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Monday
May022011

Kentucky Derby Announcer Too Stressed to Call Biggest Races

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The stress of the "fastest two minutes in sports" appears to have caught up with Tom Durkin, long-time announcer for the Kentucky Derby.

After 34 years as one of the most recognizable voices in horse racing, Durkin announced that he would not be renewing his contract to call the races of the Triple Crown.

"It's something I have dealt with a long, long time and the cumulative effect finally got to me," Durkin told the New York Times.  "It's like you're getting hit on the head with a hammer, and you do everything you can to make it better -- 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 Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes make up the Triple Crown of American thoroughbred horseracing.  Durkin said he would continue to announce other races, just not Triple Crown events.

"Those three races, though, are like being up to bat with a 3-2 count in Game 7 of the World Series," Durkin told the Times.  "I had to get out from underneath the heavy stuff."

The stakes are high in Triple Crown racing, and Durkin was the man talking millions of vested viewers through the thrilling, albeit fleeting action.  In 2009, he missed the Derby winner Mine That Bird -- a career blunder he said he wished he could undo.

Durkin is not the first professional in the sports world to succumb to the stress of the job.  It's not uncommon for the pressure of the spotlight -- or microphone -- to build up over time, according to Dr. Simon Rego, a clinical psychologist and director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.

"The clinical lore is that fear of public scrutiny ranks above death for a lot of people in terms of things that make them anxious.  It's up there among people's biggest fears," Rego said.  "When it reaches the point when it interferes with your ability to perform in your job, connect with people socially or enjoy life, it's at a level where it's disordered and there are treatments available."

It's normal -- healthy even -- to be under a little stress, Rego said, because it helps people avoid threatening situations.  But in a job like Durkin's, where every second counts and accuracy is paramount, stress can hinder more than it helps.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio