Well, Valentine, who do we love in sports? Not many, really. I know every poet worth his salt has tried to define love, but in sports, mostly I think it's a matter of admiration. Do fans out there love Tiger Woods or Roger Federer? Rather, I think they love what they do.
But then, of course, there was Barbaro. All you had to do was go to his veterinary Web site and read the e-mail messages posted for him, and you knew, this was love:
"Barbaro, thank you for being such an inspiration. Be well, sweet boy. I love you."
Or this, from a woman and her dog:
"Sweet Pea, have a healing rest and stay nice and warm. Dream of nice sunshine on your back, and, of course, peppermints, apples and pears. Big kiss on your velvety nose and doggie smooches from Brady."
All sorts of psychologists and cynics have tried to explain why so many of us so loved an animal we never met. Never mind. For whatever reasons, we did. The memory of Barbaro might now be revived somewhat, too, for his full brother, a yearling, will probably debut at the races next year. Barbaro's dam is also carrying yet another full brother, who will be foaled in April.
Barbaro's owner, Gretchen Jackson, named the great horse after a foxhound in a painting. She plans to name the younger brothers after others of the foxhounds. Mrs. Jackson has been so wonderful, but gee, I wish she would find a more appropriate name to salute the daddy and mommy who produced such majesty.
Naming horses can be such a clever exercise, too, seeking to draw from both the sire and dam to get a meaningful name. The great Native Dancer, for best example, was by Polynesian, out of Geisha. Get it?
Here are some other favorites, suggested by Bob Curran at the Jockey Club and by Bill Nack, the magnificent racing writer. Listen carefully now:
By Deputy Minister, out of Misconduct: Impeachment
By The Axe, out of Top o' The Morning: Splitting Headache
By Ambernash, out of Chorus Call: Forever Kicking
Let's give Barbaro's kin something just as memorable. His sire is Dynaformer, his dam La Ville Rouge. So we have a lot to play with. On the paternal side: Dyna — power, as in dynamite. And former — either a reference to the past or to somebody who makes something. And on the maternal side, with La Ville Rouge, we have France, town and red. Nice if we could get some reference to the older brother's glory in there, too.
Here's my best efforts to name Barbaro's brothers: Formerly French, City Planner, Town With A Past.
I'm sure you can do better. Submit your suggestions for naming Barbaro's brothers. Names must be no more than 18 characters long — including spaces and apostrophes. I'll send the best along to Mrs. Jackson and reveal those choices here in a few weeks time.
And to those great lovers, Dynaformer and La Ville Rouge, Happy Valentine's Day.