Willing suspension of disbelief

We live in a time of convenience, of course, a time when everything seems designed to make things easier.

This is as true in sports as anything else. We just keep expanding the playoffs, expanding the tournaments, adding bowl games. Here are golf clubs that hit the ball straighter, tennis rackets with bigger sweet spots and basketball rebounding machines to pass the ball right back to you. Anything to make it a little bit easier. Except the Triple Crown.

I think that’s why these three horse races — the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont — still capture our attention long after horse racing has lost its national appeal. This week, American Pharoah becomes the latest to try that seemingly impossible thing: To win all three races, something no horse has done in 37 years.

Make no mistake, it does seem impossible. You’re asking a 3-year-old horse to win the cavalry charge that is the Kentucky Derby, then take the tight corners and win the shorter distance of the Preakness, then hold off a field that includes fresh horses at the marathon Belmont. All in five weeks.

Watch the Belmont Stakes on Saturday: Coverage starts at 4:30 p.m. ET on NBC

A year ago, after California Chrome lost his chance in New York, many agreed with Chrome owner Steve Coburn that allowing fresh horses to jump in only for the last race, is patently unfair. Maybe it is, but here we are again with American Pharoah and another chance.

I talked the other day to Steve Cauthen, who was riding Affirmed the last time a horse won the Triple Crown. He said something interesting. He said: “We all wished that a Michael Jordan would pop up every couple of years, but if they did, maybe we’d all be bored with it.”

As American Pharoah tries again, we all watch and hope. He has a real shot. Maybe it is impossible, but it’s definitely not boring.

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