On Saturday, something seemingly wrought from a time forgotten will emerge and rumble down the track at Gulfstream Casino to the delight of almost no one.
Today, we bear witness to the fetid remains of a once-proud sport: horseracing. Yes, the sport will ultimately limp on, but it will do so within the confines of nostalgia -- like newspapers. And yes, there's nearly $1 million up for grabs on December 1 at our local Claiming Crown race, but forgive us if that doesn't elicit great enthusiasm.
That's because watching horseracing is boring.
There's no other way to break this down. If we're to watch sports -- and we do, reader, we do -- we like to like to watch something that offers escape from the tedium of existence, not intensifies it. Which means: We don't like waiting through hours of vapid commentary by random schmucks for a race that takes exactly one to three minutes. Snnnnoooozeee.
The problem with contemporary horseracing is that, like the NBA, it's star-driven. But unlike the NBA, there are only two stars -- I'll Have Another and Zenyatta. What's more, star-driven sports are predicated on personality. We love to hate Kobe Bryant because he seems like an asshole (though we don't really know). We love to love Peyton Manning because he seems like an all-right guy (though we don't really know). But with horseracing, the equines can't give much of a trenchant interview, and jockeys give everyone the heebie-jeebies.
This apathy hasn't stricken the sport's zenith quite yet, and the Kentucky Derby, the Triple Crown, and the Breeders' Cup remain viable. The problem, however, has to do with venues like Gulfstream Casino -- the small stuff. Tracks all over the country have landed in trouble. The Hialeah Park Racetrack was shut down for most of the 2000s. The owners of the Pimlico Race Course in Maryland, which hosts the Preakness Stakes, filed for bankruptcy some years ago. And the Canadian owner of the Santa Anita track also went broke.
It wasn't always thus. Back in the 1920s and 1930s, horseracing, incredibly enough, vied for America's attention with baseball. There was actually competition between the sports. Something like that is laughable today.
Even betting is down, dropping 30 percent over the past decade amid a precipitous 10 percent annually since 2008. And if horseracing can't draw even the gamblers and boozehounds, whom can it get?
Maybe, however, all of this is meant to be. Sports, like all of pop culture, is supposed to reflect our society's aesthetic back at us. With that in mind, there's good reason the sport once thrilled the throng, because, well, everyone rode horses. Today, no one can relate to horseracing -- but we can with basketball and baseball, which we see children playing at every park in America.
So, unless we're to retire cars for horses, regardless of whether Gulfstream Casino says there's great "enthusiasm" for this Saturday, horseracing will continue its inexorable fall.