Smarty, Smarty, Smarty. Man do people love that horse. We received an avalanche of emails about the Belmont Stakes, leading up to it and after from around the world. I found the idea of so many people pulling for a single horse tremendous.
We also hit some NBA finals and the doings in Compton. As always, my responses are in italics. And thanks for all of the feedback.
Now on to the People's Voice. ...
BELMONT STAKES (June 2: There's something about Smarty)
I love Smarty Jones. Smarty Jones is the best horse I have ever seen. I'm 11.
Los Angeles, Calif.
A great big thank you for your wonderfully written, inspiring article on Smarty Jones. I was close to choking up and my eyes actually filled with tears as I read your words. I haven't been this excited about a race since Secretariat, who will always be my "hero."
I'm a horsewoman, a trainer, a riding instructor, and a huge "horse fan" more than a race fan, but Smarty Jones has captured my heart and my attention. I loved reading your article! Please give us more like it. I'll be glued to my TV, screaming my head off, as I watch Smarty run again on Saturday. I just wish I could be there in person.
What is the preoccupation with making this horse much more than he is? The times are similar to Funny Cide's, neither of which is anything spectacular. To mention this horse with Secretariat is flat out silly. We are talking about a legend that holds track records and one that simply has very little competition this year so is standing out.
St. Louis, Mo.
I remember the sight of Secretariat screaming past the field and what a feeling that was. I race horses on a much smaller scale than these folks but have had horses on the track. The average folks like me can identify and root for this group of people and this exceptional horse. I can't be there but I will be glued to the TV. Even if he can't make the Triple Crown happen, he is an amazing animal that gives hope to all of us who love horses and know what it takes to accomplish what he has done already. What about that Smarty Jones!
Do you believe in hexes on horses? Back in 1978 my husband and I went to the Preakness. After Secretariat, Spectacular Bid and Seattle Slew there have been no Triple Crown winners and we haven't been to a Preakness since 1978,E the last time there was a Triple Crown winner. What do YOU think?
I think you and your husband should have attended this year's race.
SUNRISE WITH SMARTY (June 3: A four-legged Ali?)
Great article on the "Smarty Jones phenomenon." Your description of the "goings on" made me think that everyone who was not there missed a significant experience – even at 6 a.m.
At a time when we are struggling to elect the right man to run our country, health care being an issue that any age person can relate to, our boys overseas and then the everyday problems that we Americans have, how can you not believe in miracles. Smarty Jones has made so many of us just smile when we read about him, hear about him and see him. When he won the Preakness, I was so excited I had goose bumps on my arms. He is a subject that all of us can talk about and be happy about.
Nancy L. Edmundson
Congratulations for your "Four Legged Ali" commentary. You were perfect in capturing the spirit of Smarty fans all over the world. Even though writers are evoking Secretariat and Seabiscuit I recall my favorite horse of all time Citation, the classiest horse I've ever seen.
Alberto del Castillo
Rio de Janeiro; Brazil
Thank you for making me jealous. Sunrise and a hot coffee watching Smarty Jones sure beats the train and the office. Seriously, great column. It was horse racing writing for people like me who don't know anything about horse racing.
Where's a good place in Manhattan, perhaps with a big screen TV to catch tomorrow's race?
New York, N.Y.
It was designed more to watch basketball (and celebrities) than horse racing but you can't go wrong with Jay-Z's upscale sports bar called the 40/40 Club at 6 West 25th Street. It is as big-time a sports bar as there is in the country. Seriously. And to think the management never thought I'd really give them a plug in the column.
RACE DAY (June 5: A punch to the stomach)
I believe Stewart Elliott got a swelled head. He thought he was on Secretariat. He was suckered into taking the lead at Belmont Park. He ran the first six furlongs in 1:11 and change. Too fast! He had no horse left for the stretch run. If he had run the first half in 1:13 and been with the pack (instead of five lengths ahead), he probably could have won.
Staten Island, N.Y.
The horse ran a mile and three quarters. He ran wide the whole race. He should have settled him in on the rail, 3 or 4 back. Might have had enough left to win. Too bad!
Idaho Falls, Idaho
How sad and happy this day this has been. From the loss of one of our finest Presidents, to the loss of a Triple Crown victory, this nation has seen where the "underdogs" came from and where they could go! My best regards to all who put forth their best effort to make a special place in the history of our great nation! Thanks for the article. Thanks for the winners.
Fort Gay, W.V.
I wrote you before the Belmont to tell 'ya why Smarty Jones wouldn't win. I was at the Woodlands, our local betting facility, when the race took place, and many of us agreed that Stewart Elliott, not Smarty, is to blame for this loss. He drove Smarty to the front too fast and kept him there. And we only saw Elliott go to the whip after Birdstone drew even.
The WWE puts on a more believable show, and several thousand in attendance agree with what I am saying. It's too bad the fix was on, and horse racing will suffer from this tremendously. I for one am through with horse racing, heavyweight boxing and any sport that has mob influence written all over it ... give me college basketball and the WWE. At least the WWE doesn't pretend to be all fake and phony.
Kansas City, Mo.
