Saturday, May 03, 2008
(posted by One More Dying Quail)
Everyone who reads Awful Announcing on a semi-regular basis knows about the brouhaha that took place between Buzz Bissinger and Will Leitch last Tuesday night on the set of Bob Costas' HBO show. Bissinger waited approximately seventy seconds into the segment on The Internet before firing a shot across the blogosphere's bow, Will responded by running for his life for the next fifteen minutes, and Braylon Edwards did his best to suppress the nervous "Why is this man yelling and will he notice if I move my chair?" look on his face. Over the next few days, the blogs had their say, Costas tried to clarify his own position on the issue, and Bissinger (thankfully) calmed down enough to do the same. All is not well, but we're getting there.
Near the start of his tirade, Bissinger asked Will two questions: "Do you know who W.C. Heinz is? Have you ever read him?"
Will was familiar with Heinz and had indeed read The Professional (which Ernest Hemingway once called, "the only good novel about a fighter"; it was interesting to note that Bissinger was very dismissive of Will's acknowledgement - "You've read The Professional? Have you read his sports columns? In the newspapers?" - ostensibly because it did not fit neatly with the point he was trying to make. The original question should not have been, "Have you ever read W.C. Heinz?" It should have been, "Have you ever read W.C. Heinz's newspaper columns?"). I, however, had never read Heinz's work, even after his death earlier this year. It's a personal fault, really: I don't read nearly enough, classics or modern stuff. My goal, ultimately, is to remedy this by reading books to my son, hopefully filling his head with tons of useless information by the time he can read for himself. We'll see how that goes. The kid will probably hate books, sports, or both.
So I don't remember exactly how or why I went looking for it - I think I read about it in one of the many blog posts that went up in the aftermath of Bissinger v. Leitch; my instinct says Joe Posnanski mentioned it, and I'll read anything Posnanski recommends - but somehow Heinz's "Death of a Racehorse" found its way onto my computer screen. And it was just as great as Bissinger's endorsement suggested.
I almost shared Death of a Racehorse with AA readers this morning, before the Derby, but never got around to it. After arriving home from dinner and seeing how the race ended, I spent some time trying to decide if that was a blessing or a curse, and if I should mention the story now, in the aftermath of Eight Belles death. A horse was dead, so I thought it might be viewed by some as a distasteful item to run. And you know, it might be. But the thing that I ultimately realized was this: Heinz's story was about Eight Belles, daughter of Unbridled's Song, granddaughter of Unbridled, just as surely as it was about Air Lift, son of Bold Venture, full brother of Assault. It tells the same story that viewers saw on NBC today. AA said in the previous post that he has the video of Eight Belles falling after the race but doesn't want to post it. I don't blame him. That's not something you really want to see more than once, especially after you know the outcome, unless you're trying to gain some insight into the reason for the fall. But to read about it, from the typewriter of someone as talented as W.C. Heinz - maybe that can help us appreciate the entire situation, from unbridled optimism at the start to unthinkable tragedy at the end, without having to actually go back and watch it again with our own eyes.
If you care to read it, here's the link. If you don't like that I'm posting it now, blame Buzz Bissinger. If you think I'm waaay overthinking this, you're probably right.