Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Archives as Far as the Sports Fan Can See

Sports Illustrated has made a truly astounding amount of material available on its web site. As far as I can tell, it's every issue in the magazine's history, searchable. Confronted with too many choices to handle, I settled on investigating Secretariat, and found two great pieces (for starters). First, there's Whitney Tower's report from Big Red's record-shattering Belmont Stakes:
Even in horse racing, where track records are a fairly common occurrence, an animal just does not go around beating an established mark by nearly three seconds. It would be as if Joe Namath threw 10 touchdown passes in a game or Jack Nicklaus shot a 55 in the Open.
Then, a more far-ranging article by George Plimpton about a lesser race run just a few weeks after the Belmont:
Such was the exhilaration at Belmont that even the jockeys on the losing horses were caught up in it. They joked and carried on after the race, intoxicated by what had happened, as if they were pleased, even though vanquished, to have been identified with Secretariat's historic triumph.
And this gem, from the same article:
For some people the fan letter is not enough. They must come to see him. When Secretariat arrived at Chicago's O'Hare Airport, an elderly couple, the Ray Klings from Glenview, Ill., were there to meet him. They had waited four hours. Apparently the Klings have a penchant for going to arrivals of this sort. They had seen Whirlaway unloaded at Midway Airport years before. "He was some ham, that Whirlaway," Mrs. Kling said, thinking back to that day. Secretariat was only in sight for 10 seconds or so as he came down the ramp from his Electra turboprop and disappeared into a van. Asked if the four-hour wait was worth it, Mrs. Kling replied, "Yes, heavens yes. This is much more exciting than Lindbergh's landing. And I was there," she added defiantly.


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