Stranger Fruit

It’s a horse, people, a horse.

OK, I’m going to get grouchy here, but …

I don’t understand the fuss about Barbaro, the horse that broke a leg at the Preakness on Saturday. His survival chances after surgery are the third story on Yahoo News, and ESPN this afternoon were acting like they wer reporting surgery on a President or somesuch.

(As an aside, I also heard a dumb thing being said by an ESPN reporter. Apparently, because the lower limbs of horses have no muscles, the limbs are unable to pump blood back to the heart. Someone needs to take intro biology again, methinks)

People are turning up holding vigils. Vets are referring to Barbaro as being “brave”,”calm”, and “a real genuine athlete”. People … it’s a farking horse. A horse. Get over it. Most of you didn’t know that the animal even existed before the first race in the Triple Crown.

Meanwhile in Darfur …

Comments

  1. #1 coturnix
    May 22, 2006

    It is hard to explain if you were never involved in horse racing… I guess, it is the same way with people I do not understand, e.g., people wo are big fans of their football or baseball teams.

    As I am a horse lover, I used to work in the industry and used to be in vet school training for sports equine medicine (before I came to the USA and switched to biology), the details of the surgery are very interesting to me.

    I do not listen to ESPN (or watch TV at all), but I searched for the information on the situation myself. I am sure that the reporting is silly and overblown. One thing that I don’t think anyone mentions (is that correct?) is how much money is at stake: if the horse lives, as an undefeated Derby winner he is bound to make millions in stud fees for his owners in the future.

  2. #2 iayork
    May 22, 2006

    Your second-last blog is about Lordi in Eurovision.

    Tell me again about relative importances.

  3. #3 Todd Crane
    May 22, 2006

    I suggest you don’t surf over to CNN anytime soon. At 9:30 eastern, CNN’s front page included a horse, a blindfold, a guy in a helmet and a swimming pool. An anxious nations awaits word on the fate of animal nobody knew existed until two weeks ago.

  4. #4 Janne
    May 22, 2006

    Come on, Lordi winning the Eurovision song contest is at least fun! Swedish evening paper web sites are filled with comments that flat out state that Lordi are cool (7-17), praise Lordi for finally breaking the stifling mold of Euro power pop (18-35) and pronounce the win the mark of death for the Eurovision song contest, European culture and civilization as we know it (over 35).

    The only thing I wonder about the horse is if there’s going to be a hamburger sale or if the owners will just stuff their own freezers.

  5. #5 iayork
    May 22, 2006

    Come on, Lordi winning the Eurovision song contest is at least fun! … Swedish evening paper web sites are filled with comments …

    So what this boils down to is: When people and the media go berserk over something completely trivial, it’s okay when you’re interested in the trivia, and a crying scandal when you’re not interested in it.

    Clearly someone has a problem with importance.

  6. #6 Julia
    May 22, 2006

    “Most of you didn’t know that the animal even existed before the first race in the Triple Crown.”

    I don’t understand what you are suggesting here. How is this relevant?

    It almost sounds as though you mean that we can’t/shouldn’t feel sympathy/empathy until after a certain period of time has gone by. I hope you don’t mean that. I never heard of you either until a few weeks ago, but surely you aren’t suggesting that there would be something wrong with my feeling concern if I heard tomorrow that you had been badly injured.

    Or maybe you’re referring only to animals. So, if I notice a starved-looking stray dog in my neighborhood, I should wait a few weeks to know it better before letting myself feel worried and concerned? Or I should act to protect it now while continuing to feel indifferent?

    Yes, the news media can certainly overdo attention to something like this, but there isn’t a simple either/or in caring about the pain of animals and the pain of humans. I don’t know a single person in Darfur, but if I heard tomorrow that someone was collecting money to bring an injured Darfur child to the United States for medical treatment, I don’t think I’d make a donation decision on the basis on how recently I had first known of her existence.

  7. #7 John Lynch
    May 22, 2006

    OK, just to clarify …

    a) I am not advocating that the horse should be mercilessly treated and turned into dog food, or that people should not care about what happened. I think that people should care about other sentient organisms and the pain that they suffer.

    b) I am advocating that a measure of proportionality be applied. Few people would have heard of the horse before Saturday or the earlier Phreakness. Does it really deserve the media attention it is getting? Be honest here, folks. Talk a horse being a brave athlete is just ridiculous.

    c) I just don’t think this is as terribly newsworthy even as a sporting event. It’s a strange version of the “missing white girl” syndrome.

    d) My post on Lordi had a two-fold purpose that had nothing to do with the “importance” of the Eurovision Song Contest (of which there is none, cultural or otherwise, imho). I wanted to point out the sheer wierdness of their winning, something that can only be appreciated by Europeans. I also wanted to point out that Europe (or at least Greece) has its share of nutcases who think they speak for everyone with their talk of “values”.

    e) I’m all for people caring about my welfare if I get sick, Julia. I just don’t think it deserves media attention. My problem here is not with compassion, but with attention.

