Monday, August 10, 2009

Town Hall 2: Horse Race analysis

Everyone complains that reporters use too many horse race analogies, but of course they don't really; we use "horse race" to mean the that reporters are interested in who wins and who loses rather than whatever else someone wants them to be reporting about. Fair enough, but as an actual fan of horse racing, I'm happy to actually use the Sport of Kings to make a political point.

Saturday, it so happens, was a really important day in American horse racing. Of course, you didn't know that, because horse racing is, if not dying, certainly not thriving. Horse racing used to be a major sport in America, but now it's marginal at best. So, a day in which the three major tracks running had a total of six Grade I stakes (that's the very best quality race) earned not even a tiny mention in my local newspaper's sports section.

And yet....28,000 people watched Gio Ponti win the Arlington Million (in Chicago). Another 25,000 were at Del Mar (near San Diego), and there were about 40,000 fans for the Whitney at Saratoga, in the middle of nowhere New York. And that's just the big three running Saturday. There were people watching horse racing live Saturday in Albuquerque, and Calder Race Course in Florida, and Hoosier Park in Indiana, and, well, over thirty other places. Plus there are simulcast-only sites in many states, and Vegas (where the horse betting rooms are a lot smaller than they were twenty years ago, but they're still there), and enough on-line betting that my satellite TV system supports two -- two -- different horse racing networks.

The belabored point is, of course, that here's this totally unpopular activity, and yet (easily) some quarter of a million Americans participated in it this Saturday. It doesn't mean that horse racing is actually popular; what it means is that in a nation of 300 millions, you can find good-size groups that do all sorts of odd things.

Including acting on a belief that the president such a big Logan's Run fan that he wants to try to remake that society in 21st century America.

So, the first thing to say is that just because a "huge" mob shows up, in which huge can be dozens or hundreds or even thousands, it doesn't mean anything about what America thinks. It means that those people are upset. To find out more requires work, not jumping to conclusions.

(C'mon, we do think he's a Logan's Run fan, though, don't we?).

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