The Race Shoemaker Lost

Willie Shoemaker won the Kentucky Derby four times, but he may be remembered best for the race he did not win. That was in 1957. He was aboard Gallant Man and gaining on Bill Hartack riding Iron Liege as the two horses dueled down the stretch.

Then an incredible lapse in attention occurred. As the horses passed the sixteenth pole, Shoemaker thought he had passed the finish line and stood up. Quickly he bounced back into the saddle and began riding hard again. But Gallant Man could not overtake Hartack and Iron Liege, who won by a nose.

John Nerud, the trainer for Gallant Man, stated, “I never figured out why he pulled up. He was one of the greatest riders ever.”

The answer seems to be simply that he was not paying attention. Paying attention to what is going around you, especially when you are about to win the Kentucky Derby, is the difference between defeat and victory!


A Benefit of Paying Attention

My son has always been interested in coins and bills and as a child would often examine my coin stashes before I deposited them in the bank.  Before he left home 20 years ago, he always rolled the coins for me.

This past week he received a fifty-dollar bill when obtaining cash from his bank. As he started to place it in his billfold, he noticed it looked a bit different from the other bills.  So he looked more closely and discovered it was a series from the 1960’s, printed before he was born.  Since the average life span of a $50 bill is 55 months, he thought perhaps it might be worth more than $50. So he priced the bill on E-bay for $75 and sold it in two days for the $25 profit.  All the result of paying attention.

Simply giving careful attention to the ordinary and common can yield positive results.  It pays to pay attention.

I See a Red-Tailed Hawk!

A few years ago when I was conducting a presentation skills workshop, a participant gave a short speech on the red-tailed hawk. He spoke of how often you see them along Midwest interstates perched on a post or low hanging branch during winter months, waiting for their prey in the thickets or heavy ground cover below.

I remember thinking, “I don’t remember ever seeing one along the highway. He must be stretching the truth a little.”  The next winter I began looking for them as I traveled.  He had mentioned that you had to look carefully because they are so still they might look like an extension of the post or branch they are sitting on. 

Guess what?  I began to see them along the highway. I travel I-74 West from Cincinnati to Indianapolis often, and I find that I average about two red-tailed hawks per hundred miles.

Now you will be noticing the red-tailed hawks because have been made aware of them and will be looking for them along the interstates. We pay attention to things we are looking for.

Who’s the Coach Here?

Years ago, my son Josh and I attended the Men’s NCAA Basketball Regional tournament on the campus of Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

The Vanderbilt arena is one of the oldest in the country, and the teams sit on each end of the court. We had seats about six rows up from where the University of Kentucky team sat, coached by Rick Pitino.

That year UK won most of their games by a great margin. A tradition that developed when UK got substantially far ahead that season was that the fans would start chanting, “Send in Svoboda, send in Svoboda.”  Todd Svoboda, basically a practice player, was always the last player to enter a game. When they started shouting his name, the fans were in essence saying, “The game is over—we’ve won!” 

At this game, UK was ahead of their opponent by 20 points or more and the crowd began chanting for Svoboda.

Behind us a row up and to the right was perhaps the most avid UK fan I have ever witnessed. He wore UK’s blue and white in every possible form—blue sweat suit and cap, Wildcat logos everywhere, even down to a wristband. He had an irritating shout, and he cheered wildly throughout the game.

With about five minutes left in the game, Pitino was pacing as he typically did. There was action on the floor as this fan shouted over and over, “Send in Svoboda, Coach! Send in Svoboda!” 

Suddenly Pitino whirled around, pointed to the fan, and said, “I coach, you cheer.” He then turned his attention back to the action on the court. Amazingly, Pitino was coaching, but he was also acutely aware of his surroundings. He did not miss anything.

We too often are oblivious to what is going on around us. We gain more from our experiences when we pay attention.