I was flipping channels this morning and came across something on ESPN Classic that actually caused me to stop and watch. Normally, ESPN Classic is what I like to call a "classic mess". They hardly show anything that is worthy of the classic label, that is unless you like bowling, rodeo, or old episodes of "Stump The Schwab". However, today I stumbled across a re-broadcast of ABC's coverage of the 1986 Kentucky Derby. You will remember this Derby as the one that Ferdinand (pictured) won from the rail (the last horse to do so) with Willie Shoemaker aboard and Charlie Whittingham as the trainer whose famous line was, "I am not coming back to the Derby unless I can win the Derby." Well, he did and the result went down in horse racing history as Shoemaker's fourth and final Derby triumph.
The thing I loved about the re-broadcast was that it did what ESPN Classic is supposed to do. It triggered fond memories about past events and made me think about how fortunate we all were to have great broadcasters like Jim McKay, Jack Whitaker, Al Michaels, and even Bill Hartack on hand to document racing's greatest event. That is not to say that Tom Hammond, Tom Durkin, Gary Stevens, and the NBC crew don't do a great job now, but it just felt more important back then with those names on hand. There was a great pre-race interview with Whitaker and Shoemaker where Shoe said, "If he runs as great as I feel, it might be a special day." Whitaker then mentioned to Shoemaker that his first Derby was in 1965 when Shoemaker won with Lucky Debonair. The whole thing gave me chills up and down the spine. That is what is supposed to happen when you look back on a special day like that and remember what it was like in days gone by. I can only hope that ESPN Classic continues to put re-broadcasts like that on the air.
Tune in tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!
Photo courtesy of championsgallery.com