Mr. Townsend did, indeed, email pre-race and predict a Smarty loss based on mafia influence of the race. After the race many more letters came in suggesting the same thing. Personally, I don't think the race was fixed (although I swear I saw Paulie Walnuts and Christopher on the backstretch), but this remains a very real problem for the sport. There is a credibility problem.
Many years ago an old-timer told me a story about Belmont Park. There was a jockey named Bobby Ussery who constantly won races by coming to the top of the stretch and being just on the outside of the leaders. He won so many races that way that they actually called it "Ussery's Highway."
Nick Zito's horse ran that same kind of race. I guess that "Highway" still exists on the Belmont surface.
I can tell you one thing. If another horse comes along next year to win the Preakness and Derby those new fans who came flocking to see Smarty win the Triple Crown on Saturday will bring some more new fans with them. I believe the ratings will be higher next year than this year at the Belmont, if that happens. But (if the Belmont) was 1-3/8 miles (instead of) 1½ miles, Smarty would be our generation's version of Secretariat.
Thanks anyway, Dan, for the great columns leading up to one of the biggest letdowns of the season. All us fair-weathered horse race fans in search of that proverbial national hero will have to wait for something else to get hyped up about.
Pompano Beach, Fla.
NBA FINALS (GAME 1) (June 6: The Pistons are exhausting)
I would just like to comment on how refreshing it was to hear a sports columnist at least hint that the Pistons, or any team for that matter, beat the Lakers due to hard work and great team playing. Although the Yahoo! Sports article on the NBA front page stated that the Pistons were "uglifying" another game.
If people want to see teams running up and down a court scoring baskets, watch the warm-ups. The Pistons' defense is beautiful and no other team in the NBA plays more as a team than the Pistons.
To everyone who was bored with Game 1, I say don't worry. The dunk and three-point contests will be back next year and you can get your heart's desire of scoring and dazzling shots. As for me, I am going to enjoy some of the best fundamental basketball to make the finals in a long time.
San Diego, Calif.
Finally someone gives credit to the Pistons for winning the game instead of blaming the Lakers for losing it. You made some great points that summed up my feelings exactly, especially about how it's been a continuous coincidence that every team that plays against the Pistons has "sloppy" offense.
My friends are puzzled that I would be bold enough to openly claim the Championship for the "riding roughshod" Eastern Conference winners' game plan. But I like it. It's hard, harsh even, on the mind's eyes, but it is so gutsy. It says, "We know we are up against the best, but where we come from we are the best."
I appreciate that and no amount of excuse will change all the things said over and over again (by the losing team of Sunday night) about the psychological advantage of winning Game 1 and winning on the road.
My investiture is a valuable one. Today my team the West Indies Cricket team celebrated a convincing win over Bangladesh here in the Caribbean. Today again tears of joy . . .she who is now an infrequent visitor. Follow my eyes!
A bountiful response,
Rep. of Trinidad & Tobago
I am Staff Sergeant Stewart deployed to Iraq and have been extended with the 1st Armored Division for over a year. It is difficult to follow the playoffs due to time constraints and missions, but just wanted to say that I read your latest column and agree with you. I told my guys to be aware of the Pistons D, and they all stated that the Lakers were too powerful, better shooters and of course they had Phil, Hmph!
Well I am a die-hard Jazz fan, and would love more than anything for Malone not to achieve his goal of a ring because I believe you finish with whom you start (just a personal opinion). I am rooting for the Pistons not only because of the Malone issue but also I feel you can't buy a ring, you have to still earn it ... ask the Yankees. Also I have been a huge underdog fan all my life.
Staff Sergeant Stewart
COMPTON DOMINGUEZ (June 7: An off-day assist)
Thanks for your article about Tayshaun Prince and his former coach, Russell Otis. It was great to read such a good article and to hear someone in the media who wasn't afraid to give a man a fair go. I've never (thankfully) been in a situation where I've been falsely accused of something so horrible. But I reckon it must be hard to keep on fighting and not just throw in the towel and walk away.
If you are in contact with Russell Otis again, please pass on my congratulations on his reinstatement, Dominguez High's win and for having the courage to keep on fighting against those who attacked him. He is a role model.
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
I grew up in the L.A. area and attended Inglewood High School. Under the leadership of Mr. Otis, Dominguez eliminated strong and talented Inglewood teams from the CIF playoffs on numerous occasions. They even eliminated Inglewood during Paul Pierce's senior year. Russell Otis is truly a great coach, as his record shows.
Regarding the molestation allegations, we will never really know what happened. I don't know coach Otis, or the alleged victim, personally, so I can't really make a strong statement about his guilt or innocence.
But, what I do know is that if Mr. Otis is indeed innocent, as a jury of his peers seemed to believe, how great it is that Coach Otis made it through such a trying ordeal still standing. Talk about redemption.
Could you imagine the juxtaposition between losing your job amid allegations of committing a heinous crime, standing before a jury as they read a verdict regarding whether or not you committed the crime, then a couple years later, being right back in the saddle as coach, winning a state championship and having a successful NBA player return to your school to sing your praises? What a story.
Just wanted to say that the story was very moving. It's nice to see former players and students coming to the defense of a teacher or coach. Just from the story I know that I would be very happy to have my son play for Russell Otis.