Monday, May 5, 2008

Derby Dilemmas

Wes and I live in Louisville, KY, home of the Kentucky Derby. It's a long celebrated horse race here with festivities beginning a month before, starting with Thunder Over Louisville, a semi-large fireworks show. Then a couple weeks before the race, there are parades, hot air balloon races, among a host of other activities. When Wes & I first moved here, it boggled our minds to see how much emphasis was put around a day of gambling. Did you catch that? Gambling. I think as they watch the race, people sometimes forget the whole thing is about people gambling their money away. And there are festivities that celebrate this!! And the thing that gets us even more is that they call it a "sport." Would people even watch a horse race if it didn't involve the possibility of winning money? Unlikely. On top of that, it's a day people celebrate getting drunk. The infield is well known for this...and people start drinking early in the morning and are already drunk before the first race of the day even begins.

It amazes me in particular the number of Christians that get sucked into this. They will denounce flying over to Vegas and playing the slots, but will turn around and place a few bucks on their favorite if it's somehow different because it's a long time Louisville tradition. I wonder when it became ok to replace godly stewardship with gambling "tradition." And I don't want to sit here and say that all Christians gamble their money away on the Derby, but it does sadden me those that do. And here's opening a Pandora's box...I also can't quite understand the Christians who will go and support it by watching it and cheering it on, even without the money involved. Would we go to a bar and cheer people on as they get wasted? Would we stand by their side at the craps table crossing our fingers their dice lands on the right side? Why then would we cheer horses on so that people can win money off them while they're getting trashed? I'm sure these comments are not winning me any friends at the moment....

The Derby also brings another dilemma...the strain these horses are put under. Yes, horses like to run. But horses were not created to be put under such physical strain all so someone can hopefully win some money off them. And before someone brings up working horses, there is a big difference between a working horse and horse trained to raise the gambling odds. On Saturday as one horse won the Derby, another was euthanized. I was so angry about the situation that I cried. Wes watched a recap of the race to specifically watch Eight Belles, the horse that broke both her front ankles, to see if there was anything he could spot. He said you could tell she was running funny but it was also clearly evident the jockey was really pushing her. It made him angry, I could tell, as he he said "she came in second place and then died...I hope that was worth it to them" (them referring to her jockey, trainer, and owners). What kind of selfish desires do people have that they are willing to have a horse die so they can win some money? Were they sad? I'm sure. Does the sadness justify what happened? Hardly. And this is not the first horse to be euthanized due to injuries sustained on the track. I'm sure many have heard the story of Barbaro, the 2006 Derby winner who fractured 3 bones two weeks later during the Preakness Stakes. After several surgeries and many complications, he was euthanized in January 2007.

Gambling, drunkenness, unnatural physical strain resulting in death...and society celebrates this. A friend from church, Sarah, and I discussed this last night and talked about how the Derby really shows the depravity of mankind. Maybe it's the large Derby hats that are blocking our views of the reality behind this race. In any case, you won't be hearing me returning the greeting the next time someone wishes me a "Happy Derby Day."

Photo of Eight Belles, moments before she was euthanized


Ted M. Gossard said...

I heard on NPR I believe it was, that the problem with these horses is the in-breeding they're doing to try to get the very best horse. And as we know, that can spell problems. The theory is that more injuries like this are occurring because of that.

Good thoughts here. We do need to watch what we're doing and what it might be saying and/or failing to say in reference to our witness in Jesus.

Jules~ said...

I know you guys are busy moving and such. I just wanted to let you know that I am thinknig about you and looking forward to hearing how things are when life slows down for you and you get settled.