The thought-provoking Bill Shanklin shot a flaming arrow into the fuel dump with his post about the fortunes of the Breeders’ Cup as televised on ESPN.
The explosive nature of this topic is so volatile that I believe it has even dampened commentary on Shanklin’s post. How many, for instance, feel qualified to weigh in on the discussion with Shanklin and the trenchant rebuttal from Walt Gekko?
The spark at the center of the explosion, however, is that racing long ago made multiple errors about presenting itself to the general public and about its relationship to developing technology and media.
And the sport has never recovered.
As the masses of racing fans have aged out of the population, only the lucky few, like myself, who found the sport, became fascinated, and taught themselves as much as they wanted to know have really become fans.
Television doesn’t make fans. It’s just a medium between the fans and the fun. Fun and cultural connections, interactivity at multiple levels, and qualities that are engaging for many groups of people develop a devoted following for any sport or popular activity.
The fun is ready and available. Horse racing is as thrilling and cool and engaging as it ever was. But we have to find ways to connect people to our sport if we want them to be there with us.