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Fascinating Parallels

Horse racing, cycling, track, football and other sports are in a very unique position. They are all forms of "clubs" where if you own, train or participate, you are handled in a different way, than say, a worker in a factory, or a white collar Wall Street type.

These "clubs" depend not on a rule of law, but on a rule of the club. Without this, the clubs are unable to function. It costs a lot of money to catch and penalize a track athlete, or horse trainer, or cycling team, so things like moral suasion, peer pressure from within, and other tactics are used, and have been for generations.

Examples of this in horse racing might be a trainer who starts magically winning at huge rates. You, me and the fencepost know what's up, but they are uncatchable. The authorities are handcuffed, so this trainer might be told "we see the cloudy tests, we see each horse at 35.5 mmol's, we hear the whispers, we saw the hippiron bill, we know you are pushing the envelope. You have to stop doing what you are doing." Oftentimes this works and the trainer backs off. If it doesn't work, only then do we see the authorities go guns ablazing against someone - trying to catch them on technicalities, on not keeping proper records, on whatever they can get their hands on: In other words, going Al Capone on their ass.

Lately, this has not worked as well as it did in the past. And with judges like this, why wouldn't someone fight it? They'll have their media minions carrying water as well.

Today I was reading the ESPN piece on the Pats, and the associated USA Today story. In meticulous detail it showed how the NFL did exactly the same thing. For Spygate in 2007, they uncovered massive cheating well beyond taping of signals. There were the stolen play sheets which were so brazen and well-known, opposing teams started leaving fake ones in their locker room. There were other teams setting up the Pats, accompanied by NFL officials, showing the jamming of signals in real time. There was much, much more.

"Proving" this in a court of law was futile, just like with a cloudy test or a hemocrit level of 50 or more. So, the NFL and its owners backdoored, and asked the Pats to stop, to stop everything. Apparently the Pats owner said it would. Close the door, we're done.

They didn't, and this is the reason why the NFL went Al Capone on their ass. And this is why Roger Goodell has not been canned after all these years. The old way of protecting a club was being used, with the full backing of everyone else.

We saw this exemplified at Woodbine with trainer Bill Robinson. Woodbine wanted everyone who raced there to sign a waiver for testing, and the like, which was a response to Robinson and his ilk. The horsemen group went crazy, using congress-like legal arguments, and they forced a strike. A couple of months later the horsemen group was disbanded. The rank and file were fine with giving up some rights to do away with someone who they thought was snubbing their nose at the game, and in the long run, costing the "club" money. They weren't mad at WEG, they were mad at the horsemen group and their lawyers.

Most people see things in black and white, and at times this is naive. Horse racing and other sports will never make all rulings that stand up to supreme court legal scrutiny. But most participants in this sport, like the NFL, realize it's the only way a sport can properly function.

Comments

Pacingguy said…
Going back to the judge's ruling is a reason to charge admission. For the price of admission not only do you get a free program, you become a member of the club. With that membership,y youbecome me a member of the club and are expected to follow the rules of nembership.

Then let that judge find the gambler is just an observer.