The first time we heard about Horshack and Barbarino, we were in junior high -- and, although Horshack and Barbarino were OK, we were always partial to Freddie "Boom Boom" Washington and ...
Awwww, jeez ... this was supposed to be a tribute to "a horse named Barbaro" -- not to some Sweathogs named Horshack and Barbarino.
Hey, at least we didn't do what we did last May when we committed the sin of pulling out our trading cards of Kansas City Chiefs safety Gary Barbaro and of Detroit Tigers outfielder Barbaro Garbey.
All kidding aside, for those of us who elected to never have human children and, instead, opted to save each ounce of affection for fuzzy, four-legged, brown-eyed works-of-art who sometimes like to steal Mommy's socks, yes ... losing a four-legged friend is a bitter pill to swallow.
BARBARO was euthanized yesterday. Maybe he wasn't "an American hero" in the sense that Kobe Bryant and Danica Patrick are, but he stood for something, dammit.
Until he was no longer able to stand because of the laminitis.
It wouldn't surprise anyone of us who bleeds red, white n' blue if Kobe was salutin' Barbaro right now by unleashing his inner-thoroughbred by delicately and extramaritally mounting (from behind, the way Barbaro would've) a blonde skank not named Vanessa, kinda like what he kinda/sorta/maybe/probably did at Cordillera.
For so many of us, Barbaro was like the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team -- a unifying force which galvinized Americans with a "can do" spirit so that we might forget about evil places w/ evil people, such as Iran and Iraq.
Once the buzz wears off eight or nine months later, we're back to being Americans ... not understanding the plight of the Shiites and the Sunnis, but, also not afraid -- as we hoist our 17th beer at T.G.I.Friday's -- to boldly proclaim, "They only way to handle those Arabs is to bomb 'em back to the frickin' Stone Age. That's what I'M talkin' 'bout! Am I right or am I right?"
Goodnight, Mike Eruzione.
And, goodnight to you, Barbaro.
The cynical, "who-gives-a-shit?" tough guy in many of us reacted to the news with unfeeling brutality by asking, "How many bags of Puppy Chow do ya 'spose Purina could've made out of Barbaro?" -- but it was a defense mechanism employed to ward off the pain and the guilt and the sorrow.
Punchlines like that are used to mask the gut-punch of this development.
There were so many times last spring when we realized how Barbaro made us each a better person on so many levels. Who amongst us cannot relate to the times when we were playing for a last-place softball team and, upon hitting a six-hop grounder to the second baseman, felt like dropping the bat and taking three-and-a-half, semi-jogged steps to first base before veering off toward the dugout, walking slowly to the bench, plopping our 50-lbs.-overweight ass down and then lighting up a Pall Mall?
BUT WE DIDN'T!
We hustled our ass to first base -- because America HAD to run when Barbaro was unable and disabled.
It was only after we'd been thrown out by 11 steps at first base that we fired up that Pall Mall.
Sure, we'd just grounded out in the fifth inning of a ballgame we were losing, 12-3 -- but that cigarette tasted like sweet victory.
Then, Roethlisberger crashed his motorcycle three weeks after Barbaro's mishap -- and we began to question God's mistreatment of our icons.
If nothing else, at least Barbaro was directly responsible for improvements in our personal lives. 1) He showed us where Kennett Square, Pa. was on a map.
2) He introduced us to Dr. Dean Richardson.
In the end, we know that Dr. Dean did all he could. In fact, Dr. Dean uttered those words which left us rattled when he described the "unmanagable amount of discomfort."
Not to mention the unimaginable amount of disdain that Barbaro had for humans not named Dr. Dean.
The timing was a little off for Barbaro's farewell. Less than one week earlier, Prez Dubya saluted the American spirit at the end of his State of the Union address by paying tribute to four individuals who had recently displayed various forms of everyday heroism.
If only Dubya could have seen it in his heart to honor a Kentucky Derby champion who would've been a Triple Crown winner, rather than by leading off his four-person salute with recognition paid to the basketballer who used to taunt opponents with an annoying finger wag following blocked shots and who once asked (with his African accent), "Who wants to sex Mutombo?"
Dubya apparently couldn't get Canseco on such short notice.
For sure, Barbaro was one of our equine heroes, although some of us are reluctant to rank him completely "up there" with SECRETARIAT and SMARTY JONES and CIGAR and JOHN HENRY and 1941 Triple Crown winner WHIRLAWAY (jockeyed by Eddie Arcaro) and 1948 Triple Crown winner CITATION (jockeyed by Eddie Arcaro ... won all three legs of the Triple Crown by at least 3 1/2 lengths) and DARK STAR (which beat Native Dancer by a head in the '53 Kentucky Derby before Native Dancer went on to win the Prekaness and the Belmont) and QUADRANGLE (which won the Belmont in '64 by two lengths over Roman Brother and Northern Dancer after Northern Dancer had won the Derby and the Preakness) and SUPER BOWL, the most-recent Triple Crown winner (1972) in trotting (winning the Hambletonian, the Kentucky Futurity and the Yonkers Trot) ... and, oh, don't forget Bart Simpson's racehorse which he customized with a rainbow-coloured mane -- FURIOUS D (as Nelson Muntz said from his seat in the grandstand, "He doesn't guff from anyone!" -- which prompted Jimbo and Kearney to ask, "Guff?" before pummeling Nelson ... ).
Nope ... Barbaro won't be forgotten.
At least not until 2009 ...