Gump Worsley, one of the last goal tenders to play without a mask, was a Hall of Famer who won four Stanley Cups as a member of the Montreal Canadiens. Instead of beating any man in the house, Bernie (Schoolboy) Friedkin, a former boxer who once used his big brothers’s I.D. to get into a boxing gym, could have said, “I can draw any man in the house.” And he did, 16 times, more times than he lost to an opponent.
Gump and Bernie died over the weekend and their deaths were dutifully chronicled in the New York Times today. But when Barbaro was euthanized this morning after a long battle to recover from an injury suffered at The Preakness last summer, it was breaking news that will undoubtedly be heralded on the Gray Lady’s front page on Tuesday morning.
Why did Barbaro touch us so? Why did a horse – a horse – cause to many to toss and turn, fret and now mourn?
Maybe it’s because they cannot speak to us. They cannot share their egos, insecurities or weaknesses with us. When they’re stubborn and irritable, we simply let them be. When they’re downright nasty, we don’t hold a grudge.
We marvel at their performances, embrace their fawning owners and send them gently into their twilight while awaiting their descendants to run again. When they hurt we hurt more. And when they die, especially the champions, our hearts sink as if we’d lost a loved one.
I get it, but I don’t. RIP, Barbaro. you, too, Gump and Bernie.