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Derby downer, softball upper

MAY 5, 2008

Tears cloud my eyes as I type this during an early-morning downpour from a dreary-gray sky. Two reasons, from television news reports, poles apart in content.

Watched on the "Today Show" as a trainer and horse doctor commented on the death of Eight Belles, the filly who fell and was put to death on the track after finishing second in the Kentucky Derby.

Video clips of her faltering, falling, dying were gripping.

Then, watched ESPN run a feature about three young women competing for a college softball championship. One, tiny Sara Tucholsky playing for Western Oregon, hit a home run -- the only time she ever accomplished that feat in her life. Two, Mallory Holtman and Liz Wallace playing for Central Washington, carried Sara around the bases after she missed first base, stopped to go back, and a knee blew out.

The video clips of Sara faltering, falling, and being uplifted were gripping.

Listening to the comments from Eight Belles' trainer and the event veteranarian, I had to ward off the inner cynic that tries to whisper in my ear and run amok in my head at times. Especially hearing the trainer say that these horses have it worse in the wild than on the race tracks. Hey, mister, give 'em their choice, and see which one brings a big, "Nay."

Didn't take PETA long to chime in, did it?

Because of the gut-wrenching demise of that beautiful creature Eight Belles, no more Derby stories for now. Didn't feel like it after watching the race, and haven't mustered any motivation for whimsy or folly since. Maybe after the Preakness.

To me, thoroughbred horses are the most magnificent athletes in the world, measured many different ways. Witnessing that magnificence in a fatal heap calls for respite from the subject matter.

On the other hand, those two softball players at Central Wash just earned All-American status of some kind, surely, with an effort that makes them the poster girls for sportsmanship.

Sara had crawled back to first base and clutched it, by all accounts, in agony. Teammates couldn't touch her, couldn't help her. Rules forbade. She seemed doomed to have her moment of glory put her in the scorebook as having hit a single and put her on the bench forevermore.

Then, Mallory spoke up, received umpire blessings, recruited teammate Liz, and they lifted Sara between them. As they shuttled around the bases, Sara touched each bag, and the crowd of a whopping (estimated) 100 roundly applauded.

Now that's some good cheer....