Barbaro Craves the Spotlight

Barbaro is in the news again, this time for complications to a recent surgery. This is the most recent of many "setbacks" the 3-year-old colt has dealt with since shattering his leg during the Preakness. This latest story though has helped me to open my eyes and see Barbaro for what he truly is — an attention whore.

Barbaro refuses to shrink from the public eye after his career was ended as he's clinging to the spotlight with any good leg left in him. It started with the "friskiness" after his first surgery, a move that failed to captivate the public. Being frisky with the females was enough to get Bengal draft pick Frostee Rucker his own episode of "Outside the Lines," but it drew nothing more than polite chuckles in Barbaro's case. It took a quick trip back to the drawing board before he discovered the only way he could stay relevant was by playing the same card that won over the public the first time, "potentially fatal health complications."

Props to Barbaro, though, because it worked. He managed to leap over LeBron James contract speculation and the World Cup final in the headlines and grabbed some good press along the way. More importantly, he was able to get another group of fans to start babying him again. I expect it's only a matter of time before he gets more letters, both the type drawn in crayon with the "R" spelled backwards and a picture of "Barbaro" that looks like a mud puddle with a smiley face and the type stained with the tears of middle-aged housewives who love animals like people.

Shortly after the news broke, thousands of people left messages on his message board praising him for setting an "example of toughness all humans could follow" and claiming that he dominates their daily prayers and thoughts. Some even went as far as to call him a hero and the savior that our nation needs.

After reading those messages and hundreds more like it, I realized there had to be more to Barbaro than what meets the eye. There's nothing heroic or inspiring about winning a race, getting hurt, and narrowly avoiding death thanks to the wealthy owners controlling your fate. I figured he must've done something to warrant this effusive praise — maybe he did a tour or two of service in Iraq or hauled the poor from New Orleans moments before Katrina broke the levees. Nope, turns out he's just a horse. A horse that gets fatally injured and miraculously healed so much that even soccer players are tired of his act.

There are some people who appreciate his act though and you can count Dani from Pennsylvania one of them:

Barbaro, I am sending you a thousand healing angels to carry away the infection and stimulate healing in your leg, Keep up the good attitude Love and hugs...Dani

— Barbaro message board

Does anyone else get the feeling that she may be going just a little bit overboard here? I mean, honestly, is it really going to take 1,000 angels to heal an animal? It's not something two or three could knock out before helping California win the pennant? It seems like overkill and that maybe those angels would be better served, I don't know, feeding the hungry or helping the millions of dying people in the world.

I don't know how "Danni" rose to her current position, where she is in charge of a multitude of angels, but it's clear that she's doing a terrible job. When you make Isiah Thomas look like a smart and sensible manager, then you know you're in trouble. I just hope she's fired before she sends 4,000 angels to help convicts pick up trash on the side of the highway during the midst of a natural disaster several hundred miles away.

It's inevitable that Barbaro's "health complications" will be a thing of the past after 1,000 angels have their way with him. This means he'll have to face his worst nightmare, as no health issues means no media spotlight. Most importantly, it means no more hero worship. He'll probably try to stay in the spotlight with an ill-advised head-butt of a doctor or by releasing a tell-all book. I'm just hoping he doesn't go the Paris Hilton route to stardom, as I don't think Barbaro's home-made video would have the same appeal to the masses.

He can avoid the humiliating fall from grace by coming to terms with the fact that he is an attention whore. Once he learns to accept it, he can use it to his advantage. Plenty of former sports stars go on to other lucrative careers and Barbaro could be next in line. In the '60s, technology allowed a horse to talk, fly an airplane, throw a birthday party, drive a delivery truck, and even surf. With the technology of today, I see no reason why Barbaro couldn't honor Mr. Ed's legacy by singing and dancing his way to becoming the new American Idol. Even if that technology isn't available yet, he could still race out-of-shape wannabes on Spike TV's Pros vs. Joes.

If that doesn't work out, surely he could have a career as an odds maker. Barbaro wouldn't even have to deal with the pressure of being the first animal in the field, as Inji the Orangutan has been picking Super Bowl winners for years from the comfort of her habitat at the Oregon Zoo. I know it's not as great as being honored as a champion, but at least he will still be in the spotlight. And it's better than the alternatives — existing in stick form and making a career out of holding pieces of construction paper together, or dedicating his life to keeping "Spot" from going hungry.

SportsFan MagazineThe Sports Gospel According to Mark is sponsored by All readers get a 10% signup bonus at BetOnSports by entering "Sports Gospel Promo" as the promo code. Mark Chalifoux is also a weekly columnist for SportsFan Magazine. His columns appear every Tuesday on SC. You can e-mail Mark at [email protected].

Comments and Conversation

July 12, 2006


You’re a jerk.

July 12, 2006


You are sick.

July 12, 2006


What is your volunteer record? I would guess that you hide behind your pen and praise the volunteers that help the unfortunate or defend the US in battle. Instead of yapping about it go volunteer your services. Go draw some sweat buddy!

