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The Kentucky Derby as a metaphor for life

Did your coach ever tell you to never give up?

Have your parents ever told you to keep trying no matter what?

Has your pastor or other confidante ever encouraged you not to quit in spite of the odds?

If you watched Saturday's Kentucky Derby you saw the epitome of what it means to keep battling when the outlook can be no gloomier. It was like the time your favorite football team was three touchdowns behind in the first quarter. Can you ever remember your baseball team giving up 10 runs in the first inning?

Derby winner Giacomo, ridden by jockey Mike Smith, came out of the gate dead last and quickly fell three lengths behind the next-to-last horse. Giacomo had won only one of his previous seven races. Mike Smith had ridden in the Derby 12 times, never to taste victory.

What must Smith, riding this horse named for an aging rock star's son, at 50-1 odds, have been thinking when he burst out behind 19 thoroughbreds running for the roses? Fortunately, Smith was doing everything but thinking.

If Smith had been thinking he may have tugged on the reins and made a U-turn back to the barn. He might have said to himself, "It was fun while it lasted, but I'm riding yet another loser." He could easily have started planning for his new career, one without the highest of highs and the lowest of lows that comes with competing for a living -- competing on the back of an animal that doesn't know first place from last.

Instead of thinking and feeling sorry for himself, Smith did the only thing he knew to do. Smith rode the heck out of Giacomo. He pushed him through the pack to the front and all the way to the Winner's Circle. In the traditional parlance of our part of the South, he kept playing, playing his fanny off.

What else was there for him to do? He still had a long dusty trail ahead of him, so why not do the only thing he had ever trained to do? Smith had never known how to quit. He only had one option, keep riding. The end result of his inner drive gave him a place in the upper echelon of sports history.

So the next time your favorite team is looking up from the bottom of a very tall scoreboard, remember Mike Smith and Giacomo. They refused to quit. Last to first. Stranger things have happened.

As an old anonymous coach once said, "never, never, never, ever give up." That's good advice to follow if you're playing or just rooting for your team.



Web posted on Thursday, May 12, 2005











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