Thursday, June 3, 2010

Sound, Fury, Post Time

In 1955 William Faulkner (and I'm going to assume that anyone reading this blog is educated enough to know this Nobel Prize-winning novelist and has read at least one of his novels or short stories - if not, for God's sake take an English class, read a book) wrote a piece for Sports Illustrated entitled "Kentucky: May: Saturday." Whilst the piece was about the Kentucky Derby it is applicable to not only the Triple Crown (The Kentucky Derby being the first leg, the Preakness being the second leg and the Belmont Stakes, the third leg) but to thoroughbred racing in general. Below is part of Falkner's piece:

"Once the horse moved man's physical body and his household goods and his articles of commerce from one place to another. Nowadays all it moves is a part or the whole of his bank account, either through betting on it or trying to keep owning and feeding it.

So, in a way, unlike the other animals which he has domesticated--cows and sheep and hogs and chickens and dogs (I don't include cats; man has never tamed cats)--the horse is economically obsolete. Yet it still endures and probably will continue to as long as man himself does, long after the cows and sheep and hogs and chickens, and the dogs which control and protect them, are extinct. Because the other beasts and their guardians merely supply man with food, and someday science will feed him by means of synthetic gases and so eliminate the economic need which they fill. While what the horse supplies to man is something deep and profound in his emotional nature and need.

It will endure and survive until man's own nature changes. Because you can almost count on your thumbs the types and classes of human beings in whose lives and memories and experience and glandular discharge the horse has no place. These will be the ones who don't like to bet on anything which involves the element of chance or skill or the unforeseen. They will be the ones who don't like to watch something in motion, either big or going fast, no matter what it is. They will be the ones who don't like to watch something alive and bigger and stronger than man, under the control of puny man's will doing something which man himself is too weak or too inferior in sight or hearing or speed to do

These will have to exclude even the ones who don't like horses--the ones who would not touch a horse or go near it, who have never mounted one nor ever intend to; who can and do and will risk and lose their shirts on a horse they have never seen.

So some people can bet on a horse without ever seeing one outside a Central Park fiacre or a peddler's van. And perhaps nobody can watch horses running forever, with a mutuel window convenient, without making a bet. But it is possible that some people can and do do this.

So it is not just betting, the chance to prove with money your luck or what you call your judgment, that draws people to horse races. It is much deeper than that. It is a sublimination, a transference: man, with his admiration for speed and strength, physical power far beyond what he himself is capable of, projects his own desire for physical supremacy, victory, onto the agent--the baseball or football team, the prize fighter. Only the horse race is more universal because the brutality of the prize fight is absent, as well as the attenuation of football or baseball--the long time needed for the orgasm of victory to occur, where in the horse race it is a matter of minutes, never over two or three, repeated six or eight or 10 times in one afternoon."

If you want to read the entire piece (and it's worth reading) you can find it online.

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