Pricci's Saratoga Diary
For the next 40 days of New York racing, Executive Editor John Pricci will provide his insights on all things Saratoga for the 35th consecutive year in his original "Saratoga Diary." It debuted in 1977, the year Seattle Slew won the Triple Crown and Jatski was placed first in the Travers Stakes following the disqualification of Run Dusty Run. So keep up with the cold exactas, hot issues, and build your own stable of live horses, all from John's unique perspective, exclusively at

Friday, August 13, 2010

Technical Difficulties


August 13, 2010

Dear Diary,

So how was your Friday the Thirteenth? I was told growing up not to worry about it, that Friday the Thirteenth is good luck for people of the Italian persuasion.

Fuggedaboudit! It was Friday the Thirteenth alright, just as it was meant to be.

That’s the only excuse I can muster for the breakdown in local coverage of the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.

Sadly, very sadly, this game often gets the negative attention it deserves.

My day started by doing a spot play handicapping segment on Jeanne Wood’s fine “Saratoga NewsDesk” program. Had a decent week, a decent day as it turned out, so all was going well.

Never mind Friday the Thirteenth, it’s Hall of Fame day!

Can’t remember when I attended my first Hall of Fame ceremonies, but I’m sure the number is more than I can remember. I’m a sucker for all the history, camaraderie and emotion on display on this day each year.

This year I decided to be good to myself. Why fight the crowd and the traffic coming out of the ceremonies. I needed to do a radio thing in the middle of the program anyway, and it would be easier to get good quotes from an alternative source: TV.

YNN is the local Time Warner cable news station. On balance, they do good work and provide a service to the community. This year they would be broadcasting the event live, beginning 10:30 a.m.

Great, I thought. I’ll go home, tune to Ch. 9, listen to and record the speeches, watch for crowd reactions, which is tough to do on site, and take all the notes I would need to report back to the HRI faithful.

Are you familiar with the term “technical difficulties?”

At 10:35, the show was nowhere in sight. At 10:40, 10:45, still nothing. At 10:50, I called Time Warner. After a series of prompts--what else--I finally got to a human being who said: “YNN.”

After first trying to duck the question “what the hell’s going on over there?”--sometimes my downstate pedigree gets the best of me--the person claimed technical difficulties, a euphemism, of course, for “we screwed up.”

I was informed that the ceremonies would be seen in its entirety on tape delay. I would have asked what parimutuel window do I take that to, then thought better of it.

You know how there’s always a should-have-said when involved in a difference of opinion? Well, in this case I should have said: “Why wasn’t there a crawl, citing technical difficulties and informing viewers that Hall of Fame induction ceremonies will be seen in its entirety on tape delay?”

There was no indication of just how long the tape delay would be.

But why worry? I’ll just open the computer, click on, and watch live streaming video of the event.

If you’ve never visited the Racing Museum and Hall of Fame website, do so. Aside from great historical photographs, it contains everything you want to know about the enshrined. The site recently was redesigned to increase its functionality, except for one thing.

When I landed on the lead page, playing over the welcome message by Ed Bowen, trustee and Chairman of the Hall of Fame Committee, was Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust.” And it sounded very much like the Artie Shaw big band version--pretty cool.

The pictures on the screen didn’t need words: Bob Baffert shaking hands with Pat Day. Seeing “the Chief,” Allen Jerkens, D. Wayne Lukas and Leroy Jolley, one by one, some of the game’s very best who provided such great moments for the sport.

And, of course, T. J. Kelly, who never misses a Saratoga race meet. In his 90s now, and aided by a cane and a helping hand, he rose to stand alongside the other exalted horsemen.

The applause never stopped, putting a smile on “Turnpike Tom‘s” face. Then, unfortunately, the music began.

“Stardust” accompanied the historical photographs, drowning out the speeches and rendering them inaudible.

Unfortunately, it was too late when I learned there was a mechanism that would have muted the “Stardust” audio. But neither myself, nor three other college graduates I know, could find the off switch.

Of course, I can look at these events and their extenuating circumstances and make allowances. But it seems I’m always making allowances, which begs the question: Can racing ever be associated with something that goes completely right?

Someone should have gotten the memo to shut down the extraneous audio. It wasn’t up to the fans to figure out what to do. The date of the induction ceremonies was set long ago.

There should have been some coordination between the Hall of Fame and YNN, with the video stream as a viable alternative. That’s the thing about live television. In order for it to succeed, the technical stuff needs to be done in pre-production.

You just can’t show up with a production truck on the morning of the event and expect everything to go smoothly. The fans, viewers, and inductees all deserved better.

Written by John Pricci

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