Sunday, May 3, 2009

What I Learned from the 135th Kentucky Derby

Mine That Bird winning daddy some money.

Yesterday's Kentucky Derby was amazing for many reasons.  First of all the party I was at had many women in sundresses/funny hats, which is sort of what I think heaven will be like.  Beyond that, the excitement of the big upset was why we all love sports and me winning some money for picking the winner (don't be impressed, I just pulled his name out of a hat) is also fairly exciting.  On a deeper level, this horse taught me a lot about life and created a great metaphor for what can be an everyday struggle to fulfill your destiny and live the dream.  Let's break it down step by step and I'll discuss what I learned from this inspirational, beautiful animal.

Pre-Race: Mine That Bird is in the 8-slot, at 51-1 odds, just about as long a shot as any of the other 19 horses.  For those of you I didn't see this weekend, I decided to trim my facial hair into a handlebar mustache for the weekend for kicks and gigs.  It looked terrible, but it also provided me with a link to my horse before the bell rang.  Mine that Bird's trainer Chip Woolley was also sporting a handlebar and I felt a winning connection with him as soon as they showed him hobbling around on crutches before the race.  No matter the odds in your life, you have to be confident in yourself

2 seconds: Right out of the gate, MTB gets squeezed by Papa Clem (7) and early leader Join in the Dance (9).  You might have had a tough early life, but there isn't anything that you can't overcome if you have determination, heart and a strong will.  Millions of people get squeezed right out of the gate, babies are born to ill-equipped parents, with diseases, with thousands of other problems that they can't help.  I always tell my friends that people are products of their environment and I believe that, but don't let your environment dictate what you become.  

51 seconds: "Well behind the rest of them is Mine That Bird."  MTB doesn't get a mention until the race is close to halfway over and it's more of an obligation than it is an excited proclamation.  In rare instances, you may find yourself the leader from wire to wire, but more often than not, our mettle is tested by having to fight for what we want.  I was a Speech Comm major, so I know all about how tone and body language are the key to discovering what a person is really saying.  I couldn't see what the announcer's posture was projecting at this point, but his dull tone said all you needed to know: that MTB was done.

1 minute, 12 seconds: After 3/4 of a mile (60% of the race) MTB is not on the screen.  It's 2009 and we have hundreds of cameras at every sporting event and there was not a lens wide enough to get my boy in the picture.  This is equivalent to your team being down nine runs in the 7th inning, or down five goals heading into the third period.  There is no chance on the planet that this horse will finish first.  His best bet is to step it up, sneak into the pack to save some embarrassment for his jockey and owner.  When we reach this point in our day, week, year, life, it's very simple to join the pack in mediocrity and become typical and average.  Things can seem bleak and hopeless at times, and sometimes the only person you can count on is yourself.  This may require some soul searching and if you find yourself in this situation, you will learn more about your makeup than any other time in your life.   

1 minute, 25 seconds: Finally, MTB wakes up and realizes it's time to get serious and win this race as he begins to make his move.  When you look at the replay, it looks like he's running past standing horses at one point as he puts it in a gear that no other horse can even come close to thinking about.  There's a point *(or points) in your life when you have to take stock of your situation and decide what to do next.  It may be easy to see all that lies ahead of you and just put it on cruise control, letting the world decide what happens to you.  But to grow as a person and advance your life, you'll need to sac up and focus on the obstacles in front of you.  You've got to find a way to get past them - probably not as easily as MTB passed 18 horses - and put yourself in the position you desire to be in.  

1 minute, 40 seconds: After all of that work getting back into contention, MTB gets pinched again at the rail but powers through and asserts himself as the best gosh darn racehorse in the entire Commonwealth.  Just as in life, sometimes you fight so hard to make up ground on your past shortcomings and mistakes, it's just too much to overcome at the end.  MTB showed me that there is no reason to ever give up.  If anything, when you've come that far and faced that much adversity and fallen that far behind your peers, this is the time when you give it everything you have to ensure you'll end up on top.  

1 minute, 48 seconds: MTB takes the lead during the only time that it matters, eventually winning by, I don't know, 15 lengths maybe.  The most important lesson of all was learned here: it's not about how you start, it's about how you finish.  This century old adage of the tortoise and hare, slow and steady wins the race, the last shall be first, blah blah blah.  MTB captured all that in the time it takes to heat a hot pocket.  He stayed back (like really really really far back) for most of the race and when it was time to do work, MTB got focused and caught up to the pack and then rifled past them before the announcers even knew what was going on.  From the 51-second mark, they didn't even say his name until he was a couple strides from the finish line.  Not only did he come from oblivion, where no one was talking about except out of courtesy, he made the announcers, the 150,000+ in attendance and millions at home know who he was.  People won't recognize you or know who you are unless you give them a reason to.  He went from ignored to adored in 45 seconds.

2 minutes, 2 seconds: I go crazy as MTB wins in the second biggest upset in Derby history and makes a small amount of people a large amount of money (including me and my business partner).  If you want something, go after it and you can get it.  Lesson learned thanks to Mine That Bird.


Video of the week: Pacman destroying the Hitman for those of you who didn't see it live.

Celebrity (?) of the week: On ESPN's celebrities at the Derby gallery: skinny guy from Boyz II Men.  Maybe he was a celeb at the 123rd Kentucky Derby but not at 135!

Babygame of the week:  Kentucky's favorite daughter, Ashley Judd.

Texts From Last Night of the week(917): My milkshake brings 85 to 90 percent of the boys to the yard



  1. Hey Jesse,
    Annie and Neil here reading this entertaining but soulful article with that underlying for the WORLD to see......"Jesse's got his stufff together!" attitude !! Bravo Jess..we are very proud of you, what ever you do! See you soon:)
    12 Poplar Street fans!

  2. Hey, Jesse, loved your article, specially "life's lessons."
    Lu and miss, Haydee

  3. Great article, Jesse! Loved the life lessons, and congrats on your big win!!! Nice... Love, Aunt Suzi

  4. Jesse, I found your article to be provocative and deep but also fun! I must admit this is the first time I read a sport article in its entirety. Hugs, Mori

  5. Jesse,
    Loved the insight and hope the life lessons keep on revealing themselves to you...not only through sports but in other ways as well. Proud to be your mommy! Can't wait to see you.