Friday, May 01, 2009

Whodathunkit?! The 3 Best Things You Want To Know About The 135th (Really? Apparently So!) Kentucky Derby

Did you know there were three sporting events going on this weekend? In addition to the 135th (Really? Apparently so!) Kentucky Derby, there are, I'm told, hockey and basketball playoffs... but only one of those three will in any way capture anyone's interest. As I understand it, even the players are bored by the NBA Playoffs (a/k/a, The Neverending Story II), and I judge that by a snippet of an interview I overheard with Kobe Bryant, in which they asked him whether he watches the playoff games when he's not playing or practicing, and he said no, he usually watches something else.

NBA, if you can't even get the players to pay attention to your games, you're doing something wrong.

And the less said about hockey, the better.

But the Kentucky Derby manages to capture America's attention every year, as news reporters and Matt Lauer mention the Kentucky Derby, and mention some horses that are running in it, and also mention hats and mint juleps. Horses, hats, and mint juleps, plus inexplicable pairings of celebrities, are all anyone really knows about the Kentucky Derby. Well, that and that Tobey Maguire won it riding Seabiscuit, who was played by Seattle Slew in that movie about horse racing.

And seeing the mention of hats and mint juleps on the news this morning, I thought two things to myself. I thought:

1. Why doesn't someone make a hat shaped like a mint julep and in doing so reduce the number of inane news stories by 50%, and

2. There must be something else interesting about the Kentucky Derby, because how could it last 135 (Really? Apparently so!) years unless there's something actually interesting about it.

So I set to with my keen investigative skills and found

The 3 Best Things You Want To Know About The 135th (Really? Apparently So!) Kentucky Derby!

What's wrong with "Home of the Kentucky Derby?" Louisville, where the Kentucky Derby is held, really needs a slogan. If you go to the official Kentucky souvenir store (which you'd do if you wanted to convince people you went to the Kentucky Derby without actually having to go to the Kentucky Derby), you find bumper stickers featuring such thrilling, incentive-building slogans as:

Hmmm. That's your selling point? But the people of Louisville may be slogan-challenged. Their other effort is Louisville: Do Something Original, which seems incongruous given that Louisville this weekend will host the 135th (Really? Apparently so!) running of a horse race -- and aren't all horse races more or less the same?

The adoption of Do Something Original is itself something of an irony, given that there was, for a while, an effort to promote as a slogan and bumper sticker the phrase "Keep Louisville Weird," ... which was a slogan first used by Austin, Texas, and then at least three other cities before Louisville got around to its own Weird Maintenance.

So maybe try: Louisville: Do Something That's Been Done Many Many Times Before?

Here's an event that takes a little longer than the Derby. The Kentucky Derby is over in about a minute or so, if my memory serves me (and by memory I mean I don't really care and have never watched the race itself, so what's the big deal?). That's hardly a good reason to head to Louisville, weird though it might be kept. If you're going to draw people in, you've got to give them more than a minute or so of entertainment. (That's the lesson I learned when my Off Broadway One Man Show, "A Minute Or So Of Entertainment" folded after only two matinees in 1997.)

Louisville is all over that, though. They've got just the hook for you if you're one of those people who insists on watching something that takes longer than a sneeze: The Falls Landing Foundations "100 Years On The Ohio River," a re-enactment of the founding of Louisville. And more. To quote from that site:

To aid our fellow history buffs, we provide "The historical re-enactors' EVENTS DATABASE" for all to post or peruse events. Historical events range from 1492 to the end of the Civil War.

So if you're lucky enough to be in or around Louisville beginning on May 15, 2009 -- just two weeks away, so book now! -- you can watch Louisvillains re-enact the history of Louisville from the year Columbus set sail through 1865.

Bring snacks.

Alas, Poor York, I Knew Him Not At All... No Whodathunkit?! would be complete without giving you, the casual observer/possibly medication-needing reader of this blog information on which famous people are associated with that event, and I won't let you down. While Louisville boasts of such famous favorite sons as Muhammad Ali, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, Thomas Edison, and Tom Cruise (who lived there for a bit as a teen), by far the most famous and fascinating person to hail from Louisville is:


York, as everyone knows, was the uni-named slave that Lewis & Clark took with them on their famous expedition to recapture the Fountain of Youth that was secreted inside the Alamo. (I'm a little sketchy on history.) York is probably best known for the eponymous opera -- "York"-- that was written in his honor. I wasn't able to find any songs from the opera, but that website gives you a rundown of the plot... complete with SPOILER ALERTS!

Not to ruin it for you, but apparently, in the third act, Lewis & Clark get into an awesome lightsaber duel, and then later on, all the ghosts of all the characters come on stage and sing while the ghosts of William Clark and York reconcile.

And, yes, one of those two actually happens in that opera. You know which one I'm hoping for.

Also, York was named after his father, so technically, he was York, Jr.

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