Hey Bartender, When Even Necessary, Losing History is a Bad Thing

"How are the kids", Mr Black Box?
It was reported today (h/t to the Paulick Report), that Churchill Downs is stocking 16 owners suites with a contraption that serves mixed drinks. Its name is not Phil or Patti, but, well I don't really know. It's a big black box, that (presumably) doesn't talk.  There's no word if this spring the owners will be watching Trakus chiclets underneath hologram Twin Spires while sipping their gin and tonics. But maybe that's in the works.

I am a bit of an enigma when it comes to history. I think we lose it far too fast, and it's not a good thing, yet I work and admire disruptive technologies that make our lives better, more cost-effective, and our society more efficient. I think we might've gone too far, and forgot where we came from.

Sure it's only the age-old bartender-customer relationship that's no more at Churchill, but it's just one example of many. The scenes between Richard Dreyfuss and Robbie Coltraine in Let it Ride which exemplified the customer-bet taker relationship are now replaced with a chat with your computer screen, mobile phone, or a machine at the track that our tickets get jammed into. Hell, most of us don't even go to the track any more.

The racetracks themselves are becoming newer and have lost a lot of what they were. Downtown racetracks like Greenwood in Toronto, where you jumped off a jammed streetcar with hundreds of others, getting yelled at by tip sheet sellers is long gone. Greenwood Raceway is a housing development now. Beantown is one of the US's great cities. Working class, true, and historical. Their racetrack is gone. These tracks are summarily replaced with "racino's", some in places where racing has about as much history as a One Direction fan.

Many of the racetracks that have no history, are trouble with the fan or bettor, too. I don't know too many that even look at Chester (I think they changed the name) in harness racing, which once gave away over $2 million in purses in one day, yet barely cracked $300,000 in handle. It's more than just their awful takeout rates that fans are not embracing.

This is an age where the venerable and historical Maple Leaf Gardens was closed and renamed after an airline. The Forum in Montreal, where my Bruins would get throttled throughout most of my childhood in the playoffs, is now the "Bell Centre". That's named after a media conglomerate, one which I was on the phone with for hours last year - to a guy I think in Costa Rica - because they could not get the horse racing channel on my TV menu.

If they rename Fenway Park to Yum! Brands stadium in the coming years, it's probably time to call it a day.

In the big picture, Churchill Downs and other gaming companies have to run their businesses for their immediate shareholders. End of year bonuses, stock options and everything else rule the day. That's the way the world works and they don't run a charity. But in horse racing, when we lose history, we lose a little bit of who we were, and are. And to me anyway, it just doesn't feel very good.

1 comment:

Ron said...

I agree with you. Catching the bus at Hillside ave. With grizzled horseplayers at the age of 15 on my way to Belmont Park got me hooked on the game. Listening to the gripes about the previous days races and the feeling of euphoria as we pulled into Belmonts parking lot can never be replaced.


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