We all have times in our life when we get stuck. Something someone said to us, something someone did to us, or something we, ourselves, regret saying or doing to someone else. We may feel hurt, angry, betrayed, frustrated, guilty, or ashamed, but the key is to NOT stay there too long. The key is to move on, before a little set back grows into a decade of regret and bitterness.
In the story of Seabiscuit, we are inspired by the little thoroughbred who, against all odds, won races and the hearts of millions as our country stumbled its way through the Great Depression. But it was his jockey, John “Red” Pollard, who most inspires me. At fifteen years old, Red left home, under the care of a guardian, to pursue his dream of being a jockey. Within a year, his “guardian” abandoned him at a second-rate racecourse in Montana, and Red was on his own.
At sixteen, he wasn’t given many opportunities to ride, partly due to the fact that he was tall for a jockey – about five feet seven inches – when most jockeys average around five feet. And when he did ride, he almost never won a race. After about a decade of barely earning enough money to eat, sleeping in horse stalls, riding the worst mounts on the worst tracks, and surviving life-threatening accidents, Red had grown bitter.
One gift that Red developed in the midst of his trials and defeats was his ability to understand and communicate with troubled horses. When the horse trainer, Tom Smith, paired him up to ride Seabiscuit, it was, as they say, a match made in heaven. They understood each other. But even on The Biscuit, Red still wasn’t ready to win. You see, it wasn’t his injuries, his blindness, his homelessness, or his poverty that was keeping him down. It was his heart. He was stuck. Stuck in the past of his childhood, abandoned and forgotten.
It wasn’t until Seabiscuit’s owner, Charles Howard, confronted Red after he blew up at another jockey, ran him down on the racetrack, only to lose an important race, that Red finally faced his past…
Red, extremely upset: “He fouled me. What was I supposed to do, let him get away with that? He almost put me in the rail!”
“He fouled me.” Red continues, even more outraged, “What am I supposed to do? He cut me off! HE FOULED ME!”
“Son? Son.” Charles Howard replies calmly, “What are you so mad at?”
What about you? Is there an old hurt, disappointment or fear that is keeping you from your championship? Or, as Emily Dickinson so eloquently wrote, as recited by Red’s father in the movie:
We never know how high we are
Till we are called to rise;
And then, if we are true to plan,
Our statures touch the skies.
The heroism we recite
Would be a daily thing,
Did not ourselves the cubits warp
For fear to be a King.