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Secretariat Is a Winner (and Winning Is Good)


Selling our home of 21 years necessitated cleaning out the garage, and going through all those boxes was instructive. Several were full of cheap imitation-metal trophies for athletic achievement, accrued by our son from the age of five. I remember each and every end-of-season picnic and trophy presentation. Every kid got one. It was only fair. Rewards were for participation. Excellence, not so much. That is the culture in which our children have grown up: one of political correctness and everyone-is-equal to such a point that we stand today on the brink of losing our very national identity, that of American Exceptionalism.


So I’d like to offer a tip of the derby to Disney for producing the family film “Secretariat” which comes wrapped in this positive message: It’s OK to be a winner! Competition is good. Racehorses do it. Captains of industry do it. Even – and most importantly in the context of this story – “housewives” do it! They strive to achieve their personal best in life, settling for nothing less from themselves.

As did – thanks to the so-called housewife – the horse.

So, who is this movie about? The horse or the housewife?

The two appear as mutual reflecting pools.

It is 1973. Penny Chenery’s daughter aspires to join the hippy anti-war movement. She spends two of the first three years of the promising young colt’s life fighting to put on an anti-war play at her school. Just as Big Red is about to burst forth on the professional racing scene, Penny’s daughter finally gets to perform her play. Penny shepherding the burgeoning career of the horse, misses the performance because her flight home is grounded due to rain.

Diane Lane plays Chenery, the mother who must follow her own personal destiny, continue the legacy of her beloved father, and love her children with visceral commitment to the proverbial “T.”

Penny’s daughter goes to Argentina in pursuit of her anti-war dreams. During a setback in Secretariat’s advancement to the Triple Crown, Penny calls her daughter from a phone booth, rain again pouring down around her. She needs to connect with her daughter, but the need is not reciprocated. Penny cries into the phone, “We can change our political opinions during our lives. But I want you to know that I am so proud of you for what you are doing.”

What refreshing tolerance. You don’t see much of that nowadays. Come to think of it, you didn’t see much of it when I counted myself a hippy. Once again, kudos to Disney for supporting and expressing our better instincts as parents.

Imagine the climactic scene of Secretariat winning the Triple Crown. But Instead of the winning horse and jockey taking a celebratory walk around the track, showered with roses and applause, the sweating pair being interviewed by a member of the press about what it took to get them to this historic and exhilarating point – imagine that all the horses are led back into the paddock and awarded aluminum trophies for participating in the race. And no first place necklace is bestowed.

Be careful, Americans. The spirit of winning is being crushed.

Thankfully, not so in the movie “Secretariat.”

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