It's spring break at the community college where I teach so I find myself with time on my hands this week.
Ordinarily, I would have spent yesterday doing chores like laundry or whatnot, but I didn't feel a sense of urgency about that sort of thing so I did something yesterday afternoon that I almost never do.
I watched TV, a lot of it, but it was an aimless kind of TV watching. There was nothing in particular that I wanted to watch so I did some channel surfing — and happened upon a movie that was in the theaters a little more than a year ago. It was a movie I wanted to see at the time, but I never saw it at the theater.
It was the Walt Disney film "Secretariat," a dramatization of the story of the legendary Triple Crown winner of 1973. It had only been on for about 10 minutes so I was able to catch most of it — and that's exactly what I did.
I was a boy at the time that Secretariat won the Triple Crown, and there are many things about that time that I don't remember, but I definitely remember watching Secretariat's astonishing triumph.
I never knew, though, until I watched that movie just how remarkable that story really was. I've done some research since watching the movie (well, I told you I have time on my hands this week!), and it really was an inspiring tale, a genuine feel–good story.
Ordinarily, I tend to avoid the feel–good stories, I suppose. Most of them are a little too shameless in their pursuit of unbridled emotion — and far too shy on facts.
But the story of Secretariat was a true feel–good story. It felt good to watch him win those races and do something no horse had done for a quarter of a century.
It especially felt good to watch the re–creation of his amazing run at the Belmont in June of 1973.
That was a truly memorable time in my life. I was sick with mononucleosis (the so–called "kissing disease," although I don't recall kissing anyone at the time), and I remember stretching out on the couch to watch the race.
I didn't know much about Mrs. Tweedy and the loss of her parents — except what they said about her on TV. But I gathered that she, like her father, had been down and, also like her father, had bounced back.
She was an underdog. But she was a determined underdog.
Secretariat's success was her reward for the hard times she had been through — and what greater reward could there have been than to see that magnificent animal running away from the Belmont pretenders as if they were standing still?
After about the midway point of the race, Secretariat's eventual triumph was no longer in doubt — but his solitary run down the Belmont stretch remains one of the most thrilling and inspiring sights I have ever seen.
The re–creation was great. The moment itself was transcendent.
Sometimes the underdog wins. And there is no denying that it really does feel good when that happens.