A GRIP ON SPORTS • Today is a racing day, even though it isn’t. Just like the usual Bloomsday, which is about a race even though, for most, it isn’t.
• It’s a near-perfect day on this Sunday when Bloomsday was supposed to be run. It’s not all that cold – should be nearly 50 degrees at race time – and the sun is shining. Heck, even the lilac bush in the backyard is nearly ready to bloom (and, yes, I know the name Bloomsday comes from a different source, but what the hay, blooming flowers make me smile – and sneeze).
Everything is just right. Except it isn’t.
We all know why. No need to rehash the obvious. It is the weirdest spring ever. Well, in at least the last century or so.
Bloomsday, since 1977, has been a Spokane staple. A spring normal, if you don’t mind me using “normal” as a noun. One of those things, like the falls busting out all over and your neighbor planting her pansies, that makes Spokane Spokane.
Not this year. At least not yet. As my friend Anne Walter writes today in her ode to trying to break an hour, the race/run/community walk hasn’t been canceled. It’s been postponed. Sept. 20 is now the goal. The final community athletic event of the summer. The final time to listen to your race songs.
We will look forward to it. Not as a participant. Nope, that bus pulled away years ago and we no longer feel as if we should be riding. But we love what it does for our community. The walkers and joggers and runners who take to the sidewalks and parks and trails each spring, people of all ages who are preparing to take part.
They may be pushing a stroller. They may be running with 3 percent body fat. They may be in a wheelchair. Who cares? They are all bloomies. And sometime around noon Sunday, we could look forward to seeing them wandering around town, wearing their T-shirt, showing off their colors earned by sweating through the streets of Spokane.
We’re going to miss the anticipation today. Will the shirt be blue or red or lilac? What will the design look like? How many will we see?
We just have to wait four-and-a-half months to find out.
• Yesterday was also supposed to be another type of race. The first Saturday in May belongs to the Kentucky Derby. Except it didn’t.
There is no way more than 100,000 giant hats could be gathered together in one place these days. Unhealthy for everyone.
Instead, the folks at NBC put together one of those computer simulations. Showed it on national TV and everything. Heck, we even watched the replay.
We knew who was going to win. Knew it when the event was announced. Secretariat is the Michael Jordan of 3-year-old thoroughbreds.
By that we mean the great mass of humanity believes Secretariat is the greatest of all time. Good for them. We understand. No one could watch the horse’s performance in the 1973 Belmont and not believe that. Well, almost no one.
We are willing to concede that was the most dominant win we have ever seen, not just because of the distance between first and second place – 31 lengths – but the time as well – 2 minutes, 24 seconds, still a record.
And, yes, Secretariat still holds the Derby record – 1:59 2/5. Secretariat is one of only two horses to run the “the most exciting two minutes in sports” in less than, you know, two minutes.
But is it the best horse to ever run? I’m not convinced. And not because Secretariat isn’t the fastest. He was. Fast and strong. However, that’s not everything in racing. Any type of racing. And it’s why my favorite is Affirmed.
Another Triple Crown winner, Affirmed had something no other one had: a nemesis. Alydar. If not for Affirmed, Alydar would have won the Triple Crown. After all, no other horse finished second in all three races against the same winner. Affirmed won the Kentucky Derby by a length-and-a-half. Affirmed won the Preakness by a neck. And Affirmed won the Belmont by a head. Alydar was right there, but couldn’t get past.
Two great champions. Three great races.
Alydar was second in each of them, something that happened, on the track, seven times in their careers. (The last time the two raced together, Affirmed won but was disqualified. Alydar earned its third win against his rival. The first time they raced, Alydar finished fifth in another Affirmed win.)
Yes, Affirmed’s winning Derby time was 100 seconds slower than Secretariat’s record. But time isn’t everything. Horse races don’t always go to the fastest or the strongest. Strategy, the field, even luck, they all play a part. So does competiveness.
Some horses just hate to lose. They don’t want anyone in front of them down the stretch. Affirmed was epitome of that type of horse. If it was close, it seemed as if he was going to win. No matter what. That’s why my money would be on Affirmed.
Gonzaga: It hasn’t been a great year for former GU guard Quentin Hall. Eight months after Hurricane Dorian devastated his Bahamas home, Hall is still trying to get everything in order. During a pandemic, no less. Jim Meehan checked in with Hall and has this story. … They are three Gonzaga players who are eyeing the NBA. All three are listed in this Jeff Goodman story looking at all those who declared, who should stay in the draft and who should head back to school. Spoiler alert: Two need to return to school and one might be better off staying in the draft. … Elsewhere in the WCC, BYU and San Diego State agreed to a home-and-home series. … The Cougars’ newest player has a history to mine. … Former BYU player Kyle Collinsworth has a new focus.
WSU: Around the Pac-12, is it smart to try to play football this fall? … Everyone is hopeful it will happen. … If it does, Oregon State quarterback Tristan Gebbia will be ready. … Colorado is looking for a new starter at that position. … In basketball news, a former Arizona player is still around the program. … A former USC player is talking with his old teammates for NBA Draft tips.
Bloomsday: This is the first year Jon Neill is the race director. And the pandemic hits. Dave Nichols talked with Neill this week and got his thoughts on the postponement, the fallout and more.
Seahawks: The Griffin brothers gave the virtual commencement speech at their college’s virtual graduation. The students at Central Florida were virtually ecstatic. And really lucky.
• If you are wondering, I have a few Bloomsday finishes on my resume. The first was in 1983, the only race I actually ran the whole way. After that, it was walking with family members until sometime in the early 1990s. From then on it’s been more fun to wander around the South Hill on the first Sunday morning in May looking for the first Bloomsday T-shirt. I always bet on blue. Until later …
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