This sportswriter can relate to Barbaro's snacking habits

The Kickoff

June 30, 2006|By PETER SCHMUCK

Can't tell you how great it was to hear that Barbaro is up and around and - according to a report in The Sun yesterday - getting protective of his snacks.

I just knew we had a lot in common when I saw him romp to victory in the Kentucky Derby and put my handicapping reputation on the line by declaring him "a mortal lock" to win thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown.

Now, we're hearing that the dark brown colt is feeling a lot more than his oats. Barbaro, according Dr. Corinne Sweeney of the George D. Widener Hospital for Large Animals, is wolfing down treats like yours truly at a Frito-Lay convention. Owner Gretchen Jackson went so far as to tell Sun horse racing writer Sandra McKee recently that "snacks are now his life."

Like that's so unusual.

Barbaro likes sugar cubes, peppermints, apples and carrots, which doesn't exactly make him a candidate to replace Star Jones Reynolds on The View, but does leave me wondering if we could accelerate his amazing recovery further by augmenting his diet with a wide variety of Hostess products. Works for me.

What I find most interesting, however, is the way that Barbaro made the transition from world-class athlete to sportswriter soul mate.

"When he first arrived, he had no expectation of anything," Sweeney said yesterday. "He was almost a delicate eater, sliding the treats around the ledge of the door. Now he's aggressive. He's like a grabby child."

I totally understand. The first time I encountered a cheese puff, I pushed it around with my nose for several minutes before figuring out what to do with it. Obviously, I've overcome any reservations I once had about junk food, and the similarities with Barbaro don't end there.

He's handsome, sleek and, if all goes well, he's going to be very popular with the young fillies. If I didn't know better, I'd think we were separated at birth.

Barbaro is still the subject of widespread fan interest and sympathy. McKee continues to get e-mails from all over the country expressing support for the colt's continued comeback or just looking for a medical update. In yesterday's inbox alone, there were messages from Wausau, Wis., and Walnut Creek, Calif., and even one from Switzerland.

If you're more a fan of phony animals, you might want to consider All-Star Weekend in Pittsburgh, where eight major league mascots - including the Oriole Bird - are scheduled to take part in a home run derby.

The mascot home run contest is conducted in much the same way as the one involving major league stars during the All-Star workout, but instead of some lucky fan getting $250,000 toward a new home if his slugger wins, a boy or girl from The Boys and Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania will be paired with each mascot for a chance to win a Century 21 Dream Clubhouse.

Of course, at today's real estate prices, that might also be worth $250,000.

Oakland Raiders receiver Randy Moss is quietly orchestrating an image change after many years of bad headlines, and he's doing it one smoothie at a time.

Moss has planted an Inta Juice franchise in his home state of South Carolina, and he spent the grand opening of the Charleston location making juice drinks and signing autographs for a large crowd of approving fans.

My take: I guess it's fair to say that Moss is the most famous guy selling juice since Victor Conte.

Maybe it's just me, but watching the NBA draft reinforced how much the sports world has changed over the past few years.

Here are my initial reactions to some of the most prominent picks:

Overall No. 1 pick Andrea Bargnani: "My gosh, the Toronto Raptors have accidentally drafted an Italian shoe company ... and Nike is not going to be happy!"

Washington Wizards top pick Oleksiy Pecherov: "I sure hope that isn't Ukrainian for Kwame Brown."peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

"The Peter Schmuck Show" airs on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays.

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