electronic version, no doubt.
So what's the verdict? Any predictions? The only thing I'll say, is the horse will run his race, of that I have no doubt. If he wins, we get to see life from the top of the mountain for a year. I'd like to think it might have some sort of civilizing, (as in acting civil) on our culture in this election year. It's all a little too much to ask of a 3-year-old colt. There is a lot riding on him in a couple of days.