Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Evolution of a Game
The past couple of weeks there has been no shortage of complaints on the grid iron. When Ahmad Brown, a 49ers linebacker, was flagged for a personal foul by hitting Drew Brees, New Orleans’ quarterback, you might have thought a supernova went off.
NFL analysts, namely Ray Lewis and Teddy Bruschi, flew off the handle saying they’d pay half of Brown’s fine, should there be one. Many radio hosts spoke about how the football they once knew is no longer recognizable with the game they see today. And that’s the point.
The NFL focuses on player safety so players aren’t drooling with dementia at age 50. The NFL paid out nearly $800 million to former players (a bargain, really) to show its commitment to head injuries and the beatings its players take and have taken.
Football is different. The fanatics will watch no matter what and complain from Sunday to Thursday. The NFL wants to grow. It runs the risk of losing fans when the next Junior Seau puts a shotgun to his chest.
Mike Greenberg, co-host of Mike & Mike in the Morning, said that boxing, baseball and horse racing used to be king in this country. Those three sports have changed little over the years, have failed to evolve. Fan bases erode either by lack of interest or death. There’s no longer a foundation on which to build a base.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is popular for its colossal mistake.
Baseball, at last, is starting to evolve with instant replay, and as it gets with the times and cleans up its game, it will come around with fresh blood. Fathers and sons will always play catch. I'm writing a memoir about it.
What has horse racing failed to do? Well, you see, the original 95 Thesis Martin Luther nailed to the door of the All Saints Church were about his problems with horse racing. And you thought it was about the kick start of the Protestant Reformation. Or, since we know the sport has its inconsistencies and issues with customer service, what would be the true way to attract new fans, or, at the very least, not lose the few it has? Just like the NFL, it’s all about athlete safety.
Reading the comments from the reprint of Paul Moran’s Nightmare in the Daytime, there are a few who cannot watch a stretch drive again. How many fans at Saratoga lost their lunch and gained a new distaste for this game when Charmed Hour was a dead horse hobbling this summer? I escorted three of those people home that day.
We all know that horses will break down the same way football players will still get concussions.
Horses and jockeys need more protection, more oversight. Horses should run less, not more (we’re already used to this with the elite horses). Should they run no more than 12 times a year? About once a month? No more than three breezes a month? It sounds preposterous to suggest horses run less, but maybe they'll run better. And maybe without the hustle to fill a card with tired horses and five-horse fields, maybe running less will lead to larger fields and better wagering opps.
More stringent and tighter reins could help the health of the horses and, as a result, the jockeys. A safer sport attracts people. And when horses are involved, those people will likely be women. Even the NFL knows how to attract young women (who will be mothers and who will have to make the choice whether they want their children playing this violent game).
Things to think about over Thanksgiving.
Track Life, great over coffee
Here’s a little review of Juliet Harrison’s Track Life: Images and Words. Harrison is an equine photographer and shoots largely in the black and white. She’s more of a pure artist and with her latest coffee table book, published by Paper Trail Press, she paired up words to her images.
That’s right, words, then images. She enlisted a stable of writers to craft a mirco-essay. She then paired an image to that essay.
I have essay in the book, the lead essay, as it were (I think this is because I was the first to make deadline.). It’s titled “The Athlete”. My one issue, if there is one, is the image paired with my piece. Mine is about the swift athleticism of this horse I witnessed and Harrison paired my essay with a horse walking the shedrow. Maybe she wanted to get a sense of the horse cooling out? I’m not sure, but it’s a wonderful book with stories from Marion Altieri, Marylou Whitney, Tad Richards and many, many more.