My brother, David, keeps calling from Florida to ask if I've seen Secretariat. I tell him no; I haven't had a chance.
But the fact that he was asking me this question for weeks before the movie's premiere had me wondering why someone who has never expressed an interest in racehorses would quite suddenly reveal an intense interest in this one horse. He hasn't seen the movie, but he's been waiting for weeks.
In his latest phone call, he told me he'd recently watched a documentary showing footage of the real Secretariat. He was amazed a horse could win a race by 31 lengths (the 1973 Belmont Stakes). He was struck by the fact that Secretariat knew what cameras were and posed for them.
True. Secretariat never met a camera he did not like.
My brother thought the horse was beautiful. He was.
I find it remarkable that, 37 years after Secretariat raced and 21 years after his death, my brother and I are having this conversation. We never talked before about horse racing. We did not even talk about Seabiscuit.
What I am seeing and hearing is a familiar chord resonating, a chord Secretariat struck with people in the general population during the two years he raced and afterwards, when he stood at stud at Claiborne Farm.
His charisma drew them in. Now, with the movie, the idea of this charismatic horse is having a similar effect.
It is like a mirror reflecting a time long past. Persons who did not know about the horse his first time around are discovering in this resurrected memory of the horse something that speaks to them in a deeply emotional way, the way the racing industry wishes every horse could speak.
I have reflected on what the idea of Secretariat is saying to people. It might be something as forthright as an extraordinary athlete's powerful performances resurrected.
But that could have been Seabiscuit, or any of dozens of talented horses who stood above the crowd, while toting intriguing back stories. With Secretariat, there always was and will be something more.
When I remember Secretariat, visions of the most handsome horse I ever saw gallop into memory. I see him running like a train down the race track. I hear the announcer: "He is running like a powerful machine."
I see him at Claiborne Farm, racing about his paddock, running at a dead gallop towards the fence and screeching to a stop just before he would have crashed through the planks. It was his trick. He did this often. I like to think he knew how it shocked people. They would, literally, be sucking in air. I see him chuckling to himself.
I think of Secretariat and glimpse in memory a red horse running like a marvelous work of nature, a work unsullied by human foibles, a work so exquisite we, the bystanders, can only admire its perfection.
We can only wonder but will never know how it feels to skip across the dirt, to extend our legs and fly while the hooves of others fade behind.
I am thinking, this might be the chord that resonated with my brother and others who did not know this horse, who never cared to know about a race horse, but who might be struck with an appreciation for horse racing and the business of horse farming as this movie makes its rounds.