All Hail…

This afternoon, Saturday, May third, right after the completion of the 134th Kentucky Derby, the filly Eight Belles, who finished second, broke both front ankles and collapsed. The injuries were so severe that the runner-up had to be euthanized on the spot. NBC Sports, which covered the event, spent less than two minutes dealing with the tragic death of the filly, instead concentrating through the remaining 30 minutes of the telecast on interviews with the winning jockey, trainer, and owners, and showing at least three recaps of the race.

To me, that symbolized a certain emphasis that has overtaken the United States, and possibly the entire modern technological age — the focus on winning to the near-total exclusion of anything else. I’m not taking anything away from Big Brown, the winning horse. But he will live to race another day and probably survive to a ripe old age in stud in some green pasture. For Eight Belles, there are no other days.

For Eight Belles, all that remains, at best, is a hurried grave, if that, and a fleeting memory of a gallant race.

I’ve already heard words that her race and death was a metaphor for the efforts of women to achieve some sort of equality in society — a gallant race where they come off in second place, followed by death. Is that harsh? Perhaps… but I’m not so certain that it’s all that extreme.

And I’m absolutely convinced that the NBC coverage pattern is all too typical of the media, and possibly our entire societal focus — all honors and praise to the winner, no matter how he won, and but a fleeting mention of all the other gallant struggles that didn’t end in success. And then all the so-called pundits wonder why life seems to have gotten cheaper by the year, why business and politics have become ever more cut-throat, while reality TV gets higher and higher reviews, and while “gentler” sports and pursuits, the arts, and even reading, seem to fade.

Or, as I’m doubtless misquoting someone, “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.”

All hail, great media caesars, for those who die and are forgotten are about to salute you.