The reactions of the people in the crowd differ during the final stretch. Some people scream instructions to the jockey. Some just scream. Others hold their breath, afraid that if they say anything they will jinx the outcome. I’ve seen some people turn their backs to the finish line, afraid to see the result.
The pounding of the hooves shakes the earth. You can almost smell the perspiration flying from the horse’s body. And then, in a flash, the race is over. Spent tickets fly into the air from betters who have lost their wager. Some shout to the losing jockey…or to no one at all…their frustrations at a poorly run race. Other winning tickets are flashed with shouts of joy. Some who held the winning ticket just clutch their now-valuable ticket and smile, stunned by the uncontested result. Amateur betters rush to the window to claim their prize. Other, more seasoned gamblers, have another sip or two of the drink they are holding, wandering slowly toward the window to cash in their reward.
That final stretch before the result, though, is memorable. The pounding heart, sweaty palms, and hope: hope that what they are witnessing is not a fantasy. It’s really happening. The excitement of imminence is overwhelming.
I hope the use of horse race imagery is not wasted on you, the reader. These final furlongs of the debate on Health Care legislation in Congress are terribly reminiscent of the dozens of times I have stood at the rail near the finish line, the surging crowd surrounding me. It is a time when I can feel the emotions of the race to be even more telling than what I am seeing on the track a few feet from me.
I am feeling the crowd these days, some angry that their horse has broken stride and is wandering somewhere behind the pack. Others are furious that their horse was boxed in, unable to make the move that would have led to a win. Some, though, are filled with ecstasy that their horse is nearing victory. Many are holding their breath, afraid to declare victory, but hoping that they are seeing a win emerging. Some are turning their backs to the reports streaming from the announcer, not wanting to appear to be on the winning/losing side.
The stakes are great. While many have made a cautious, insignificant bet in the best of conservative spending tradition, some have dumped everything they own on this race, knowing that a loss could wipe them out. Some are already scanning the racing form, preparing for the next race, not really invested in the results of this one.
The final stretch cannot be slowed down or re-run. What it is is what it is. Everything has been invested in this penultimate moment. It’s only a matter of the right horse reaching out his neck and catching the flash of the photographer’s trophy shot, the jockey hoping that a season of coaching, prodding, training and a carefully placed whip has spurred his mount on to victory.
Some who lose will treat it as a done deal, moving on to the next race and the promise of another potential victory. Others will slip into despair, having invested far too much on the prospect of winning the race. Many of those who profit from a win will never even know that a race was run.
Picture Credit: Final Stretch