By Dan Worde
National Cup Racing Journalist
Red Cup Rebellion
Sometimes opportunity breeds success. Sometimes, life puts you in a position to grab the bull by the horns and make your future into something great. For many young cups, dreams of running down the baselines of Swayze Field on a Sunday afternoon are enough to create workout routines that will lead to success both on and off the Cup Racing circuit. Class and sportsmanship are bred in the crucible of honesty and decency. Sometimes, those traits coalesce and lead to transcendent athletic performances such as those displayed every spring weekend by Red Cup.
Sometimes, the desire for success overcomes other character flaws, enabling a morally questionable cup to display rare gifts on the biggest stage. No cup is perfect, but even a half-empty receptacle can stand tall and demand that he be called half-full. Such is the case with Blue Cup, an athlete so determined and gritty, even his most overt critics must acknowledge the admirable qualities that brought this cup from the grips of poverty into the forefront of the nation's pastime.
And then, sometimes, everything goes wrong. This Sunday, as Red and Blue were streaking toward the finish line, neck and neck, legs pounding gracefully and with superior class, shame fell upon the sport of Cup Racing. While his noble competitors strode forthrightly toward the finish, Yellow Cup felt the cold snap of handcuffs around his wrists.
It is a tragedy whenever a young cup sees his hopes and dreams dashed by early incarceration. The life of a criminal is not easy, and one only hopes that those poor incarcerated cups can pour their hearts into the rehabilitation process, that they can fill themselves with the overflowing bounty of goodness and virtue, like their compatriots who so stridently fulfill their cup racing duties without the low moral turpitude displayed by the now-incarcerated.
But don't pity Yellow Cup. He's been on this path all his life.
Younger than his cup racing opponents, Yellow Cup got a late start in the sport, and while he found himself competing at the highest levels, his personal performance never merited inclusion in the august annals of cup racing lore. Character concerns reared their head time and again. While Red enjoyed almost universal popularity and praise (well-earned, in this journalist's humble opinion) and Blue courted the bad-boy image that would keep him in the headlines, Yellow contented himself to spend his days dressing as a Minion at children's birthday parties, where he frequently stumbled out half-dazed from beers stolen from parents' garage refrigerators. It was not uncommon to see his likeness, Minion costume still affixed, laying in puddles of his own filth outside these same birthday parties, no doubt mindless of the young minds his actions were warping.
As his winless streak extended from days into months into years, Yellow Cup retreated further into a shameful, self-pitying persona. He complained of not being invited to social gatherings. Complained that Red and Blue conspired against him. Complained that journalists, myself included, willfully ignored his hard work. To be frank, these complaints were baseless at best and offensive at worst. I, unlike many of my colleagues, have always been utterly unbiased in my reporting.
This was not the only controversy involving a star Ole Miss cup. In early 1999, Green Cup was rumored to have been arrested as he fell out of a window during a bar fight while holding a "marijuana grinder" which he would later claim was a yoyo. While Green Cup was cleared of all charges and this website issued a formal retraction of the article, I still maintain that my sources on that report were impecible. Now it is clear that these two incidents form a chilling pattern of such crimes at Ole Miss, spanning more than seventeen years. Athletic Director Ross Bjork declined to comment on the never-ending, constant, undeniable string of arrests that these two incidents represent.
Yellow Cup's arrest may have come as a surprise to many in the stands, but for those of us who cover this sport day-in and day-out, it was not shocking. It's not even sad. There are those misguided fans who support the questionable actions of this cup. They, like he, are excusing a string of terrible behavior. Perhaps now, this lowlife will get the help he's refused for so long.
Yellow Cup will never be virtuous and honorable like Red. His image is too tarnished for him to be an ambassador for the sport, a crimson defender of the sport's integrity. It's too late for that, and I think we all know it.
But it's not too late for him to be like Blue. Untrustworthy, unnatural, likely addicted to performance enhancing liquids, but able to overcome all that by succeeding on at an athletic event. Let's hope that Yellow Cup can learn the hard lessons Blue has already learned: that if you are lacking even the most basic understanding of ethical behavior, you'd better win so that we can ignore your flaws.
In the meantime, this journalist will be turning his eyes to the cup racing field with renewed optimism that some standards of dignity are not forever lost. Perhaps, after Red wins this weekend, he'll pour one out for his poor, troubled adversary with the class we've come to associate with the sport's greatest champion. I would expect nothing less.