Monday, October 11, 2010
On Sunday the girl and I saw Secretariat. It was probably the best film I saw all year. Even the girl was glad I talked her into going. Now, I may be jaded because "Big Red" (that's Secretariat to you) has always held a special place in my heart.
My grandmother was a big time horse bettor. I mean big time. Every single day she would be found at Aqueduct, Belmont and when the ponies went upstate, Saratoga. When she would come over to our house she would always regal me with stories of how she came *this close* to the triple or how her jockey Angel Cordero fared that day. He could go from swell one day to a lousy piece of crap the next. She would act out her day for me, prancing around the living room with delighted screams and disgusted curses. She'd give me tips. "Never bet on a horse that takes a dump on the track. He's nervous. Never sit in the grandstand with all the riff-raff. You go for the extra couple of bucks and stay in the Clubhouse!" My mother would roll her eyes but I hung on her every word.
When Secretariat came to Belmont for the last leg of the triple crown in 1973 my grandmother was at the track. I wasn't there but I do remember watching the race on television. The whole Brooklyn neighborhood was abuzz over the horse of the year. I was particularly enthralled with him because my grandma had built him up like some superstar. We all rooted for him and when he won the whole block exploded with celebration. You would think the horse came from Bensonhurst instead of Virginia. By the way my grandmother didn't bet on him for two reasons -- he was the favorite so the payoff wouldn't be big and she couldn't stand his jockey, Ron Turcotte, aka that lousy French bastard, according to her.
Anyway, the movie itself was very inspirational. And not just because of the spectacular horse. I really related to his owner, Penny. When she took over her father's estate in the late 60's she had to put up with a lot of crap, what with being a woman and, gasp, a mere housewife. She never kowtowed to any of the men who tried to knock her down a peg. She stood her ground and she did what she felt was best. She took chances and wasn't afraid to fail. With no help from her husband or brother, she broke through the old-boys club. Secretariat wasn't the only winner. She was too. She reminded me of my grandmother, not the looks but her tenacity. During the 60's, betting at the horsetrack was a "man's sport" but my grandmother broke through. Not only did she hold her own and do well enough that she was able to go daily, but she was respected and yes, with her mouth, probably even feared.
There were quite a few memorable lines in the movie which I've already forgotten, but there was one that jolted me. It was something to the effect "in order to know how far you can go you have to run" or something similar. I might have garbled the words, but the message is clear. You'll never know what you can accomplish if you don't make an attempt. Even if you think you "failed" you probably really haven't since you've already gone further than you did if you hadn't tried. Excuse me now, I have a book I must finish editing...