Sports Showdown Saturday: A Damon Runyon Day

reporterSo it’s early Saturday morning, and I’m jogging through Seneca Park and part of Saint Matthews, as I regularly do, given my normal routine that day of the week.

It’s Derby Day. So there are fewer exercisers, doing the loop, and more groups of folks, standing about in their finery, getting ready to be part of the throng at the track.

While I’m huffing and puffing my way down Nanz, out of the corner of my eye, I see a couple of twentysomething fellows on a porch. One of them calls out to me.

“Excuse me, sir. Do you know how to tie a bow tie?”

Never having been a bow tie kind of guy, I can’t help him.

* * * * *

True vignette. The closest I came really to being part of those assembled at Churchill Downs.

Shared in the present tense to honor Damon Runyon, chronicler of the American scene in the mid 20th century.

He loved the ponies. The whole scene.

He loved the art of pugilism. The whole scene.

He wrote in the present tense. The whole scene.

With the Derby in its usual First Saturday in May late afternoon time slot, and Mayweather vs. Pacquiao from Vegas in the most anticipated boxing match in memory, to cap the day as it snuck up on midnight, it was indeed a throwback to the days of yesteryear, when those two sports — and baseball — dominated the scene.

And Damon Runyon was there to write about it.

* * * * *

Among those who know — frankly, not me — this was the most anticipated Derby in a while. More than the usual spate of contendas, the routine plethora of pretendas.

Lots of three year olds with glossy records, nifty speed ratings, impressive performances. A possible super horse. Or two.

Dortumund and American Pharoah. Like Citation and Coaltown. Bob Baffert. Like Ben Jones.

2015. Like 1948.

Even though Runyon was two years gone at the time of that duel sixty seven Derbies ago, his aura was fresh, his presence lingered over the proceedings.

Even a know nothing guy like me could get a sense of American Pharoah’s impressive triumph yesterday. He and Dortumund and Firing Line got ahead of the pack. When Materiality, the race’s speed, lingered at the gate, the trio settled in at the front of the equine peloton, and kept them measured the whole mile and a quarter.

At the top of the long Downs stretch, Firing Line was steered wide to avoid a one on one smackdown with Dortumund, who was closest to the rail. So, the winner, clearly the class of the bunch, swung even wider. Careening down the middle of Churchill’s wide thoroughfare, he kept the other two measured.

The winning time was slow. They don’t award style points. First one across dons the garland of roses, no matter how long the trip took.

Now we get to endure at least a couple of weeks, at least, of hyperbolized conjecture.

Is this horse who will finally end the Triple Crown drought?

* * * * *

Pro basketball was a nothing concern in Damon Runyon’s time.

It is today.

Saturday’s compelling first round game seven between the defending champion, but aging, Spurs and the never done much Clippers, proved why the sport is so popular.

The fourth quarter was spectacular.

One incredible offensive play after another. Against stellar defense.

Tit for tat.

Punch. Counter.

Chris Paul’s falling away bank shot winner over the outstretched reach of Tim Duncan was a fitting finish. It came after some improbable treys from seemingly impossible angles. Layups that somehow found the twine through the timber of defender’s arms. Critical crunch time charity tosses.

It was a Whata Game!!! kind of game. Titanic.

Respect reigned after the buzzer. Grep Popovich was a gracious loser. Chris Paul was a gracious winner.

* * * * *

I coulda watched the fight. My pal Allen bought the PPV.

I didn’t.

When it was 11:30 and Jim Lampley and fellow announcers started killing time, and talked about killing time, because of nationwide connectivity woes, I packed it in, went home.

During a pre-fight interview, Reggie Miller proved as astute a boxing analyst as he is with b-ball.

Defense will win, he predicted.

And so, it apparently came to pass.

D is Money Mayweather’s forte. Or, so they say. That’s how he won, according to the morning after reports on the match.

* * * * *

Proving that Charlie Strong knows talent and how to recruit it, U of L had its most players drafted ever for the NFL. Including He Who Is Known As Mr. Irrelevant, the last player chosen in the final round. TE Gerald Christian.

And, except for the most tried and true diehards, those who worship at the church of Rev. Mel Kiper, Saturday’s last dregs of the draft proceedings were irrelevant. At least until some ninth round pick up makes the winning play in the Super Bowl.

So, even America’s greatest sport of the times, tackle football, took a back seat Saturday.

To boxing and horse racing, rejuvenated for the moment popular endeavors from yesteryear. At least for one day.

Along with pro hoops, now firmly entrenched in it late spring most marvelous time of the season.

* * * * *

Oh yeah, after two straight losses to division rival KC, my Tigers best the Royals.

Ace David Price pitches a five hitter for the 2-1 victory.

A complete game, it is.

Damon Runyon smiles.

In the present tense.

