Derby Sportuality

The Kentucky Derby – “The greatest two minutes in sports” – is slated to be run Saturday, May 5, 2012. While much of America will focus on the peripheral trappings of the betting, the fashion, the fine cuisine and the mint juleps, the real reason for those greatest two minutes is a sportual one, where horse and rider become one entity; where soul joins soul to establish a performance far beyond either one could achieve on his own. Anyone who has ever loved an animal understands the infinite, unconditional loop of love between human and animal. And in the case of horse racing, the act of “competition” between horses and their human appendages highlights the spirit of the entire event. Relationships forged over years reveal themselves in this greatest two minutes.

Commitment to the discipline, to the physical training and to the relationship with the rider is the horse’s purpose, and miracles happen when put in competition with other paired souls.Of course, the human care of an animal’s bloodline is also a factor in its success. From the jockey’s perspective, he must also train physically, maintain a weight that allows maximum speed by the horse, and must move beyond pain and sacrifice. Sportuality redefines sacrifice to mean “to make holy” or “to make whole” so as the riders sacrifice, they make the entire race more holy, that is, combined in mind, body and spirit.

Sportuality redefines the word competition to mean “to work with”, so when horse works with rider and horses and riders work with each each other, great joy can certainly be the result. Choose any horse-themed movie as a backdrop to introduce these relationships between humans and their animals and then wait for that moment when the gates open and “they are off!” Competition can and will expose great joy, but we must realize that others’ grief or loss is also a necessity. The stories inspire us … They give us goose bumps … They capture our imagination … They put clothes on the Holy Spirit.

Sportuality also defines sanctuary to be “a holy place.” One of the stories within the Sanctuary chapter highlights my friend Annie Bianco-Ellett, or Outlaw Annie, the world champion cowboy mounted shooter. Annie’s sanctuary is the saddle, not unlike the competitors in the Kentucky Derby. It’s where she finds her joy, where she is whole, where she feels connected to all creation.

So as the entire country watches the Derby from the confines of our own sanctuaries, might I suggest we step back from the surface trappings and observe the deeper message of what’s really going on here, and take a lesson in true competition and sacrifice so we might experience the full joy of that Oneness of the moment, one of the greatest in all sport.

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