July 12, 2006


You are a total [expletive deleted]. What makes you the high and mighty authority to judge this situation. It may be true that in the world we live in today, the life of a champion horse is insignificant in the grand scheme of things. But Barbaro has shown the true heart of a Champion. He has won the hearts of millions of people all over the world. His story is not just about a horse, but about overcoming almost impossible odds. Barbaro is a horse that performed for nothing more than a few carrots and some oats. He never complained about not getting enough money, worried about endorsement deals, or many of the other trivial matters we hear about with today’s athletes. The only true attention whore here is you. It is sickening that you have nothing better to do with your time but trash a situation that has captured millions of hearts. Barbaro has shown people that it is worth fighting through any impossible situation, even if there is a glimpse of hope. Barbaro has put up a heroic fight. What have you done with your life that makes you so important, Mr. Chalifaux???

July 12, 2006


Well said, Brooks…Mr. Chalifaux’s work last week consisted of publishing a piece on the game of tag, as played by fifth graders. At least that topic was more well-suited to his stage of development. My apologies to fifth graders.

July 12, 2006


At first I was furious when I read this tripe. Now I merely pity you. You are the attention whore, with a bully pulpit, simply because you are a hack sportswriter whose columns would not otherwise be read. How easy it is to sneer at those who have compassion for animals. It’s so much easier than thinking and feeling, isn’t it?

July 13, 2006



Apparently not…when you write an article entitled “Barbaro craves the spotlight” and go on with some ridiculous tirade about an athlete who has
had the misfortune of an career-ending accident and is simply trying to recover - as any athlete would.

If the simple news concerning Barbaro is too much for you too handle, why not embed yourself in the recurring tabloid news ad-nausem that is rampant in [all] other venues.

It is clear to me that you simply have no idea what’s involved in owning professional racehorses. Why not get off your a** and actually visit the stables where such legends are raised; speak to the owners and trainers; and perhaps, just perhaps you’ll come away with a greater appreciation for the process.

Regrettably , I wouldn’t put much faith in your ability to do so.

July 13, 2006


Ditto Brooks ~ you said it better than I…

If you don’t care about this topic then don’t write about it just to get hits and stir people up. It’s been an emotional time for those of us that do care. Find something else to write about. True, you just wanted attention yourself. Guess you didn’t care what kind.

July 13, 2006


What’s wrong, Mark? Drop your rattle and baby bottle? Too bad you don’t have one iota of the heart and talent Barbaro possesses — otherwise, maybe someone would reach down, pick them, up, and pop them back in your overeager, big mouth. Congrats on your smalltime “spotlight” — er, dim bulb rattling in your empty head, I mean.

July 13, 2006

Mary Lou:

It’s obvious that you don’t have a clue. It’s too bad that you have to write this trash to justify your sorry job. They pay you for this? You ought to be fired!!!!!

July 13, 2006


Every one of the trainers, jockeys, fans, owners, and now everyone involved in the care of this injured and highly trained athlete have called him “magnificent”. It is not a word to take lightly or dismiss. There are very few “magnificent” things in this world today. When we (the public) see something magnificent…we appreciate it. You, on the other hand, have demonstrated that at your work: You are just: insignificant.

July 13, 2006


You are a true insensitive person and in this time when the national public needs something/someone to hold onto (hopes, etc), you, i believe, truly enjoy seeing what response you’ll get when your articles are read.

Your article is not worthy of sending to the message board for others “Barbaro fans” to read.

The type of person you are you’re truly enjoying the comments are you receiving (and so is your editor/producer). I’m sure the New Bolton Center, and all those involved with Barbaro would just love to really see this but there are more important things to tend to. Obvoiusly, you had nothing more important to write about……or took a far off turn in never, never land in writing this article.

July 13, 2006


You are pathetic. Your parents raised an idiot, which says a lot about them.

July 13, 2006

Linda Mowers:

If ire is what you are craving you have it! How could you think an animal would crave the spotlight. You IDIOT!!! All an animal wants to do is eat, drink and be happy. The love to run in ingrained in a horse. Barbaro was one horse that excelled at it. You need to seek a different profession perhaps as a gravedigger.

July 13, 2006


Perhaps if you look at the attention you have been granted by people such as me, other writers that have responded, and all those who have read this article, you are nothing more than a hypocrite craving attention yourself. All that I can say is at least you have brought this upon yourself. If Barbaro is so undeserving of attention in your eyes, then why are you succumbing to his selfish wishes and giving him exactly what he and his family wants. This is just a sign of your ignorance.

July 13, 2006

Phyllis A Carlino:

What the hell is the matter with you. The horse just didn’t sit down and say to himself I think I will infect my left foot to get a little attention. It is reporters and newspapers like your who publish such innain material that are the “whores”. He is still one of the magnificant horses to come down the pike and he gives Americans something /someone to focus on during these mixed up times in our world. So get a life and if you can’t write something positive - get out of journalism.

July 13, 2006



Did anyone use the line, “You’re article doesn’t have a leg to stand on?” Or, “Quit horsin’ around?” Well, they should have. It amazes me that humor offends these people. I wonder if they’ve ever broken a leg. If they have, they should have been put to sleep. The se people need to stop nagging. Like you say, Barbaro clearly has opportunities for fame beyond what he has already achieved. Personally, I think a talk show is in his future.

Anyway, great article.

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