DYING SPORTS?

Every year like clockwork, a few reporters and media commentators write or talk about how horse racing and/or professional boxing are “dying” sports, economically deteriorating remnants of the past.

Yet these two “moribund” activities had quite a day on August 26.  Dying is not a word anyone with a rational regard for facts would use to describe what transpired.

The Floyd Mayweather-Colin McGregor fight, pitting an undefeated world champion boxer against a world champion mixed martial arts champion who had never fought in a professional boxing bout, was a 38-minute monetary blockbuster.

The fight was front-page news, not only in the United States and Ireland (McGregor’s home) but in faraway places like Australia.  I heard people talking about the match-up who surprised me, folks you definitely would not expect to be at all interested.  The first question my wife asked me Sunday morning was “Who won the fight?”

The demand to watch the showdown was so strong that live-streaming Internet sites could not cope and therefore some customers had poor reception or buffering, so much so that refunds are forthcoming and a class action suit is (predictably) already in the works.

According to USA Today, the guarantee to Mayweather was $100 million and to McGregor $30 million “before any of the Pay Per View or Sponsorship money is divided up.”  Turns out that Mayweather’s purse is approximately $300 million and McGregor’s is $100 million.  USA Today said: “That means Mayweather will make more in one night than any NFL, NBA, or MLB player has made in their entire career (excluding sponsorships).  If that’s not crazy enough, that’ll also be close to three times more than Tiger Woods made in on-course earnings during his entire golf career, though, again, that doesn’t include Tiger’s off-course earnings, which put his total earnings over $1 billion.”

These astronomical dollar figures would have been even more impressive had the almost 3 million viewers who watched illegally paid up.  Pirated signals came from people holding smartphones in front of their television screens and sharing pictures on social-media sites like Facebook and YouTube.

Meanwhile, earlier in the day in upstate New York, 47,725 people were elbow-to-elbow at Saratoga Race Course (attendance was limited to 50,000) for Travers Day, and millions more watched on NBC, TVG, at simulcasting facilities, and online.  All-sources betting on the 13-Race Travers Day card was $47.9 million, the second-highest in the history of the Travers and a 5-percent increase over 2016.  (The most ever bet on the Travers card was in 2015, when Triple Crown champion American Pharoah ran second in the feature race.)

The next time a reporter or commentator has a creative block and decides to resort to the all-too-familiar subject of how boxing and/or horse racing are withering away, think about Mark Twain’s retort to the rumors of his demise:  “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” Horse racing and boxing assuredly “ain’t what they used to be,” but their capacity to generate billions of dollars in revenues annually is not what you would expect from anachronisms allegedly one-step away from the grim reaper.

Lately, I have been seeing and hearing more and more about how football’s days are numbered because of head injuries and how baseball’s popularity is diving among younger generations for lack of action, so reporters and analysts now have some more impending death knells to expound upon.

Copyright © 2017 Horse Racing Business

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