Sporting Life

Barbaro, Exhausted by Clichés, Gives Up the Good Fight

UNIONVILLE, PA–Barbaro had the heart of a champion, an iron-clad will, and a look in his eye that told the world he knew just how special he was, but in the end the clichés proved too much for even such a gallant warrior as he.

For 254 days the game runner fought back valiantly against overwhelming odds following his devastating injury in last year’s Preakness, but he was shadowed by a ruthless killer he could not outrun: sports writers’ clichés.

Barbaro was euthanized early Monday in a state-of-the-art facility nestled in the rolling hills near this bucolic village while dozens of his devoted fans who had kept an overnight vigil outside quietly sang Dan Fogelberg’s classic “Run for the Roses.”

“We did everything we could to protect him,” said Barbaro’s Hollywood-handsome surgeon, Dean Richardson, VMD, “but in the end the weight of all those cliches was too much for him to bear. The adjective is always the enemy of the noun.”

Barbaro’s story transcended sports and galvanized a war-weary nation. Prior to his awe-inspiring run in the Kentucky Derby last May, thoroughbred racing was seen as a haven for cigar-chomping old boors like Walter Matthau, dressed from head to toe in horse-blanket plaids. All that changed during the most scintillating two minutes in sports on the first Saturday in May 2006. Following Barbaro’s domineering derby win that sun-dappled afternoon, the nation turned its lonely eyes toward the Preakness.

That nation’s collective heart was broken as badly as Barbaro’s right hind leg, but we hoped against hope that a medical miracle would save the life of this winged Pegasus. What hope we had began to flicker when Barbaro developed laminitis in his left hind leg.

“That frequently happens when an injured horse shifts his weight to relieve the burden from too many cliches,” said Dr. Richardson.

Following an operation to save his left hind leg, Barbaro began shifting his weight back to his other injured hind leg, but still the clichés rained down like a fog of pearls, joined in their dastardly work by a welter of mixed metaphors—as though to add insult to injury.

Even the normally staid Washington Post chimed in with the following hyperventilation: “He obviously raced for pleasure, and he ran with such dynamic abandon that he made circling a track seem an impetuous act.”

Predictably the plucky horse was soon shifting his weight to his front legs, which also required operations. That’s when the light began to freeze in our hearts. We knew then it was only a matter of time marching on.

“In the end,” as one sports writer so aptly observed, “Barbaro didn’t have a leg to stand on.”

In related news, florists in the Kennett Square area will be featuring Barbaro Bouquets of a dozen red roses this Valentine’s day.

“The Big Guy was good for business,” said one florist. “We’re going to miss him.”