— Seedy K


20 thoughts on “Sports Showdown Saturday: A Damon Runyon Day

  1. NBA: The Bullets are for real. Wall & Beal are the best backcourt combo in the League.

  2. True, there are no style points. But the Pharoah’s time of 2:03.02 is hardly a feat to brag about, barely nosing out Citations 2:05.40 sixty seven years ago. AF was one of the slower winners in the past 25 years. Which speaks to the sorry state of horse racing that we have now. All the lipstick that Johnny Weir and Tara Lupinski can paint on that pig doesn’t change the fact that horses today can’t hold a bridle to the thoroughbreds of yore. As an aside, if you can tie your running shoes, you can tie a bow tie.

  3. Smart Guy….I know the time was slow, but the Pharoah ran most of the race in the middle of the track coming from the 18 hole and being rated outside the early speed. Not saying it was a great time or anything, but I bet it will be graded at least a full second or more faster than the actual time. Plus, I am not sure how the track played Derby day…seemed like it was a little dull from what I could tell—at least it didn’t seem lighting fast…

    1. Seedy and Mr. Joyner,

      Time will tell. I DO believe they are better suited for the rigors of the NBA playoffs. I attend NBA games regularly (my Bullets, of course), Lez Boullez are tough as they come, and if the injury to Beal yesterday isn’t bad, we will advance.

      No, John and Bradley cannot shoot as well consistently as Thompson and Curry (who I respect greatly), but they make their team better. It’s physical, tough TEAM ball from now on. And with our backcourt, plus the rejuvenated Paul Pierce, we have a shot. It’s all about defense, too. I can’t recall hearing the D word and the Warriors mentioned in the same breath.

      1. Hoya….I am sure you have watched many more NBA games than Seedy and me combined. That being said, I believe we both can tell a turnip from a potato and with all due respect to Mr’s Beal and Wall, they can’t hold a candle to the Warriors back court. Steph may be slight, but he is a true Warrior. Klay may not be the quickest, but he is long and despite what you may see through your Wizard lenses, a capable defender. Wall may be the fastest of them all, but neither Beal or Wall is any threat to out play, out shoot or out score this magical back court tandem.

        I would love to see the Wiz make the finals to find out, but I don’t think your team will get past the choking Hawks, much less the Cleveland LeBrons. We shall see, we shall see….

        1. “Out shoot, out score…” I addressed this. And, check this out—it’s widely circulated—NBA players think Beal has the one of the two best shooting forms in the League. Seriously. We cannot outgun two players; we can defend them and shut them down. But there are 3 other players at any given time on the floor. Draymon Green is truly a “warrior,” granted. Many props to him. So, all of us being able to tell the difference between our vegetables, let’s focus on pro basketball. GS has no answer for the Truth (Pierce). Gortat has evolved into a very good playoffs baller. Gooden is also a savvy vet. And the BULLETS backcourt incorporates all. GS’s wonderful guard duo isn’t exactly known for assists. We are. Defense, too. I do hope we both get our wish. I want GS in the Finals. Along with Lez Boullez.

          1. Wow…I thought GS won almost 70 games this year in the tougher conference—instead it was your Wizards….mea culpa…….LOL

  4. As for AP’s time, I stand by what I said. And agree with JGJ. The horse ran wide the whole way, especially wide down the stretch. The TV guys said the track slowed as the day progressed. As for whether today’s t-breds are as good, or less so, than those of yesteryear, I haven’t a clue. I defer such discussions to my man Bill Doolittle, who has now picked four Derby winners in a row.

    1. Todays stock is definitely less durable and are bred more for speed than stamina.

      I heard an interesting take last week about how they prepare the yearlings in training for sale. They sharpen them up for 2 furlong sprints to show their brilliance. The trainers that they are sent to spend 6 months or more trying to break that tendency and get them to rate rather than just blow it out. It would be like a human miler sprinting as hard as he can for the first 400 meters and then trying to hold on for the last 1100 meters.

    2. …and I will take the splash bros. any day over the Wizards over-rated twosome…

    3. American Pharoah according to a report I heard on some sports show, ran 69 feet more than the inside horses. Aren’t there still three feet in a yard. That’s three first downs. That’s a lot of extra ground.

    1. ahem… we didn’t utilize a stretch 4 at the time. we do now. was at the Bullets GS game, too. it was close. now? we’re better. and I love what I am reading from you folks. I hope GS feels the same way. overlook the Bullets. por favor. todos mirar más allá de nosotros. speed and physicality win. GS is not physical, save for Draymond Green.

  5. Hoya….looks like both of our teams took the gas last night….better luck next game….

    1. Counselor, we’re done. Bullets announced Thursday that guard John Wall has five non-displaced fractures in his left wrist and hand. Without him… nada. Notice how we barely get to the FT line without him? Nene looks bad, Beal and Sessions are capable, but it’s the Playoffs. The Curse of Lez Boullez Lives.

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