Listen Here, Horse Racing Is Not a Dying Sport

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), March 2, 1996 | Go to article overview

Listen Here, Horse Racing Is Not a Dying Sport


Byline: Ray Hallett

After 19 years of covering horse racing in Chicago, I have many feelings concerning the start of the new season.

Most importantly, I'm sick and tired of hearing my favorite sport kicked around. Have the Chicken Littles of the world taken over?

I'm sick and tired of hearing that horse racing is a dying sport and that all that is left is a rapidly diminishing group of diehard gamblers.

"Racing is doomed, the sky is falling!"

Horse racing is a sport that is undergoing rapid changes and the old rules and measures just don't apply anymore. The grandstands at local tracks are no longer crowded with fans.

So what?

On-track attendance has become a meaningless statistic. You can't measure fan support for racing in turnstile counts any more than you can measure support for the Bulls by only counting the attendance at the United Center.

You can't measure the popularity of racing by counting the column inches that are devoted to racing in the local print media or by counting the features on local television.

To do so is to give validity to the prevailing prejudice that it isn't a sport unless it is played by a team or is played with a ball.

In some quarters, the attitude is that basketball, baseball, football and hockey are sports. Everything else somehow falls into the category of trash sport. That is nonsense.

Horse racing is a sport. Those are horses out on the track, not numbers on a roulette wheel. And there are people who care about those animals and the brave athletes that put their lives on the line every day to ride them.

People may wager on the outcome of races but that doesn't mean that they don't care about the participants.

The serious fans are not leaving the sport of horse racing. On the contrary, there are probably more seriously involved racing fans today than at any time in history.

I'm tired of hearing the "fans are leaving" argument as a statement of fact. Please note that there is no evidence presented in support of the statement. It is simply repeated time and again without any critical analysis.

If the fans are not "leaving," where are they?

They are visiting their conveniently local OTBs and intertrack sites. …

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