Friday, May 15, 2009

What's the difference between sportsmanlike behavior and being a plain ol' asshole?

So, I'm watching the Black-Eyed Susan coverage on HRTV right now. Generally, HRTV has some of the best coverage on horse racing, but once in a while, one of the hosts says a real dumbass comment.

Today, the perpetrators were the Race Day America duo of Carolyn Conley and Kurt Hoover. They were talking about the controversy of Mark Allen and Ahmed Zayat entering horses to keep Rachel Alexandra out of the Preakness, and how critics called them "unsportsman-like." I happen to be on the side of the critics on this one, which is obvious from my previous entries.

Direct quote from the mouth of Kurt Hoover: "I see absolutely nothing wrong with what those guys were thinking of doing. It's within the rules. As I understand it, the goal in this game as an owner is to win races, especially Grade I races... if you can exclude a contender by playing within the rules, I'm all for it. This talk of 'sportsmanship,' and 'doing things for the good of the game,' I just don't buy it. You wanna have a nice social gathering, go play tennis in a country club or go play chess in a library... I see nothing wrong with it, I think it was a good move, er strategy, I would've done the same thing myself; you're not going to be friends with everybody, so what? You're trying to win..."
And Carolyn Conley says, "I agree with you 100%."

It's this mentality that is ruining the sport of horse racing. When the sport can barely afford to offer purses for races, is finding its biggest stages neglected to ruin and demolished, and finding public interest turning away, the industry can hardly afford to make enemies within itself. Looking at the big picture, looking out for the good of the sport, is what horse racing NEEDS to survive. Sure, you can be a selfish jerk and try to deny the best three-year-old in the country the ability to prove herself by entering a horse not worthy of licking her horseshoes, but what good does it do anybody than the connections of that horse? If you look out for no one but yourself, you will see the world fall around you. There won't be a racetrack for them to run their horse over someday, and no one will care to watch your horse run when it does find a race. Without fans, without public interest, the sport will fade into oblivion.

If Rachel Alexandra brings just one more fan into the fold, plants the love of horse racing into one child, it's all worth it. No, you may not find the result padding the lining of your pocket in the meantime, but at least you'll have a stable for your horse on the backstretch, and the grandstands will still be there. Love must be circular. Our horse connections love horses, but they need the attention from the outside world to make the racing world go 'round. If all the non-fans see is greed and death on the track, what will they want to give back to the sport? Nothing.

Horse racing is more than just a mere game, dear Mr. Hoover and Ms. Conley. Horse racing is a tradition, it is as much a living, growing thing as a newborn that needs nurturing; and it is a way of life. Neglect it and it shall whither and die, producing nothing but an empty shell that once held promise.

I think T.S. Eliot said it best in his poem, "The Hollow Men:"

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

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