For nearly four decades Ernie Munick has been giving his heart and mind to thoroughbred racing. He is a writer, a vlogger , a musician, but most devotedly a handicapper and horseplayer. He can be seen twice a week on the NYRA Network's RACEDAY, and his videos for the Breeders' Cup can be found by clicking here.
"I cry because I am not less than a man but because I am a man." NFL legend Bruce Smith, from his Hall of Fame speech.
Last night, in the span of a single sentence on Facebook, within a single status update, I was wrong three times. I predicted LeBron James would man up (nine turnovers), beat the Celtics (clang) and remain a Cavalier (luggage in lobby, nice tip for cleaning lady). The third issue is unresolved, but how many times can you slip a quarter into the slot of a broken pay phone?
I need to keep guaranteeing.
Guaranteeing brings a boyish machismo to the story. Guaranteeing promulgates, instigates, aggravates, fascinates. If you want from your heroes a monocled, top-hatted sophistication and etiquette, head for Chantilly. Chantilly even sounds soft. Please don't squeeze the Chantilly. I want a Cajun who speaks from the gut.
Calvin Borel says Super Saver will win the Triple Crown. I've seen his three-fingered vow. What is he supposed to tell the media?
"Well, sir, perhaps the mud moved'em up some in the Doiby, and that other horse he had a nightmare of a trip, and I was the only jockey smart enough to save some ground and stay clear on a hoss who's really good but not a superstar, so maybe we'll get lucky again in the Preakness and Belmont."
Here's my rule on guaranteeing: As long as you don't speak ill of the competition, as long as you keep the blustery assurances to the press about yourself, then you're cool. Sometimes your teammates or bosses won't dig the public certitude, but conferring with them first is just, I don't know, silly.
Can you imagine Moses Malone asking permission from the Sixers' brass before he uttered the legendary "Fo, fo, fo (four, four, four)," predicting sweeps of his three rival playoff teams in 1982. Ultimately, Moses was off by one - fo, fi, fo (four, five, four) - but that headline declaration is a smash to this day.
I loved every single syllable from Rick Dutrow's mouth regarding Big Brown - until he questioned the technique of another man's training. Of course I would forgive The Babe; that was a foregone conclusion. I love his passion, his talent, and his spiritual lineage (4 X 4 to Buddy Delp, a hint of Johnny Campo).
I also have enormous respect and admiration for the quiet and even-keeled brilliance of, say, Barry Sanders and Ramon Dominguez, but sometimes I just prefer my heroes to spike the ball, rather than hand it to the ref.
Larry Bird strutted into the locker room before the inaugural three-point shooting contest, sized up the field and said to them, "Man, who's comin' in second?"
Manly Mark Messier followed up his 1994 guarantee of victory in Game 6 with a hat trick and a Rangers Stanley Cup, their first in half a century. That was Joe Namath territory right there.
Patrick Ewing couldn't make the guarantees work. Millions, billions, read George Bush's lips. Einstein guaranteed nuclear energy wouldn't happen - and then botched his own guarantee with an equation. Big Al was an interesting guy.
Muhammad Ali started this fire, but he was right, he was the greatest. Once again the bravado turned ugly only when he made the comments personal (name-calling) with Joe Frazier. Other than that, Muhammad sold newspapers, he filled seats, and made headlines like no other athlete before or since.
I love Calvin's face. It is now the face of horse racing and we couldn't be luckier. Forget when he wins - did you see the tortured Borel after he got beat aboard Street Sense by Curlin in the Preakness? He returned to the unsaddling area crying - crying - as he spilled his heart to Carl Nafzger. I will never forget that moment. Calvin Borel has replaced Sara Lee. There's nobody who doesn't like him.
Super Saver will not win the Triple Crown, I guarantee it, but I'm all in rooting for Calvin. There have been very few jockeys as worthy of the George Woolf Award. Maybe his guarantees should be spaced a little better, every few years - he's just coming off the Mine that Bird Belmont Prediction. But his popularity among his peers and followers comes for a reason: He is part Cordero, part Dettori, straight up Louisiana, the tastiest of gumbos. You can monitor his heart in his face. Charisma and audacity are also the characteristics of great handicappers.