Sunday, June 8, 2008

White Collar Sports Take Center Stage

[I wrote the following post on Thursday, expecting to post it on Friday before the events that I wrote about. However, this page got screwed up and I was unable to until Sunday. Thus, I added *’s in a few places with updated news on various things.]

With the NBA Finals in the midst of its second sabbatical (only having played one game, which is amazing!), and the Stanley Cup Finals over, and baseball being 100 games from the postseason, and my school knocked out of the College World Series, the only things to watch this weekend will be the French Open finals and the Belmont Stakes.

The French Open will pit Ana Ivanovic and Dinara Safina in the women’s and Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal in the men’s. Both should be great matches (Ivanovic* and Nadal** will win), but both will air live very early in the morning and there is a really good chance I will miss both. After all, I have an ultimate game and my parents’ Senior Olympic*** meet to go to on Saturday.

But the Belmont Stakes sits right in the middle of the afternoon on Saturday and that is most definitely the big sports story of the day. Big Brown will attempt to do what blah blah blah. It's on tv for like 12 hours on Saturday. Just wait till they start and watch the race for two-and-a-half minutes. Also note that there are only two ways this event can be worth watching: Big Brown wins, or someone goes under 2:24. Otherwise, it is barely worth the 2:28 that it will take (except the overhead-blimp replay which is always awesome).****

Horse racing is a sport, if you call it a sport, designed entirely for betting. Sure, there are the people who enjoy it because the horsies are pretty – the kind of people who donate to racehorse retirement charities. To me giving money to ensure the happiness and comfort of retired racehorses is absolutely insane, but this became big news when Barbaro was injured and on Death Row.

It is not as though after their careers are over, they are forced to go back to the ghetto with their fortunes and entourages lost, and they have to take crappy jobs because they never went finished college because the Game came first. These are animals bought and raised by millionaires, pampered for the first few years of their lives, who are then retired and sent to farms where they spend their lives eating and having sex with the finest physical specimens in their species.

So realistically, the sport is truly a business, even more so than baseball and the rest because the players don’t even know they are playing. The only purpose of the races is for owners to win prize money, and bettors can try and get rich while the tracks take all of their money. There is no personal drive in the horses, or pride or glory. They just know want to get dinner and to stop getting whipped and kicked. With that in mind, Big Brown will go for history this weekend on three good hooves and I see only three possible outcomes to this race.

1) Big Brown does not win. Horse racing will slip further down the totem pole of the collective sports fan’s consciousness and legislation to protect the horses from cruelty (no more steroids and no more whips) will make it far more humane, but far less impressive in the future.*****

2) Big Brown wins. Horse racing leaps into public consciousness in a big way, like it has not seen in decades and then quickly fades away sine there is no other event worth watching for 47 weeks and none of the players we’ve come to know will be around then anyway. The same legislation is enacted and the sport is never the same.

3) Big Brown reinjures his hoof and is euthanized on the track (win or lose). Horse racing’s public image devolves further as the second high profile horse is put down in about a month, the third in as many years. People learn more and more about the treatment of the horses and how many actually are euthanized week in and week out. PETA grows even more self-righteous than ever before. If trainers and owners are lucky, the sport is eventually seen the way we look at dog racing; if they are not lucky history views it the way it sees bear bating, dog fighting and cock fighting.

Frankly, I think that the first option is the most likely. If the trainers think he can run, his hoof is clearly in decent shape because he is worth too much in the baby-making business to run him on a cracked hoof that will wind up forcing him to be put down on the track. Then again, is he worth anything if he has the stigma of weak genes and couldn’t even run the Belmont?

* and ** - Ivanovic and Nadal did win.
*** - Mom and dad took home four medals though neither was thrilled with their performances. Such prima donnas.
**** - The winning time was a somewhat slow 2:29.65 and there was no blimp cam, which is a total disaster as far as I am concerned.
***** - He didn’t win and wasn’t euthanized. The trainer is throwing the jockey under the bus blaming the last place finish on him. Who’s really at fault? Who cares. See you next May, Horse Racing.

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