Sunday, July 19, 2009

Tom Watson

Today at the British Open we saw something magical. 59 year old Tom Watson had viewers from across the globe glued to their TV screens in his pursuit to win the Open, decades after he last did. A person his age is not supposed to do what he almost did - win a Major Championship in golf. That is supposed to be reserved for Tiger Woods, or other twenty or thirty somethings with agents, mental coaches, big contracts and computer swing analysis, at more an hour than I make in a week.

I spoke via email and on the phone this morning with a few non-golf fans, all watching and messaging "do you believe this?"

After watching last night's Meadowlands Pace it struck me again that those in racing who constantly pontificate "if we only did 'x', with regards to our big races, racing would be popular again", are simply off the mark. In the Meadowlands Pace in 2008, Art Official's win was one of the most impressive wins I have ever seen. Anyone who watched the race was impressed no matter an old fan or a new one, and the press afterwards was all positive for harness racing. This year we saw a remarkable performance by Well Said - no not one like Art Official's, I know - but remarkable in its own right. Every one of us who watched them, or on the thoroughbred side see the same type performances from Rachel Alexandra said "do you believe this?" Regardless, and no matter what, the bet is down, and only going lower each month.

We are not, nor will we ever be like a human mainstream sport. Nothing will change that. It does not mean we have to close up shop and never try to sell the sport or our big races, it just means that to move forward we must come to grips that we are a niche gambling sport. When people like Fred Pope speak out relaying his view that racing can be like what we watched today at the Open and we should change the gambling side of the game to fit that view, it is our duty to make our opposite views known because racings future depends on it. With limited budgets we can not afford to spend money and time on something we hope works, we have to spend it on something that does work.

In harness racing we have been blessed the past couple of years. We had Somebeachsomewhere, we have Muscle Hill, and now adding his name to the mix, another fantastic three year old colt who is making most other colts the last ten years or so look ordinary - Well Said. But all that does not matter much. The bet will go down, and continue to go down until we embrace exactly what we are, instead of dreaming what we wish we were.


ITP said...

Very simple......

The people who don't bet think that racing can be marketed as a mainstream sport.

The people who bet understand that wagering is the most important thing and the expansion of it is crucial to the sport's survival.

The people who don't bet are in charge of racing. What chance does it have to survive? I wonder how much purses will be when they are funded by Muscle Hill jersey sales and TV revenue.

Anonymous said...

This is so true. I have read over and over again that we should somehow be on TV and all will be well, or if we get people to spend 6 hours at a track all will be well. That is nonsense as this is not a game that will be embraced in this world any longer like it was before.... it is a waste of time and money. Arena football needs tv, racing does not. We can bet on racing. Poker on tv is not there because fans are watching..... poker is there because you can PLAY poker and you want to watch others play it. We can play racing too, but if you watch tv, or listen to people like Pope, youd think playing the game of handicapping does not even exist in their minds.

Great post! We need to get this point across.

malcer said...

The problem is that horseplaying is a vastly more complicated hobby to get into than its immediate competition, which is poker and sports betting.

So even if racing definitely will never be followed in the same as way as football or basketball, its upper level (stakes races, top-level Allowance/Hcp) need to offer sufficient sporting interest (and integrity) to attract new customers. The top events at each track need to be a great day out.

I know very few people who became passionate horseplayers without developing a passion for the sport/outdoor event/culture of racing first. And the few that I do know inherited this hobby from their parents, or got hooked back in the day when racing was the only form of skill-gambling in town.

This isn't necessarily opposite to your opinion, but I don't think racing can survive without being attractive as a sport and event.

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