May 20, 2012

Preakness as Metaphor

Yesterday anyone tuning in to NBC during the annual running of the Preakness Stakes horse race, was witness to one of the greatest duels down the home stretch in years.  The race won by I'll Have Another and jockey Mario Gutierrez, serves as a metaphor about personal responsibility and success.


To provide some context for anyone who hasn't seen the race, I'll Have Another, a long shot in the Kentucky Derby, came from behind to track down front runner and race favorite Bodemeister in the home stretch in a stunning but exciting race.  The rider, Gutierrez, a rookie jockey racing in his first Kentucky Derby, never doubted his horse in that race, but he also rode a perfect race putting his horse in the perfect spot to win.  The winning trainer Doug O'Neill also new to such great stakes, was simply following his passion into the sport and enjoying success as a result.  Owner J. Paul Reddam, a Canadian businessman now transplanted to California, and quite successful, got the horse that so many had overlooked as a possible great racer.

Finally, having won the Kentucky Derby, I'll Have Another was still regarded by many as a fluke.  Going into the Preakness, the second jewel in horse racing's Triple Crown, I'll Have Another was still under-regarded and Bodemeister was the favorite in the race.  I'll Have Another was the second choice, yet he has not lost a race this year.  Yet given the horse and the cast of characters surrounding him, it was hard to cheer against him.


The underdog perseveres.  In the current philosophical debate, the Occupy Wall Street  crowd sees what they refer to as the 1% as the enemy.  They see it in an adversarial role and it must be overcome through means provided by government.  But look at I'll Have Another. Not once but twice so far, he has overcome what was perceived to be a much stronger competitor without the help of horse racing's governing body.  He did it with his natural ability and a talented team.  Horse racing is emblematic of the free market.  Talent and good systems rise to the top.  The underdog can win.  If it were not the case, the underdog would not try.  The race would not even be run.  Such is the case in communist systems and largely in socialist systems as well.  The system keeps you in your caste.  You cannot move and therefore you do not try to move.  That ultimately leads to stagnation.

On the other hand, dogged perseverance pays off.  Hard work pays off.  That does not come from someone else, it comes from inside.  You simply cannot excel because someone else fails or is punished or because some governmental agency orders you to excel.  You can only succeed because you want to succeed and you try hard to succeed. Success is relative, but not to the success of others, but to your own personal best.

Another thing - horse racing has winners but horse racing is not a zero sum game.  There is money for finishing second, or third or even further down the list.  I'll Have Another did not win the entire race purse - the 1% do not get every morsel of America's GDP.  Certainly the winner gets the lion's share of the prize, but competitors are not shut out of everything.  If such is the case there would be only Coke or Pepsi. , not both There would only be Ford, no GM.  There would only be Verizon.  Competition is not a zero sum game.  Yes, there are people who get nothing, but most get something.  There's more too than just prize money.  There's prestige. There's the tangible benefit of competition spurring you to be better yourself.  There's always another chance too.  And for those who finish dead last in the race, there's always show jumping, or riding farm opportunities.  The 'losers' are not taken outside and shot.  That does happen under dictatorships like Germany's Nazi party (socialists I might remind you), and communist regimes.  In capitalist societies, the ineffective are ultimately re-purposed and the real beauty is that it is done in a self-directed way.  In horse racing, the losing horses are not banned from racing, and the winners by the way, also aren't banned from winning thank God.

Self-reliance and perseverance can lead to success.  They will do so only when people (or horses) are allowed the freedom to pursue their goals without an unfair alteration of the rules that dictates that those who do well must do so with a debilitating disadvantage.  I know what you are thinking, horses are given allowances and slower horses are allowed to carry less weight in their races.  How is that different from the rich paying 90% more tax?  There's a difference between leveling the playing field for bettors and taxation.  Weight allowances have no equivalent in real life.  Nor should they.  Besides, what the progressive agenda intends is not a weight allowance, but rather a quarter mile penalty applied to the winner after the race is run.  There's no coming back from that sort of imposition.

I've got one more consideration for you.  Now that I'll Have Another has won two of three races, should he be allowed to compete in the Belmont Stakes and win the Triple Crown?  Or is that unfair to the other horses?  Has he been too successful to be allowed to continue to compete?  That sounds ridiculous but that is the approach the Occupy Wall Street would apply to the successful in America with punitively high taxation.

In a brief two minute race, there is excitement and a lot of emotion that happens.  One of the things that happens is a metaphor for life, that unless you stop and put some thought into it, the lesson will escape you and the opportunity to learn it is lost.  The lesson is that self-reliance and fairness are not inherently contradictory and in fact are complimentary to each other. Life is a horse race, or rather a series of them.  You do your best, and constantly try to improve and if you don't win this week, there's another race next week and the week after that.  That's all anyone can do.  Asking the guy who won the race to forfeit his win defeats not only him, but the rest of the horses as well.

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