The Kentucky Derby. The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports

By: Robert H. Kelly

The Kentucky Derby. The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports. That is what I always heard growing up. I can remember my mother and father taking time out of their busy Saturday, every May, to sit and watch the race. As a child, I was more interested in playing Army in the yard or being at the field down the street playing football, than watching a silly horse race. Little did I realize that I would get caught up in the excitement of that race later in life. 

My mom and dad used to play a little game with the Derby. They would pick "even" or "odd" and bet a dollar with each other on the outcome of the race. My father, being a son of the south (born and bred in Arkansas) was always the traditional gentleman. He would always let my mother pick, and he would take what she didn't want. 

I can't remember over all those years which one of them ever won. All I know is that they made that same bet every year. I don't think I ever remember seeing the money change hands. But it must have been fun for them, because they continued to do it right up until my mother passed away in 1988. 

My wife, Darla, and I continued the tradition, and every year we bet each other. As my father did, I allow my wife to make her choice. Seems it is easier that way, because if I pick, I might think too much about it, try to analyze all the horses, and that is just too much work. 

This year we added a new twist to the bet. In a round about way, we ended up in Louisville, Kentucky the evening before the race. To make a long story short, we had decided to take a short trip before school got out, and we are tied up with our summer commitments. 

We flew to Nashville, Tennessee, as we had some good tickets on Southwest Airlines we had to use. You know the drill, "use the tickets or lose the tickets." We decided Nashville would be a nice weekend trip and since the Ohio Valley Conference Track and Field Championships would be held up the road in Clarksville, we could make it a short working vacation. 

In our "other jobs" as journalists, we knew there might be a story or two at the championships. We drove to Clarksville, picked up out press passes, and watched the meet. We got a few interviews with some of the athletes from Texas, along with some photos and watched the first session of the meet. 

As the session came to a close, we decided not to stay for the evening session.

We got in our rented SUV and began to head back to Nashville. Darla was reading the Nashville paper as I drove and she short of jumped out of the seat, asking me if I realized that the Kentucky Derby was the next day. She said we were only three hours from Louisville and we should drive up and look around. I told her we had been up all day and I really wasn’t look forward to a six to seven hour round trip drive. 

She looked at me and asked what else we had to do. This could be another adventure, and we never know what it might produce. So, I just shrugged my shoulders and headed down the road towards Louisville. 

Three hours and a few wrong turns later we arrived in Louisville, following the signs directing traffic to Churchill Downs. As we approached the track, we found roads blocked, police barricades, and traffic being diverted away from the track. A few parking lot cut throughs, one or two alleys, and some quick turn-a-rounds, and we finally got to the front of the track. 

The streets were packed with people walking around, vendors selling everything from t-shirts to beer, and the whole range of humanity just hanging out. I pulled into a station to get gas, buy a drink, and watch the excitement. As soon as I turned off the SUV, Darla grabbed her cameras and dashed off with an “I will be back later. Wait for me."   

So there I am, trying to pump gas as slowly as I can, in an attempt to buy her time while she goes off in search of photo ops. Everywhere you looked, people were getting caught up in Derby Fever. The race was twenty-four hours away and it seemed that it was already going on. 

Businesses and homes had given up their lots around Churchill Downs to get into the carnival atmosphere. Families were selling drinks and renting their yard out for parking space. I guess somebody was paying twenty to fifty dollars to park in these yards, as I did see cars parked everywhere.  

Storefronts and driveways were given over to bands and humanity was more than willing to participate in the excitement. Bikers, in all their leather, and gentlemen in three piece suits enjoyed the celebration. Both drinking and talking, enjoying their mutual interest in a horse race has been run for 131 years. 

After about forty minutes and a great deal of hanging around, I look up to see my lovely photographer wife running across a four lane street. She had her cameras slung over both shoulders carrying a large bag of souvenirs. She jumped in the SUV and was like a child on Christmas Day. She had gotten great shots of a few of the partiers and some of the small cerebrations that were going on all around the track. 

People always are eager to have their photo taken, no matter what condition they are in. She just walked up to groups of people, told them she was looking for some good photo ops, and all were eager to pose. 

It seemed everyone, no matter what their background, wanted to be a part of the Kentucky Derby. Bikers and suits, men and women, young and old; they all came together to experience this annual happening. 

As we began our three hour drive back to Nashville, I listened to my wife as she told me about the things she has seen and the great photos she had taken. She had even gotten a few names and addresses from people that wanted copies of her photos. Any time you can sell a photo or a story, it helps with the expenses.  

As I drove down the road, listening to the joy and excitement that Darla was describing, it hit me. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I realized what all the excitement was about. Going back over forty years in my mind, I saw my mother and father and that silly little bet. I thought about my wife and me continuing the tradition. It is the Kentucky Derby. The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports. That is what I always heard growing up. We were a part of a tradition that had been going on for 131 years. 

It is amazing what a two minute horse race can do to bring the masses together and create so much excitement. It is what life is all about. It is what my wife and I are all about; an adventure, an experienceArticle Search, and a great story to tell.  

We are planning to attend the Kentucky Derby next year. We will try to get press credentials and record in detail all the excitement and experiences of the Derby. This two minute race is sure to have the same appeal as it did this year.

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