Saturday, 13 March 2010

Back from Hibernation

I believe that sports, much like bears or squirrels, do much better if they allow themselves an annual period of rest and recovery (ask a panda!). Every fan knows that there are two outstanding days in any sport: opening day (when the whole season is ahead and everything is possible) and finals day (when a story that has been unfolding all season finds its conclusion).

Horseracing, with its global, diverse heritage and its rootedness in nature, does not allow for a true World Championship or a uniform opening date, but it evolved from regional, strictly seasonal circuits. Yet, with the notable exceptions of Hong Kong and Ontario, all major racing jurisdictions today refuse to even give their followers any time to rest and reflect.

In North America, the introduction of winter racing to Northern states and the simultaneous year-round expansion of Western and Southern circuits has pushed the sport into a downward spiral (in destroying season structures; economically; but even more in pioneering a destructive approach to business strategy) which the sport has never recovered from.

In Europe, it was only over the last one or two decades that "winter racing" was introduced and gradually expanded – enormous numbers of dirt or artificial surface races of little sporting value. The effects are more subtle, but essentially the same.

Racing fans therefore have to take their off-season breaks on their own, which I usually do from December to February. I went a step further this year by completely avoiding any racing media since early January (in Germany this is easily done by stopping outright effort to the contrary, you won't just stumble over racing updates). I was aided by the fact that we had a real winter for the first time in over a decade (or – in the words of the media – a "snow chaos"; because for the media on both sides of the Atlantic there is, apparently, absolutely no state in between "no snow" and "SNOW CHAOS – hide the kids and run – we're all gonna die --- and these goosebumps here prove that global warming is a sham made up by a billionaire scientist cabal out to destroy our defenseless mom-and-pop industrial corporations").

Anyway, my rather extreme Off-season seems to have worked, I don't think I've been this excited about starting into a season in years. After spending last evening re-watching "Seabiscuit" (The Movie) and "Seabiscuit" (the related PBS docu)*, I intend to spend much of this weekend reading up on TDN newsletters, Turf-Times newsletters and half a dozen blogs.

P.S.: I would have announced this blogs hibernation beforehand, but it was a slightly forced, spur-of-the-moment decision, and while I have received vastly different assessments about the size of my ego, it was in any case not large enough to dedicate a Raceday360 post entirely to such an announcement, particularly for a blog that's only updated once a month or so anyway.

* - On a sidenote: how can PBS, with its tiny, constantly-threatened budget continually produce better work in almost all fields of documentaries (history, science, art, social, nature) than either of Germany's two public broadcasting behemoths with their 7.2 billion € annual battle chest?** And does it make things better or worse that, with the exception of the BBC, every single one of Europe's giant national broadcasters can't even begin to challenge PBS in this field?

** - They're currently in the habit of just pretending they did. [As you can tell from the opening sentence] I bought the German-market DVD-Sets of PBS' superb "Evolution" series as well as the BBC's highly-acclaimed "Blue Planet" and "Planet Earth" series this winter, and in each case every episode ends with a "presented by ARD"-screen, as does every single BBC or PBS docu they broadcast on TV. It does not specifically mention that the ARD's involvement was limited to contributing the German-language audio track. I'm sure if they ever produce a German audio track for "Ken Burns Baseball", this one will be tagged as 'co-produced by Berlin-Brandenburg Broadcasting' too.

(Image: 1963 race at New Orleans' Fair Grounds Race Track in the snow; Source: the N.O. Public Library)