Saturday, October 30, 2010
The Electric Kool-Aid Zenyatta Baseball Cap Test
The idea for the Great Zenyatta Baseball Cap Experiment came from someone who reacted to a column (not mine) on this site. Wish I could remember the name. He said, and I'm paraphrasing now: "Zenyatta's a great horse, but you mention her name around my office, and nobody knows who you're talking about."
The day the undefeated Zenyatta won the Lady's Secret Stakes, for her 19th in a row, Oak Tree at Hollywood Park gave away snappy caps in honor of the 6-year-old mare. I took mine home and began wearing it daily, to this day. That's 30 straight days. I've worn it everywhere, on my daily three-mile walks, to at least three movies, to supermarkets, to fast-food restaurants, to slow-food restaurants, to doctors' and one dentist's offices, in front of the nurse, dressed like a lady bug for Halloween, who gave me my flu shot, to the post office, to gas stations, to the 99 Cent Store, to the cleaners, to the bank (inside, not just the ATM), to a gastropub (search me), to the men's room at Fuddrucker's (they serve wild boar on a wheat bun, but they don't deliver), to drug stores, to Macy's, to both Home and Office Depots, and to Best Buy. I always take my cap off at restaurants (many guys over 40 do), but to give the Zenyatta cap maximum exposure, I left it on (a woman standing behind me at Carl's Jr. complained that she couldn't read the menu; three times, my wife Pat removed herself and ate at another table).
I was expecting dozens of people to see Zenyatta's name and colors splashed across the front of the black cap and say gushing things like, "What a mare!," "She'll jerk their heads off one more time in the (Breeders' Cup) Classic," "They'll have to give her Horse of the Year this time," "I was at Del Mar when she won," "She's the best I ever seen," etc.
I even expected fans of The Police to say, "I've still got that album." Or, "The Police were never the same after Sting left." Or, "De Do Do Do De Da Da Da." Zenyatta, owned by record executive Jerry Moss and his wife Ann, was named after The Police's third album, "Zenyatta Mondatta," released in 1980.
But in all the time I wore the cap, most of it spent traversing the area in the shadows of Hollywood Park, I got no comments about The Police, and only one about Zenyatta. Walking past a park in Redondo Beach one afternoon, there was an oncoming man, his two daughters and two dogs. As the father passed, he said out of the corner of his mouth, "We were there (Hollywood Park) that day, too."
Some people can wear ball caps and some can't. Denny McLain, for all the games he pitched and won, always looked like a man who was sleeping with his hat on. Maybe it's the shape of my head, I thought, that was discouraging comments about Zenyatta. People may have thought I was advertising the Matterhorn, not publicizing a racehorse. They couldn't get past the fact that I reminded them of "The Coneheads."
Mine was not a scientific survey, far from it, but I get the feeling that the guy whose office didn't know Zenyatta is more than an exception. What's limited her appeal, I suppose, is that all of her races but two have been in California, usually run late in the day on the East Coast, and she's never run east of Arkansas. She's seldom been on national TV, and the racing channels that have carried her races are only catering to the choir.
"They had a great filly on the East Coast (Rachel Alexandra) and a great filly on the West Coast," said John Shirreffs, the trainer of Zenyatta, who recently spoke with The Blood-Horse magazine about the 2009 season. "They didn't celebrate both of them. Instead they pitted one against the other, and I thought they made a huge mistake." Shirreffs, a crackerjack trainer and a perceptive man, didn't identify who "they" was, but in the case of Zenyatta there is enough blame to go around.
"They say they are looking for stars to promote," Shirreffs went on. "'Where are our stars?' they ask. Here she is and then they seem to be looking for something better. The opportunity here is that Zenyatta is so unique."
Zenyatta is likely to be given more media exposure than all her races combined when "60 Minutes" presents a piece on her during its October 31 show. I'll be watching. With my cap on.