Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted in 2005.
NBC's horse racing crew still had not quite come down from Saturday's Belmont high when it appeared on an unusual, after-the-fact conference call with reporters Monday to celebrate both its coverage and the event itself.
Analyst Ed Olczyk summed up the vibe when he revived a phrase he made famous during a 2010 Olympic hockey game between the United States and Canada:
"That truly was tremendously tremendous what American Pharoah did," he said of the Triple Crown-clinching victory.DATABASEEvery winner of the Belmont Stakes
Everyone noted in particular the roar of the Belmont crowd. And that wasn't the only emotion. "I saw hard-bitten race players cry," analyst Bob Neumeier said.
Naturally, though, the discussion quickly spun to the future and how all this might help horse racing in general and the TV network most closely associated with it in particular.
In the short term, if the humans who control American Pharoah run him in upcoming races such as the Haskell, Travers and, especially, Breeders' Cup Classic, NBC will get a huge boost for its post-Triple Crown racing slate.
"Traditionally, thoroughbred racing has been hurt by the fact that we create stars and then the stars disappear because they're worth more as breeding animals than they are as race horses," host Tom Hammond said. "The Zayats have said that they'll race him the rest of the year, and I think with the spotlight now on him and the fact that he's become a name known to the casual fan, to take him away would be a tragedy."
Said Olczyk: "I think the door has been opened here for us to continue with this momentum and get more people on."
Even if American Pharoah does run again this year before retiring, there is the matter of next spring's classic races. Everyone in the sport understood that after so many close calls, it was past time to have a new Triple Crown horse.
But at least for the next few years, it won't be the same.
"I think it's only logical that if next year a horse comes to the Belmont Stakes with a shot at the Triple Crown, there will be less fascination because it will not have been 37 years," host Bob Costas said. "While we'd be thrilled to have a chance to broadcast another run at a Triple Crown and have it happen again next year or the year after that, it wouldn't be truthful to say that it would have the same impact."