I was sitting here casually surfing through my usual ‘net news sources, with a basketball game on tv in the background. A random oddity struck me. In almost all mainstream sports, participants are identified commonly by their last names: “Favre,” “Jeter,” “Jordan,” etc. You know their first names, of course, but announcers calling the action almost always drop the first name in favor of the last. In
bar-room brawls with rival fans casual conversation among your buddies, you also refer to those sports stars by their surnames– coaches, too (Pitino, Calipari, Knight, Krzewpcslbscjadoiwvski, etc).
Yet in our sport, for “those in the know,” it is the exact opposite. We speak of our “heroes” on a first-name basis: Karen, David, Kim, Bruce, Jimmy, Dorothy… you all know who I’m talking about. We don’t say, “Wow, Dutton had a great ride through the Head of the Lake!” No, we say, “Wow, Phillip rode his ass off!!” You don’t tell your friends, “I’m training with Wofford;” it’s “I’ve been working with Jimmy.”
I can’t say why we do this… or why it sounds so odd to me when I catch the NBC Rolex replay and hear the commentators referring to our guys by their last names. I just don’t think of them that way, and it is weird to think of “Chiacchia” riding around a course instead of simply, “Darren.”
Compared to those other sports, though, we *do* know our stars on a more informal level. We can relate to them as everyday horsepeople. They aren’t mega-millionaires with ten different luxury cars, homes around the globe, and completely out-of-touch with reality (well, at least most of them!). They put their boots on one leg at a time; they, too, fall off and get grass stains, or worse! It is not with disrespect that we communicate on a first-name basis, nor overeager “name-dropping.” It’s just how we do things…you know what I’m talking about. You can go to a regular horse trial and compete against Olympic medalists; you could be stabled right next to Rolex competitors, sharing a rake and a hose. There is no wall of armed officials or bodyguards surrounding them (well, unless the requisite Event Dog counts!), you are free to walk up to them and say hello, or even ask a question if you wish.
In its own little odd way, to be known solely by your first name is when you’ve “made it.” So here’s to all the Karens, Darrens, and wannabe’s out there… may we someday know YOU by your first name!