Why do I choke up when I hear the first sounds of "My Old Kentucky Home?" I'm not from Kentucky and lived there a mere few months back in the mid 80's. I like it, it's a great place to visit but I have no desire to put away my suitcase in the bluegrass.
It's this: I recognize the insurmountable effort it takes to get to that illusive race. It's the holy grail. It's the equalizing dream of the rich and poor. The song represents the culmination of years, and I mean years, of repetitive work and a slew of passionate descriptives: hope, disappointment, promise, despair, determination, anticipation, perseverance, anguish, elation, exhaustion - insert your own word. No one puts in a more gargantuan effort than the horses, race trackers and the owners who finance the fantasies. It's a roller coaster of victories and losses. Highs and lows.
If they get to be the rare and "lucky" few, the emotional toll is stupendous. Imagine having to get through derby day, waiting, fretting, stall walking, trying to keep that runaway freight train of nerves and fears in check. I watch them being interviewed and I smile in empathy. Their faces reveal the contradictory feelings of excitement and dread. Even the old pros breath shallow gulps of air to keep their stomachs from flip flopping.
Phew! It's good to be an artist!
So, this year I didn't tear up when the horses stepped onto the track and the first notes of that very southern song began. Not even a bit of traditional mist. Every derby I've ever watched has been accompanied with embarrassing sniffles and disguising coughs. I don't know if this lack of sentiment represented anything significant. It just was.