What a feel-good time of year!
How can it get any better, for instance, than this week if Kentucky Derby champion Street Sense can win the second leg of the Triple Crown on Saturday when the Preakness is run at Pimlico in Baltimore?
More about Street Sense later.
But how about his jockey, Calvin Borel, and his fiancee, Lisa Funk, getting invited by President Bush to attend a state dinner for Queen Elizabeth II at the White House! And the president went out of his way to make them feel at home while all the men, Borel included, were in white tie and tails! Now that’s living in high cotton. Only in America. Now let’s hear someone say nasty things about our president inviting a Cajun jockey to such a fabulous event. The president even hugged him.
‘Rocket’ at UK
In Lexington, there was Roger “The Rocket” Clemens, starting his comeback so that he can be ready to start rocketing the New York Yankees out of their funk. The comeback was started at Cliff Hagan Stadium in Lexington. The UK catcher who caught him was star receiver Sean Coughlin. What a story Sean will have to tell his children and grandchildren, “I caught a Hall of Fame pitcher, the best in the game.”
And his Wildcat teammates, who got up close and personal when Clemens was pitching off the UK mound, can tell their offspring that they got close enough to talk with him and ask questions and for tips.
Even a lot of Major Leaguers have never got that close to The Rocket.
And by the way, shame on Major League Baseball for allowing one if its silly rules that prohibited Clemens from working out with his son’s team, the Class A Lexington Legends. Steroid-bulked up lummoxes can play in the big leagues, but one of the best pitchers of all time can’t work out with his son’s team because he’s signed by a different Major League team.
For two consecutive years, Clemens has done more to promote minor league baseball in Lexington than anything else ever has.
Prince is princely
There aren’t many pro basketball players that I enjoy watching more than UK product Tayshaun Prince of the Detroit Pistons and guard Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns.
I called Ralph Beard to ask what he thinks of Nash. That’s asking one All-NBA guard about another. My question of Beard: “What do you like about Nash?”
Said Beard: “Everything! Good Lord, he’s good!”
Next question for Beard: “Have you ever seen a better passer than Nash?”
“Yes,” said Beard. “Cliff Barker,” who was a teammate on UK’s Fabulous Five and the Indianapolis Olympians. “Cliff was as good a passer as I have ever seen. He could get it by you or through to you. Barker was a great passer and in not a showoff way.”
I knew better than to ask about Bob Cousy, but I did it anyway. “Bob Cousy was too slick,” said Beard. “We beat his #$% every time.”
That was both in college and in the NBA.
Happy for Winston
UK basketball fans had to be happy for Winston Bennett, who was hired to coach at Mid-Continent University if Mayfield. Hey, I never heard of it either, but it gets Winston back in the game.
And there was good news for a former U of L basketball star, Jerry Eaves, who signed 6-foot- 8 Jeffersontown High forward Thomas Coleman, a star for Jtown’s 2006 state champions. Eaves coaches at North Carolina A&T.
The final feel-good note: Doug Flutie, who won six outstanding player awards in the Canadian Football League, will become the first non-citizen to be inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. Another honoree: outfielder Larry Walker of the Colorado Rockies.
A Triple Crown?
Now back to Calvin Borel and Street Sense: They could have much more of a lasting effect on Thoroughbred racing than any horse-rider combination since Steve Cauthen guided Affirmed to the Triple Crown in 1978.
Racing needs another great horse. Oh, how the game needs another immortal, a horse that can sweep the Derby, the Preakness and Belmont, go on to dominate the big fall races and then the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Horse of the Year!
And, please, if all of those good things happen, pretty please, pray that the owner will let racing fans around America see him run next year, too.
Oh, I know. He will be more valuable to retire to the breeding shed after this year, but for the good of the game, he will be needed in action after his threeyear old season.
For the record, here are the Triple Crown champions: 1919 Sir Barton, 1930 Gallant Fox, 1935 Omaha; 1937 War Admiral; 1941 Whirlaway, 1943 Count Fleet, 1946 Assault, 1948 Citation, 1973 Secretariat, 1977 Seattle Slew, 1978 Affirmed.