    Just to get something out of the way … growing up in Ireland it was difficult not to be exposed to the racing industry. Consequently, from a young age I was attending races regularly & watching races every weekend on television .

  8. #8 mark
    May 22, 2006

    One of the headlines in today’s Baltimore Sun said something about the effort to save Barbaro being done out of love for the horse: “It’s not the money”–but if I bothered to read the entire article, it may have mentioned something about stud fees.

    Maybe the characters at the track were just more admerable than those politicians we’ve been hearing so much from lately.

  9. #9 sixteenwords
    May 22, 2006

    I’m still not sure concern for this horse, for whatever reason, precludes concern about Darfur.

    In fact, I think bringing that into your post cheapened whatever point you thought you were making.

    So it annoys you to have people spend time on this horse. Great. If you think we’d have had more coverage of Darfur in the absence of this, you’ve been living on a different planet than I have.

  10. #10 Roman Werpachowski
    May 22, 2006

    Meanwhile in Darfur …

    I respect your concern, but that was a very cheap shot. How can one listen to Brahms when children are dying of hunger in Africa? Why don’t we all hop on a plane, invade Darfur and stop the killings at once? Ask yourself a series of questions like that.

    Some people love horses. Me too. They are beautiful animals. I don’t like seeing animals suffer, especially horses. It’s just it.

    (As an aside, I also heard a dumb thing being said by an ESPN reporter. Apparently, because the lower limbs of horses have no muscles, the limbs are unable to pump blood back to the heart. Someone needs to take intro biology again, methinks)

    There is a grain of truth in that. Horses have long legs and to ensure good circulation in them, they must walk around a lot. The hoof is not only a shock absorber, but also a sort of a pump which pushes the blood back up. If the horse has to stand in place for a long time, it isn’t good. Every horsebreeder knows horses should be allowed to walk as much as possible. If the horse has a broken leg, it cannot walk and there is the problem. Of course saying that it has no muscles in lower limbs is stupid.

  11. #11 Roman Werpachowski
    May 22, 2006

    Talk a horse being a brave athlete is just ridiculous.

    Have you ever taught a horse (I did when I was young, the mare alas died a few years ago)? The relation between the horse and the horsebreaker resembles very much the relation between a human athlete and his trainer; the difference is that horses don’t smoke dope and are more disciplined than a lot of our human sports stars :)

    In racing, the training is less complex, but the basics are there, and there is training for stamina/speed instead. If you do it right, it really is something like training a human athlete, and ultimately it depends on the physical qualities and character of the animal.

    Just to get something out of the way … growing up in Ireland it was difficult not to be exposed to the racing industry.

    I don’t know how it is in Ireland, but down here in Poland “love of horses” and “racing industry” are two completely opposed concepts.

  12. #12 John Lynch
    May 22, 2006

    I admit the “Meanwhile in Darfur …” comment was probably not the best argument (such as it is) to make. I did say that I was “grouchy” though :)

    So it annoys you to have people spend time on this horse. Great. If you think we’d have had more coverage of Darfur in the absence of this, you’ve been living on a different planet than I have.

    Nope. Didn’t say that. Was implying that there were more important issues out there for the press to consider (even in the sporting press, frankly). The media here have been woeful at covering Darfur, so I doubt this would change anything.

    I’m willing to admit that some people deeply care about horses, and that Barbaro – as a sentient organism – deserves our compassion. I just think the issue is getting attention in the media disproportionate to its importance.

    This will probably get me in trouble but, if he wasn’t a Triple Crown contender (and thus potentially a generator of future champions and future income), he’d have been euthanized Saturday. Maybe I’m wrong.

  13. #13 Scott
    May 22, 2006

    I don’t understand the fuss about Barbaro

    Well, I suggest (gently) that you’re protesting just a bit too much. Few minor happenings make news like a single injured or trapped animal. Doesn’t matter whether it’s a horse that’s potentially worth millions or a moose that’s gone through the ice or a cat trapped inside the wall of a building or whatever. The reality that these individual situations often make “news” out of all proportion to any rational analysis is hardly novel …

  14. #14 Roman Werpachowski
    May 23, 2006

    This will probably get me in trouble but, if he wasn’t a Triple Crown contender (and thus potentially a generator of future champions and future income), he’d have been euthanized Saturday. Maybe I’m wrong.

    You’re right, but not cynical. If he wasn’t a champion, his owners probably would not be able to afford treating his leg. It costs much more than treating a broken human leg.

  15. #15 Sean Storrs
    May 23, 2006

    So…

    A horse is a horse, of course, of course
    and the press won’t cover a horse, of course
    but the press corps are all out in force
    for the injured Bar-ba-ro.

    Tip of the hat (and apologies) to Ray Evans and Jay Livingston who wrote the theme to “Mr. Ed.”

    I too am a little perplexed by this, but based on an incident earlier this year, the American media aren’t the only ones prone to this kind of fixation.

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