Wednesday, May 06, 2009

No Kentucky Derby Post Time for Me

Well, that was a dud.

No, not the 135th running of th Kentucky Derby won by 50-1 long-shot Mine That Bird. The horse ran the race you'd expect to see in the movies; National Velvet without Liz Taylor.

No, I'm referring to my post If the NFL Ran the Kentucky Derby that ran on Bleacher Report and on Hog Heaven.

It seemed like a neat tie-in for the week between the NFL Draft and the Derby. But the story only gathered nine views on Bleacher Report between Wednesday and Derby day (Saturday) and a mere 17 on Hog Heaven.

Lesson learned. You can't push water uphill. You can't talk a niche topic on a football site and expect an audience.

I spend a lot of time thinking about boring organizational issues in managing a NFL team. It strikes me that pro football is exponentially better at building an audience than the horse racing industry.

The NFL promotes its stars -- the players on the field. Horse racing appears to promote handicapping. (Capital "T" that rhymes with "B" that stands for betting.)

Horses are the dynamic personalities in the sport. Racing sees horses as the basis for gambling.

Dependence on gambling is killing the sport, in contrast to the NFL which keeps a strict, arms-length relationship to gambling. You don't see parimutuel windows at NFL stadiums.

The disengagement forces the NFL to build other streams of revenue: TV contracts, endorsements, expensive ticket sales, logoed-items. The NFL has revenue the Jockey Club must drool over.

Gambling invites restriction by States and disapproval by tsk-tsk moralists.

The Maryland Jockey Club laments the decline of the sport in Maryland. What do they ask for? Slot machines to match Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

What do they get? A long, drawn out fight that results in slots package that gives the horsemen a smaller cut than they say they need to survive and bidders disinterested in horse track locations.

Instead of slots, the horsemen might have asked for tax breaks, or subsidized prize money, or livestock incentives. Maryland would likely have turned those ideas down too, because of the gambling.

I'll wager that Maryland wouldn't have turned them down if the case were made to save a horse personality, like Spectacular Bid.

Maryland has a rich thoroughbred tradition. From the Maryland Horse Breeder's Association web site:

Marylanders have been breeding and racing Thoroughbred horses for more than 250 years. From the famed 18th century race mare and producer Selima (by the Thoroughbred foundation sire the Godolphin Barb) to such 20th century champions as Gallant Fox, Omaha, Native Dancer, Nashua, Kelso, Ruffian, Spectacular Bid and Broad Brush, Maryland-owned Thoroughbreds have been providing both excitement and profits for Free Staters.

The battle for support was led by Magna Entertainment, a track operator now in bankruptcy.

The NFL would have based the fight with saving Joe Flacco. The Jockey Club would have done better by hiring the NFL to lead its fight.

Hmm. Another great post that nobody will read. Thought I learned that lesson! :-P