July 3, 2012

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In the evenings I often relax before the television and watch as people tear into one another for their views on any subject.  Politicians are the most obnoxious, since they all seem intent on strictly their own point of view.  But many of the talking heads in sports act the same way, so they don’t get a free pass.

What struck me as a plus in the racing sport this week was a form of compromise which occurred at Churchill Downs in light of the awful weather dished out by Mother Nature.  While some tracks opted to take off a day or two in the face of extreme heat, Churchill Downs was able to and sought out a totally different approach to the problem.  They cancelled one day, then proceeded to race the final three cards as evening programs, avoiding the most intense heat of the day.  It was a compromise.  Now that’s something which doesn’t occur often these days.
Right away there were horsemen who screamed bloody murder about the cancellation.  But those were immediate reactions and pretty short-sighted from my point of view.
Here you have a situation which has not presented itself to Churchill in the past.  Of course they’ve had hot weather conditions.  They race in June and July, so that goes with the territory.  But they have only in recent years had the option of racing at night.  It’s clear that Churchill management would prefer to race during the day, since it throws so many schedules awry. But officials of the track took the necessary deep breath, contacted their workers and gave them the necessary “heads up” to the change, allowing them at least one day to get ready for a dramatic alteration in their schedule.
Horsemen, too, would need to make some schedule revisions, so one would think the majority would appreciate the chance to re-work routines and shift gears on the run.
While the numbers are still out, one would expect this move cost Churchill Downs in mutuel handle and attendance, since it’s not like there was much time to advertise the sudden change in schedule.  But Churchill is one track which must see the overall picture in its role as a premier track, not just in America, but in the world.  What’s best for the horse cannot only be addressed by the “drug problem”.  Other situations present themselves and those have to be made with the horse in mind.  Extremes of hot and cold don’t strike me as acceptable for horse racing, considering both animal and man.  I find it hard to understand how tracks like Belmont Park and Delaware Park could close their doors one day because of unusual heat, but re-open them the next day under essentially the same circumstances.
Those of us here in Hot Springs can be thankful we are not racing at this time of year.  We are undergoing a terrible drought which has brought virtually the entire state under a burn ban, forcing the cancellation of all July 4 holiday fireworks celebrations.  Rain has fallen, in small amounts, in other parts of the state, but somehow it managed to skirt the Hot Springs area.  I live in a spot where my backyard is the National Park.  We are all in constant vigilance about sparks or anything which might set off the dried trees and pine needles on the mountain and threaten our dwellings and nearby businesses.  It’s not our choice, but we handle it.
Additionally we feel for those in Colorado who have had to watch helplessly as their homes have been swallowed up by fires too tough to contain.  Mother Nature also served up a deadly patch of storminess to a significant part of the country over the weekend, leaving millions without power.  The thought of enduring days in the dreadful heat with little chance to cool off reminds me of the opposite.  On Christmas Day, 2000, we were struck with an ice storm, driving us from our homes for over a week.  Extremes make for terrible times.
It is those extremes which make watching television so much less entertaining these days.  Those who are so sold on their opinions, to the exclusion of compromise, could learn a lesson from Churchill Downs.  Fire and rain are going to present situations which don’t include compromise.  You can’t compromise with a wildfire or a flood.
But people ought to be able to use their minds to create workable solutions, rather than setting up the combustible mixture which lives in so many of our world capitals.  Greed for power and money seem to drive world events, but racetrackers have learned to deal with those elements and come away with some workable answers.  It’s just another reason why it’s better to spend a day at the races than sitting home and watching television.
And to that guy who encourages me to “Stay thirsty, my friend” at the end of a beer commercial, I say “No problem”.
We can agree on how to answer that challenge.           

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