Tuesday, June 17, 2008

What exactly makes a horse race?

David Seaton's News Links
The "photo finish" above expresses all the excitement of horse racing. One horse is beating another by "a nose".

This excitement generates cash.

A tight race, with an exciting finish that brings the fans to their feet is what horse racing is all about.

The excitement and the doubt about which horse is going to win stimulates betting and fills the race course with regular, paying customers.

For those who organize horse races a photo finish like the one above is the preferred result in every single race. If the results of horse races were preordained, no one would ever broadcast them and no one would ever write about them in the newspapers. Therefore preordained horse race winners would generate no advertising revenues.

Since, unavoidably, some horses are much faster than others, something must be done to "even the odds": a horse racing term if ever there was one.

The track official in charge of doing this is called the "handicapper" and his profession is called "handicapping".

Many readers may have only heard the term, "handicapped" as the politically incorrect version of "physically challenged", the politically correct version takes longer to say, but actually means the same thing as the incorrect version.

In the handicapper's ideal race all the horses would cross the finish line at exactly the same time. To make this happen he "physically challenges" or "handicaps" them by putting lead weights in the faster horses's saddles to make them run more slowly. This is why you see pictures of the tiny jockeys being weighed along with their saddles before the race; to ensure that the total weight that was calculated by the official handicapper is what finally goes on the horse at the starting gate.

The prospective wagerer out to "have a flutter", seeing the handicappers handiwork thinks, "'Flying Dog Food' is by far the best horse today, he's won every race he's ever been entered in, but he's never carried this much weight before and besides, last night it rained and the track will be slow" and thus the punter takes more interest in the race... and maybe bets against 'Flying Dog Food". More action and more commissions for the bookies, excitement, photo finishes, money... Horse racing.

Which brings us to the coming election.

Professor Immanuel Wallerstein encapsulates most, if not all, of the present commentary when he writes:
Barack Obama(...) is going to sweep the elections with a large majority of the Electoral College and a considerable increase in Democratic strength in both houses of the Congress. (...) If one analyzes the situation in detail, state by state, the only state that voted Democratic in 2004 in which McCain seems to be competitive today is Michigan. The states that Bush won in 2004 in which Obama is competitive are numerous - Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, New Mexico, Colorado, Virginia, and maybe Nevada, North Carolina, and Montana. He's even doing well enough in Mississippi that Republicans will have to invest money and time campaigning there. If Obama won all the competitive states except Michigan, he'd have 310-333 electoral votes. He needs 270.
Not much of a race at this point, is it? All over but the shouting, don't you think? Wake me up when it's over, no?

If you compare the present race between Obama and McCain to Obama and Hillary's battle to the wire, or even McCain's home stretch gallop out of the crowded Republican pack, it all looks pretty boring, doesn't it? ... And it's only June! Finished before it began.

Think of how many people were glued to their TVs as Hillary battled on, how many advertisements those people had to sit through to hear all the pundit's expert drivel... The Obama vs. McCain race is not going to sell much stuff is it?

A real money loser, something that the media have to cover, but nobody much wants to watch.

Think how much more money everybody concerned would make if the two candidates raced neck and neck, through the summer and into the fall.

This race is begging to be handicapped.

A photo finish is the desired result. A cliff hanger all the way down to the wire with everybody glued to their TV sets till the break of dawn on election night... sitting through all those ads.

Remember, in handicapping, the fastest horse has to carry the heaviest weights.

Barack Obama has peaked way too soon. His superiority is beginning to bore. It looks more like a coronation than a race.

Or more like Jesus'
Palm Sunday ride into Jerusalem on a donkey than the Kentucky Derby.

Without any particular malice aforethought the media is going to begin to pick Obama's story apart, just to keep the public's attention from drifting off. They really have nothing better to do.

They have to make a new story out of this.

In the next weeks we are going to see if Obama has what horse racing fans call "heart" or "class".

1 comment:

RC said...

Weeks? It's almost 5 more months of this media torture. Why don't we all just agree to turn the TV off until maybe Halloween. Read the net and the treepapers with ample grains of salt.
Develop a scientific outlook about the pathetic profession of political handicapper and the spin doctor man and the Fox News babbling blitherers.
Maybe we shall pay a bit of attention to the conventions {just a bit} and who the veeps will be, and of course, some local races.
But it is going to be some thin gruel, the newsfeeds about Obama vs. McCain. I don't think it will be a blowout or a landslide, but I find it very hard to imagine McCain being able to present himself as Presidential continually for 5 months, and I am dying to see a debate. Yes, I will actually watch a TV for that.
It does seem that Dave has now conceded that the old white guy doesn't look all that great in the morning warmups.
For me, the entertainment value that the media leadsetting affords is the real distraction.
Wells of creativity will have to be dipped into to bring up something
even marginally interesting about Obama or his feral spouse.
But the media minions are well paid
and they will deliver.
And be very careful Dave. The race is part of your mealticket too, don't give away the inside dope.