Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Thoughts on Seabiscuit: Elements of a Comeback

Seabiscuit is a fascinating story with many lessons; one of those lessons is presented in "Chapter 21: A Long, Hard Pull." Virtually everyone had given up on both the horse and the jockey after each sustained serious injury.  They were both deemed "washed up."  There were three elements, though, that contributed to their comeback.

First, they had time to heal.  Hillenbrand writes, "Slowly, painfully, horse and rider healed" (349). In this case, the comeback depended on physical healing.  In other cases, a person's comeback may also involve emotional and, perhaps, spiritual health.  While the healing process was frustrating for jockey, horse, trainer and owner, it could not be rushed.  Each had to face each new day with an expectant hope that healing would come.  In time, it would indeed arrive.

Next, the comeback needed a plan.  As both the rider and the horse improved, the rehabilitation strategy was increased.  Again, Hillenbrand writes, " Pollard had learned a thing or two about training from Smith, and he managed Seabiscuit's rehabilitation carefully.  By early summer, walking turned to a gentle canter, first a mile, then two, then three" (351).  There was a vision and a plan for bringing them back to health, back to competing.  It didn't happen overnight, but gradually the plan set the stage for a comeback.

Finally, the team had hope and a desire to win. Even though the general public expected that Seabiscuit would never race again, Team Howard held on to the hope that he would.  That hope was not some pipe dream, but was based on the past experiences of a proven winner.  The past, though, was not enough.  In order to complete the comeback, a desire to win was necessary.  Marcella Howard noticed this on her trips to the barn when "Seabiscuit was pacing around his stall... When he paused, he directed his gaze at the horizon, distracted.  [Charles] Howard saw that look and knew what it meant, 'You knew he wanted to race again,' he said, 'more than anything else in the world'" (352).  Both Seabiscuit and Pollard desperately want to race again.  That driving desire, along with time, and a plan, brought about one of the greatest comebacks in American history.

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