Everybody Who Has Ever Beaten Me in a Race has Cheated. They’re all Cowards!

Most people were so revolted by California Chrome co-owner Steve Coburn’s comments last Saturday after his horse failed to win the Triple Crown they launched a blistering attack on Twitter — the 21st century version of tar-and-feathering — that eventually led to his tearful apology a couple days later on national television.

Not me.

I stood up and cheered when I watched Coburn launch his televised rant against rival horse owners at the end of the Belmont Stakes on Long Island, calling them “cowards” because unlike California Chrome most of them had skipped the Kentucky Derby and The Preakness, and therefore were well-rested for the 1.5-mile race.

“Right on, brother!” I cried.

You see, I make similar excuses any time I finish far back in the field.

Sure, I’ve crossed the finish line in first place in my division in various kayak and running competitions over the years, but whenever I fail to win, place or show I’m ready with an explanation.

“Everybody else cheated!”

Take the Boston Marathon in April.

Just because I hadn’t run a qualifying marathon in a fast time the mean-spirited killjoys of the Boston Athletic Association gave me a ridiculously high bib number that forced me to start the 26.2-mile

running race in a corral of casual joggers more than an hour after the Kenyans and other elite runners took off. I hadn’t even reached Heartbreak Hill, for God’s sake, when Meb Keflezighi sprinted across the finish line on Boylston Street!

Cheaters!

I experienced a similar situation a few years ago in New York, during the Mayor’s Cup New York City Kayak Championship, a 28-mile race around Manhattan that attracted some of the world’s best paddlers.

Strolling around the 79th Street Boat Basin on the Hudson River an hour or so before the race started to scope out the competition, I spotted Greg Barton, winner of four Olympic medals, including two golds, stretching his muscles next to a sleek surfski.

“Nice boat,” I said. “Good luck.”

“Thanks,” he said. “You too.”

Had I known that race organizers would have allowed Barton and his big-shot cronies to take off well ahead of the other paddlers — including my buddy Ian Frenkel and me in our tandem — I wouldn’t have been so polite.

“Hey, Barton!” I would have sneered. “How about starting back with the rest of the paddlers, you thing you’re so tough!”

Even though Ian and I took first place in the two-man sea kayak division, Barton and his pals had already circled Manhattan by the time we worked our way up the Hudson, across the Harlem, down the East, around the Battery and back up the Hudson. What’s more, we had to wait nearly an hour during the awards ceremony for them to claim our prize.

While Barton and other elite paddlers walked away with thousands of dollars in swag and appearance fees, Ian and I took home a couple of crappy T-shirts and a faux-gold medal.

Cheaters!

If somebody aimed a camera at me and thrust a microphone in my face then I would have spewed a string of epithets that would have made Coburn’s tirade seem like a hissy fit.

In that race Ian and I were divisional winners in the tandem sea kayak class; I savored my most significant outright victory years earlier at a so-called Hash race, the brainchild of a British club, the Hash House Harriers, whose members identify themselves as drinkers with a running problem. Officials lay out the course in secret, marking the route with ribbons and signs marked on the ground in flour. Everybody starts at the same time, and a runner in the lead is supposed to shout, “On! On!” if he finds himself on the right trail, or “Go back!” if it turns out to be a dead end.

Anyway, I was running a hundred yards or so behind the lead pack with less than a quarter-mile to the finish, and watched them dart left at an intersection.

Ordinarily I would have followed, but realized I had only once chance to win, and turned right. I was correct: Directly ahead, the finish line beckoned!

“On! On!” I shouted. Well ... maybe I whispered.

The others quickly realized what had happened and reversed course, but they were too late.

I sprinted across the line and claimed my prize, a can of corned beef hash.

“You cheated!” one of the trailing races whined.

“Next time, run faster” I sneered.

Sortsmanship-smortsmanship. Legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice had it backwards: It doesn’t matter how you play the game, as long as you win. And if you don’t win, at least you can be a sore loser.

 

 

Reader Comments

MORE BLOGS

Urban Excursions: Finding Adventure In The Big City

A brisk autumn breeze scattered crimson maple leaves that fluttered from trees lining a pond glittering in the morning sun as my friend Bob Graham and I loped along a narrow path the other morning.

My Friend The Log Splitter: Leaf Blowers Notwithstanding, Not All Machines Are Evil

After my overwhelming victory last year in a rake vs. leafblower contest I hoped I’d heard the last of those infernal, noisy, polluting contraptions — but while out for a run the other day, savoring the fall foliage, a familiar whine as...

Welcome To Steve's Lumberjack Camp

Good morning! I hope you all had a good night’s sleep, enjoyed the griddle cakes and are eager to work off those calories.

At Nayaug Canoe And Kayak Race, A Win Is A Win Is A Win — Sort Of

Race starts are notoriously adventurous — jackrabbits at the line itching to shove and elbow their way into the lead; clueless slowpokes poised for pileups; nerve-jangled competitors, fueled by surging adrenaline, chattering...

Rocks In My Head, Part 37,482

Descending New Hampshire’s Mount Washington in a blizzard some time ago, a friend and I briefly strayed from the ice-encrusted Lion Head Trail – not all that surprising considering wind-whipped snow reduced our visibility to...

Hey, Unless Your Head Is Made Of Cement, Wear A Bike Helmet!

Last Saturday was glorious, perhaps the last sunny, warm day of the season, so a couple friends and I set out for a 50-plus-mile ride on Rhode Island’s magnificent East Bay Bike Path, one of my favorite places to pedal.

How to freeze your - - - off in four easy steps

I know you’ll find this rather shocking, but all those white things in the new picture of me aren’t really snowflakes – they’re feathers from an old pillow, which we thought would be a clever way to illustrate a...

Hey, Unless Your Head Is Made Of Cement, Wear A Bike Helmet!

Last Saturday was glorious, perhaps the last sunny, warm day of the season, so a couple friends and I set out for a 50-plus-mile ride on Rhode Island’s magnificent East Bay Bike Path, one of my favorite places to pedal.

Forget San Juan Capistrano – If You Want to See Hundreds of Thousands of Swallows, Check Out the Lower Connecticut River

Like the first snowflakes of an approaching blizzard, a small flurry of tiny birds flitted across the slow-moving water of the Connecticut River earlier this week, just as the sun began to dip below the western bank in Old Saybrook.

Celebrating the Spirit of Johnny Kelley, as We Dedicate a Statue in His Memory

Participating in weekly runs with legendary marathon champion Johnny Kelley back in the 1970s was a lot like attending a religious service.

Pink Gloves Save The Day At The Josh Billings RunAground Triathlon

Paddling a tandem kayak in the second leg of the Josh Billings RunAground Triathlon in the Berkshires of Massachusetts is a lot like competing in a combined NASCAR, Formula One and Demolition Derby race, what with every manner of vessel...

A Three-peat Victory, Redemption and Inspiration at Norwalk’s Lighthouse to Lighthouse Race

As Ian Frenkel and I stealthily steered our 22-foot tandem kayak toward Greens Ledge Lighthouse on Long Island Sound off Norwalk Saturday, we closed in on our good friend and arch rival Phil Warner, who was racing in his 24-foot two-man...

The Elegance (and Pain) of a White Mountain Presidential Traverse

Most hikers traipsing among New Hampshire’s White Mountains consider peaks in the Presidential Range – Madison, Adams, Jefferson, Washington, Monroe, Eisenhower – a worthy day hike, and many break up ascents of the more...