Kentucky Derby Caller Quits, Cites Crippling Anxiety

Diet, prayer, breathing, going to a shrink didn't do the trick for Tom Durkin
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 28, 2011 8:10 AM CDT
Calvin Borel rides Super Saver to victory during the 136th Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs Saturday, May 1, 2010, in Louisville, Ky.   (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
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(Newser) – "The Greatest Two Minutes in Sports" turned out to be the most hellish for the man who has been tasked with calling the race 13 times. Tom Durkin's annual preparation went well beyond poring over photos of horses and flash cards and toting around a notebook containing more than 2,000 colorful adjectives and phrases. It has also consisted of medication, prayer, breathing exercises, time on a psychiatrist's couch, diet, exercises, and anything else he could think of, as the anxiety over describing the pandemonium creating by 20 horses blazing down the track began to build months in advance.

And so Durkin, who has called some 2,000 races over 34 years, opted not to renew his contract with NBC as the announcer of the Triple Crown. The New York Times calls the decision "no small loss," citing Durkin's "mellifluous baritone and vivid narration." Explains Durkin, "It’s like you’re getting hit on the head with a hammer ... you take aspirin and put a bandage on it, but eventually you got to take your head out from beneath the hammer. Life is too short and precious." The Times notes that the anxiety ultimately contributed to Durkin's greatest misstep: In 2009, he missed Mine That Bird until the very last moment, the horse with greater than 50-to-1 odds who won the race. "I wish I could get that one back," Durkin said.

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