Despite my terribly consistent composure (somewhere, my Mother and Margaret are laughing knowingly), occasionally something will get me so wound up with annoyance that I cannot help but become a bit of a mercenary with words or kitchen equipment. This time it was the former, and it took the shape of a Letter to the (Highly Questionable and Vastly Incompetent) Editor of The Journal News regarding two recent pieces (First, is the one that reports news. Second is the one that recounts history absolutely irrelevant to Ward's gold medal.) on McLain Ward. Ward is a local kid hereabouts who has now won two gold medals, the first in team show jumping in Athens in 2004, the second in the same event in the Bejing Olympics - though the equestrian events were held in Hong Kong. Both times, he ride a horse called Sapphire. Both times, the Journal News presented the information a gold medal had been won, accompanied by mention of Ward's father, Barney Ward's, long ago issues with the law.
First let me say that while I do not have a personal dog in the mosh pit of rerun "news" that is The Journal News reporting, I will disclose two facts, neither of which would keep me off a jury: I rode against McLain for many years in a futile effort to best a kid with freakish natural equestrian talent - a nice kid, I might add. Second, I have only known his Father to be perfectly mannerly. I can be then relatively objective in telling you I am bored with the Castle Hill scandal story. I am also frustrated for McLain Ward's lifelong endeavor to continue to return gold medals to the US which seemingly only brings reminders of a dark time from long before which has no bearing on the rider he became. The convictions of another man, in another era are irrelevant, no matter how many people gripe about apples having fallen from trees - all of those people safely ensconced in their glass houses, thankfully.
Here, generally, is the way it went: Fifteen years ago a huge scandal a few years in the making rocked the show jumping sport and laid bare some ugly truths about what happens in isles late at night and why (it's about the money, duh.). Making no excuses for anything that happened to the defenseless animals who died in the insurance crimes involved, it changed the sport if only to add a layer of visibility and create some shamefulness in pockets. Look, what happened was wrong and the sport grieves for the animals still. But McLain Ward's Father was only one focus of the federal investigation which rounded up 22 other people in the same case, few of their names ever to be mentioned again. McLain, a young man at the time, was not involved in the scandal fifteen years ago.
Nor was McLain Ward involved in the scandal of last week at the same Olympic equestrian events when four horses in the show jumping contests were found to be doped, which will potentially lead to Norway losing their bronze medal. And, come to think of it, he was not involved when Germany lost their gold medal in 2004 to the United States, also for doping. He has had some problems along the way all his own, but he won his medals as a product of hard work and because he has the ability to be a team player. He won them for this great nation (ahem, the one my Husband is overseas defending at the moment also) and he won them clean of dope and of scandal. You know, the United States, where you can be anything you want to be if you are willing to work hard and pay your dues. Here, where you are not your Father, and here, where your Father can do the same when his debt is paid.
Unfortunately the Journal News, unaware of our ability to move on and persevere evidently, persistently leads in placing Barney Ward's cross squarely on his son's shoulders. If the words "Ward" and "won" and "horse" are linked together in a story, The Journal News will be certain to report the little gold medal as an aside to the much more (apparently) newsworthy fifteen-year-old sins of Ward's father. Scandal sells papers, winning fair and square, not so much. And while The Journal News claims the old scandal "haunts" Ward's victory, I advance the theory that the Journal News desperation to sell copies of a hack second-rate local paper is what is actually haunting McLain Ward, his family, and Castle Hill.
This post will get me letters, comments, and emails from the reams of people who still pointlessly argue on message boards about admittedly shameful events that happened nearly a generation ago. Events which have been repaid to society, and have been retired as debts to our civilization. Like it or not, while one can harbor anger and righteousness, the law is the law and what is done is done. McLain Ward and his teammates deserve a moment in a new and brighter spotlight free of old things for which none of them owe. And his Father deserves to be ecstatically prideful and speak freely about his son, because his chit is paid. And maybe just a little, whenever McLain has won again (recently he has been dubbed the Tiger Woods of equestrian sports. Oh, if only he had an agent adept enough to do for horses what Tiger did for old fogies and wingtips! Then! Then, we'd see news cameras on every isle and people would get away with less animal abuse.) he has experienced some vindication.
So, he has another gold medal. And all I have to say to the Journal News and all who would be foolish enough to put an obstacle in front of a family of life long show jumpers: Take that, haters.
This one, is for McLain Ward.
The Gold Medal Champagne Cocktail
4 oz Champagne
2 tsp peach brandy
2 tsp passion-fruit juice
2 tsp lime juice
Pour all into cocktail shaker. Shake gently to combine. Pour into champagne flute. Have seat over there, in the cat bird seat. Drink, in between flashes of *)#! eating grin. Live vibrantly. Never look back.