Sunday, October 16, 2011

UK Jocks (Not Unexpectedly) Whine

In the 1970's in the NFL, football was downright dirty. Players had tricks they used to get an edge that were right out of a scene from Braveheart. Clotheslining was legal, so was (said by one player I saw interviewed on the subject) 'jabbing your fingers into an opponents neck and grabbing his voicebox'. That sounds pleasant, huh?

At this time in the sports' history, highlight shows were popping up, and those highlight shows were becoming popular (only a portion of games were even shown in the early to mid 70's). The brutality of football and these laissez faire rules resulted in some very bad injuries, and some stomach turning episodes. To combat this, Rozelle had NFL Films never show, or distribute the brutal stuff - the dark side of the game would stay hidden, come hell or high water. Rozelle's reasoning was simple: Selling the game to new markets would be hampered if the brutality of it was not snuffed out.

After that policy not being overly successful (you can not stop progress and technology), the NFL, under his guidance, changed the rules. No more dirty stuff, no more clotheslines, no more head hunting. The players would be fined and suspended, no questions asked. Of course, the players hated this. They had plied their trade for years one way, and were asked to do something different.

Some of the excuses used against the changes came from them, and the old guard. One such argument was that fans loved the brutality, they cheered when big dirty hits occurred and changing the game would cause the game to suffer. Rozelle was a visionary, however. He knew that the people in the stands would always love football, and watch football. It was not about them, it was about the new markets that did care if they saw people get hurt, or possibly die right in front of their eyes. If they did not change the game those markets could not be sold to, using the relatively new medium of live sports on television.

It is clear that the policy worked. The NFL changed their demo from men, to men women and children. Changed it from an insular game in cities, to a game to sell the world. More people watch the Super Bowl than live in 80% of the world's countries. People tune in for the halftime show at a rate that tune in for some of the most popular television shows in existence. Football is still a brutal game, but if you ask the masses, the brutality of it is rarely mentioned. They changed the mindset within a generation.

In Ontario horse racing the whips were banned in some form several years ago. The participants went bonkers. "We know no other way", "we can't do this", "what about horse safety" and on and on. It was like the commission was not asking for a rule change, but a kidney.

Currently in the UK there is a change happening to the whip rules, along the exact same lines:

The regulations, announced by the BHA in September, come into force on Monday and limit a jockey on the Flat to seven strokes of the whip in the course of the race, while over jumps it can be used eight times. Under both codes, the whip can be used a maximum of only five times after the last obstacle/in the final furlong.

Failure to adhere to the new frequency limits will result in a minimum of a five-day suspension, replacing the previous minimum penalty of a caution.

Jockeys who pick up a ban of three days or more (for offences such as hitting a horse without giving it time to respond) can expect to lose their share of the prize-money and riding fee. It will also be an offence for any owner or trainer to reimburse the rider from their own share of the prize-money.


The jock's response to this: Someone call the whambulance. It's Ontario all over again - talk of strikes and being mad as hell and not taking it anymore. An extra-curious note: The old rule had a strike limit as well that they are simply bringing down, so this is not anything that new.

If it were the NFL or the NHL this episode would not even exist. The rule would be discussed and passed, and if a defencemen clutched and grabbed he would go to the penalty box. If he did it too much he'd be made an example of. If he didn't adapt, he'd be cut. If a lineman continued to clothesline, he too would be cut from his $2M a year job.

If you want to play in racing, you play by the rules and realize you are not bigger than the sport. If you can't count to seven or read a rule book, one would suggest a remedial math and reading class is in order. The alternative is to sell the Mercedes and dust off the resume for a $15 an hour job. There will be someone there ready to take your place, more than happy to follow the rules. Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good.

Here in ONT the whip changes turned out to be 'awholelottanithing'. After a few modifications everyone seems to be plying their trade just fine ..... and the gloom and doomers talking about handle declines were wrong.

Tinky said...

Actually, a good number of the UK jocks – and trainers and fans – are upset not because of the change, but because of the thoughtless ways in which it was implemented and enforced.

Why on earth would they feel the need to implement the change at the end of the season? Why not begin in 2012?

Furthermore, the punishments meted out for riders whipping one more time than allowed in the final stage of the race – even though their total number was within the limit – have outrageously disproportionate.

I'm fully with Richard Hughes and Soumillon on this issue, and do not believe that either of them were reacting primarily to the change itself.