Archives for February 2013

SUPER BOWL/HORSE RACING COMPARISONS

Following are a number of current items about horse-racing and some thoughts on them. With the exception of the first item, the remainder tie into Super Bowl XLVII on February 3, 2013.

Item 1. Greg Cote, a sports writer for the Miami Herald, wrote in his column of January 27, 2012: “Gulfstream Park hosted the Eclipse Awards, Thoroughbred racing’s Oscars, and Wise Dan won Horse of the Year over Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another. Never been in favor of drug testing voters, but might make an exception here.”

Yours Truly does not agree with this assessment. When Wise Dan’s body of work over 2012 is compared to I’ll Have Another’s, the former is more persuasive. Had I’ll Have Another won the Triple Crown and immediately been retired, his record would merit Horse of the Year. But the colt never raced again after the Preakness in mid-May.

The Baseball Hall of Fame did not admit anyone in the 2013 voting, as no one on the ballot was deemed worthy of the honor (mainly because several of the leading candidates are tainted by drug use during their playing days). A lack of enthusiasm also seemed to prevail about Horse of the Year. Wise Dan won the honor but there was not much passion for the choice of this gelding or any other horse.

Item 2: As of January 27, 2013, tickets for Super Bowl XLVII (Baltimore Ravens vs. San Francisco 49ers) in New Orleans were averaging $2,993.28. This was a decrease of 30.6% from the 2012 Super Bowl, when the New York Giants played the New England Patriots in Indianapolis. Anytime a New York team is involved, tickets will go for a premium. Suites for the 2013 Super Bowl were being sold for between $144,000 and $323,000.

No sporting event in the United States can demand these levels of ticket prices. The Kentucky Derby has some very high-prices for individual tickets and suites, but the average ticket price is deflated by the prices for seats in the grandstand and infield. The least expensive Super Bowl seat is $1,775.

Item 3: In the lead up to the Super Bowl, Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal (January 31, 2013) titled “When It Comes to Doping, Pro Football Punts.” Tarkenton says, “In their most recent collective bargaining agreement, signed in 2011, the National Football League and the players union agreed to start testing players for human growth hormone. Yet two seasons later, there still isn’t any testing.” Tarkenton laments performance-enhancing drugs and opines: “The NFL doesn’t talk about steroids or human growth hormone. Nor do many journalists, at least with regard to football.” Tarkenton asserts that while football players of today are bigger than their predecessors from several decades ago, it is not because of genetics, diet, and nutrition. The culprit, in his view, is performance-enhancing drugs.

Coincidentally, Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens, denied an allegation in a Sports Illustrated story that he had used deer-antler spray to help him heal from a torn triceps injury. The spray contains a substance banned by the National Football League.

Horse racing has taken a beating in the media, and from within its own ranks, over medication (some rightly deserved). Horse racing makes a convenient target for journalists to pummel, but it demonstrably has better testing standards than U. S. professional sports. The NFL has gotten a pass so far, but former players are suing the League in large numbers over injuries and a day of reckoning may be fast approaching, in spite of the NFL’s money and clout.

Item 4. Off topic of horse racing: A 98-year-old man born in Italy lives about six miles from me, where he runs a tree and plant nursery. He is about five feet four inches tall but is as strong and agile as someone years younger and is very alert mentally. I enjoy doing business with him and listening to his sports stories especially. On Super Bowl Sunday, his grandsons, Jim and John Harbaugh, will be coaching against one another for San Francisco and Baltimore, respectively. Jim and John’s father, Jack Harbaugh, is the nursery owner’s son-in-law, who coached Western Kentucky University to the Division 1-AA football national championship in 2002. If that is not enough coaches in the family, Tom Crean, the men’s basketball coach at Indiana University, is married to Jim and John Harbaugh’s sister. Undoubtedly, the 98-year-old nurseryman won’t have a favorite team to root for (no pun intended) in the 2013 Super Bowl and the Indiana Hoosiers aren’t scheduled to play that day.

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