Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Barbaro LIVES!

By Mark Chalifoux

It is a sad week for planet Earth. Barbaro has been euthanized. I know what you're thinking, so save the classless glue jokes. I don't want to hear about Barbaro's inability to out-run death with only 2.5 good legs or about how his future is now in scrap booking supplies. There are too many people hurting for cruel jokes. Fortunately, I have good news for his legions of fans. Wipe away your tears, because ... Barbaro is alive!

Why would I share this with the legions of Barbaro fans? After all, they have chimed in with their thoughts of me, ranging from someone praying I get hit and killed by a semi-truck to a flight attendant who insinuated I was the worst person she's heard of since 9/11. Here's a brief sampling:

Go f*ck yourself you heartless bastard! - John

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

How do you dare call Barbaro a media whore. Your a pitiful human, and have a mean hearted attitude. Get out of media business. You should get a job working as a janitor at Burger King. Maybe they would accept you, but I doubt it. Your a first class asshole, and I hope whatever you try to achieve fails. – Karen

Yet, during my time on the Barbaro beat (this is now my third column on it), I've softened somewhat. I learned that this is a horse that people really, really, REALLY care about. Their obsession isn't something to poke fun at or to ridicule. I could've kept this to myself and left them to grieve, but that's just not who I am. Rejoice, animal fans — Barbaro lives.

How do I know this? Because I saw him this afternoon, with my very own eyes. I am 100% certain it was him. I was driving on a highway in SE Ohio and, in the distance, I saw Barbaro. He was trotting around a fenced-in field with several of his new friends, enjoying life away from the spotlight. He was completely healed and running without even a slight limp. It was truly miraculous.

Now, this stunning revelation does beg the question — why did he fake his own death? I have two theories.

The first is that he merely longed to escape his lunatic fans. Anytime he so much as sneezed, thousands of supporters would rain their prayers, well-wishes, and ballads on him via his message board. At this point, he had more crayon drawings by 3-year-old artists and poems from lonely, 55-year-old women than he knew what to do with. He couldn't even sell them on eBay (given the fact that he's a horse and, as we all know, regrettably, horses aren't afforded the same purchasing power that humans are, so he couldn't buy a computer).

My second theory is that the expectations would've been too much for him to handle if he fully recovered. He knew that if he was able to run again, he would draw non-stop comparisons to planet Earth's other great runner, Lance Armstrong. The only problem is that Barbaro knew he could never win another Kentucky Derby, let alone three or four more. He could never reach the bar that Lance set and probably didn't want to live the rest of his life in that shadow.

After all, Armstrong came back from cancer to dominate the Tour de France, so it was easier for Barbaro to let the world know he had "died" from a broken leg (when in reality the only problem a broken leg presents is being too selective when letting admirers sign your cast). He had peaked athletically, so it made sense for him to step out of the spotlight.

You may not believe me now, but you will someday. Maybe you will see Barbaro frolicking in a pasture near you or with a smile on his face riding a Jet-ski in the Caribbean. Maybe you will encounter him at a midwestern diner, accompanied by Elvis, and you will just know that he has fooled us all. Regardless, rest comfortably tonight knowing that the greatest horse that ever lived is still out there ... somewhere.

It's either that or the alternative — God got so annoyed by all the prayers for Barbaro that he decided to intervene. You can make up your own mind, but I know what I saw.

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