There are many things that I don't "get." I don't get NASCAR. I don't get American Idol and Dancing With The Stars. And I don't get horse racing. And I really don't get the Kentucky Derby.
I mean, I understand that it is fun to dress up and go out with a crowd to witness an event. I have been to Oaklawn, our local track, and I have always had a good time. It's fun to watch the horses. It is fun to catch some rays and drink a few beers. And the fact that you can bet on the races without talking to a bookie or getting on the Internet gives it an extra buzz.
But is there a more over-hyped event that is less relevant to modern sports than the Kentucky Derby? I could argue that tennis is more important than the "Sport of Kings" and tennis is in the dumper. Especially in this country.
Let's face it, horse racing, along with boxing, no longer command the attention of the modern sports consumer. Boxing is a farce, especially in the heavyweight division where rumor has it that George Foreman, a man in his sixties, is planning to get back in the ring. Don't you worry. Some state boxing authority will give him a license.
And horse racing, while not completely as completely dirty as boxing, certainly has the popular conception that it is a rigged game. On the other hand, casino gambling isn't fixed as such. It's just that the odds are way in favor of the house. Unless you play the so-called "games of skill" such as poker or 21, you really are just gambling. Which is why casinos have relatively inexpensive food and drink and offer shows. They want to keep you from leaving the house. Because once you leave the house they can't keep taking your money.
People who are big into the horse game, scoff at the notion that horse racing is fixed. Maybe they are right and I don't mean to suggest that the Derby is fixed. That would be too hard to do with all of the attention put on the event. But allow me to offer the following example that illustrates that it might not be all that hard to do.
The Previous Administration and I went to see "Seabiscuit" when we first started dating back when the bloom was still on the rose and hearts were gay. Along with everyone else we were stunned by the footage of the races. The camera seemed to be right on top of the horses. You could see them jockey for position (pardon the expression), lead, fall back and so forth. It was all very thrilling to see.
As we were driving home it occurred to me, if they could "choreograph" a race for a movie, couldn't they do it for an actual race if they wanted to?
I mean, couldn't they?
I remember when the Feds investigated Evangeline Downs outside of Lafayette just after I got out of law school. Evangeline Downs was widely considered by the racing cognoscenti down there at the time to be the 1919 World Series of racetracks. The FBI pretty much proved it. The most memorable bit of testimony about one race that was rigged came from a Special Agent who testified that the jockey who took a dive, was pulling so hard on the reins out of the chute that the horse and rider resembled the opening montage of "The Lone Ranger."
Oh well. What do I know?
I suppose there's nothing wrong with having an excuse to wear floppy hats and drink mint julips. And it is certainly pretty to look at just like Oaklawn is. But I don't think it really qualifies as a major sporting event any more than the Stanley Cup does. Times change.
People don't need horses to get them from point A to point B anymore. They need cars. That's why NASCAR is bigger than the horse game. Not as many people can relate to it.
But I don't get NASCAR either.