If you had
Or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted
In one moment
Would you capture it
Or just let it slip? -Eminem, “Lose Yourself”
In the spirit of the Breeders Cup this weekend, here’s a post about horse racing and art…
My good friend Joe is hands down one of the best thoroughbred handicappers in the country. Besides his mathematical capacity, his preternatural ability to understand odds and his pure love of the sport, Joe is also very disciplined. He bets little or none on the races where he doesn’t have an edge. He loads up on the few where he feels he does.
A bunch of us college friends were together for this year’s Kentucky Derby (all thanks to Joe). The Derby race in particular is notoriously tough to handicap because of (a) the longer distance, (b) the young age and relative inexperience of the horses, and (c) it’s a twenty horse field. That being said, I’ve seen Joe win the Derby many times. (Pictured above is “Big Brown” who won the 2008 Kentucky Derby. Joe’s bet and win on that race is the stuff of legends at Churchill Downs.)
This year Joe was feeling really good about a horse, “Rock Your World.” He made a considerable bet and we followed suit (albeit in much smaller amounts).
We gathered together to watch the “most exciting two minutes in all of sports.”
Here we go…
“The horses reach the starting gate.”
The bell rings.
“And they’re off!”
Our enthusiasm quickly waned when at the first quarter pole, Rock Your World was dead last.
Things didn’t improve much from there.
He finished seventeenth.
Joe, usually stoic and equanimous in such losing moments (“You win some, you lose some Clarko.”), was livid. He repeatedly yelled (through various expletives), “I just wanted a chance! I just wanted a chance!” He added, “The horse never had a chance to run.”
What did he mean?
Well, through a combination of jockey error and bad luck, Rock Your World was boxed in by other horses at the start. A horrible break. When that happens, it’s nearly impossible to recover. Hence, a great horse (was among the favorites) finishing seventeenth. Joe wasn’t mad that Rock Your World lost or that he lost. He was mad that the horse never had a chance to run. Never had a chance to compete. Never had a chance to show what he could do.
It’s fine to get beat. You just want to get beat doing your best. You can live with someone else being better that day.
So what does this have to do with making art?
I’m not sure. Other than, how will you find out how good you are? How good you can be? How you measure up against the greats?…
…If you never run the race.
You gotta give yourself the chance.
Find what you’re passionate about. What you dream of. What challenges you to the max. And do it.
Get in the race.
Go make your art.
P.S. – Go “California Angel”!