June 2015

Soon, we’re going to have another horse racing Triple Crown attempt at the Belmont Stakes in Elmont, N.Y.

Like a lot of people, both ones who follow horse racing year-round, and me, who follows the three big races in May and June each year, I’d like to see a Triple Crown winner; if American Pharaoh wins June 6, he will be the first horse since Affirmed did it in 1978 — a decade that saw three Triple Crown winners, with Secretariat and Seattle Slew being the other two. But I want American Pharaoh to win for another reason.

Over the past few years with the failures of several horses to win the longer, tougher Belmont Stakes, there’s been quite a bit of talk about changing the rules of the Triple Crown to make it easier to achieve. Some want a longer time period between races, while others do not want horses that have not run in either the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness to run in the Belmont. Sounds OK on the surface until you think about the 11 horses that have won the Triple Crown since 1919 — they were able to accomplish this under the existing rules. It’s supposed to be hard. And this is the thing that bothers me.

Since when did we want achievements to be easy? Since when did we not want to work really hard for an unknown result? Whatever happened to the saying, “If it isn’t hard, it’s not worth doing?” I’m not saying that anyone or any group in particular feels this way, but there has been a collective consciousness, if you will, that if something isn’t doable, there’s a problem with what’s being asked as opposed to the approach to actually doing it. Nowhere will you see this more than at the youth level. My kids have won trophies for just participating, no matter how dreadful their soccer team was. Ridiculous, and in no way is this a good life lesson — that you win just for showing up. And we see aspects of this in the workplace, that some want to be rewarded for simply doing their jobs. I worry sometimes if we’ve lost our toughness.

If American Pharaoh becomes the first horse to win a Triple Crown in 37 years, I’ll be happy. But I’ll be just as happy if another one doesn’t come along for another 37 years, as long it remains hard and as such, something worth pursuing, just like anything for us as people.

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