It is rare indeed that a letter to the editor in a newspaper prompts something of a theological discussion in the sports department. But it actually happened the other day.
Someone wrote a letter in tribute to Bob Summers; it was printed in today's newspaper. The author was quite eloquent in his tribute to Bob, how much he enjoyed Bob's work and how he'll miss him.
As a closer, the writer said he hoped Bob was watching such horses as Secretariat, Barbaro, Bret Hanover and Niatross at a heavenly race track. It's a comforting thought, for Bob's sake. He'd have been thrilled about that possibility.
I was reading the letter to get it ready for publication the other day, when something struck me. I told the person sitting next to me about the contents of the letter, and I blurted out, "I never considered the possibility of horses going to heaven. I've heard of people hoping to see a favorite dog or cat in heaven, but race horses haven't come up."
And that led to a discussion about the afterlife. As in, while it might be heavenly to watch the great horses run again, what about the horse's point of view?
If you could ask a horse about his life -- and I assume only Mr. Ed could give you a good answer -- the racing part would be the least favorite part of it. At that stage in their lives, horses get up really early in the morning, train regularly, and run in some races. Did I mention someone puts a jockey weighing close to 120 pounds on the horse's back during those runs? You try that. Oh, and if the horse isn't meeting expectations in those races, he gets whipped for his trouble. I suppose this is better than a lifetime of pulling a milk wagon, but it's probably not much fun.
Then, after the horse "retires," he goes to a nice farm somewhere. He spends the rest of his life romping on the grass, eating hay and oats. Plus, he has sex on a regular basis with the finest-looking fillies in the land. The stallion does this for years and years and years.
So, Secretariat, after living an easy life for so long, you die and go to heaven and discover that it's time to start working out and running and getting whipped again. Citation wants a piece of you on the track, and so does Man o'War. Secretariat probably would think shortly after arrival, "I want to go back to the farm, and now."
It's a good thing that the afterlife, if there is one, is generally thought to be beyond our comprehension. A man could get dizzy considering the possibilities.