Negativity surrounding horse racing must stop
Horse racing in the 21st century doesn't have many days like Saturday during the course of a year.
Plaid pants on men. Bright bonnets on women. Kids of all ages having a good time, win or lose, rain or shine.
On this day, overcast skies above Arlington Park couldn't cast a pall over the track specifically or the sport generally.
In the coming months around here there also will be the Arlington Million and around the country the other Triple Crown and the Breeders' Cup races. The rest of the time the sport is dominated by gloom and doom regardless of the weather.
Ask the average person on the street about horse racing and he or she probably thinks it's dying if not dead already. The staff at Arlington accentuates the positive, but sometimes they don't have enough fingers to plug the holes.
There are enough crises, scandals and controversies annually to last a lifetime, which has to be depressing for such a great product conducted in such beautiful venues like Arlington.
Good things are happening in horse racing but too much of it is obscured by bickering, protesting and disputing.
Take this ongoing issue of slot machines at Arlington. The storyline became old a couple years ago and now is just so much whining in the wind.
The implication, correct or not, is that Arlington could close any year now if the state doesn't award it slots.
Well, tell me, how many people want to continue following or start following a sport that might not be around here very long?
Here's a suggestion from somebody who roots for the survival of horse racing: Keep these annoying negotiations out of the media or the public will become even more skeptical about horse racing.
The bad news is that the mood surrounding the ponies today is reminiscent of Major League Baseball about 20 years ago. The good news is the national pastime rebounded into renewed popularity.
It can happen, though steroids aren't the recommended remedy.
Like horse racing now, baseball was supposed to be in decline. A day at the ballpark was supposed to be too slow, like a day at the races is supposed to be. Younger fans supposedly want more action.
In baseball, owners put down players and players put down owners. Both sides were unlikable. The game pleaded poverty. Work stoppages were common. A World Series was canceled. The game was a mess.
Sounds in some respects like horse racing today. Arlington management and horsemen did just barely settle a labor dispute before the opening weekend, right?
Sports fans don't want to hear about rich people's problems. If two parties can't get along, why should anyone want to go along with them?
Baseball became the place not to be instead of the place to be. Owners and players alike found out how easy it is to border on becoming irrelevant.
That's where horse racing resides now.
The sport is too worthwhile to be treated this way. I'm not wired in enough to know who's to blame, but I do know that people in horse racing better start limiting the negativity.
People don't want to keep hearing what's wrong. Nor do they want to feel like they're attending a sport's funeral.
Racing figures have to get their act together or pretty soon there really won't be an act anymore.
Not even on glorious days like Saturday.