Find The Magic!
I recently received this message from my friend Dick Harbin, who co-hosted Thoroughbred Connection with me for several years…
My girlfriend has a 15 year old son. Clearly, he has grown up in the world of instant gratification of the Internet, 500 cable channels, and video games on his phone. And, while he is a sports fan, he had no exposure to horse racing at all.
He was over visiting a few weeks back when Zenyatta made her return to the races. I had to interrupt the movie he was watching so that I could watch her race on TV. He wanted to know why I liked this horse so much and I explained to him that her unbeaten streak was on the line…and how she always made your heart stop with her come-from-behind tactics…how she had beaten the best colts last Fall, winning the biggest race of the year, the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Well, that was all he needed to know in order to have a rooting interest in the race, and he sat down next to me on the couch.
As the race progressed, I could see that he was watching as intently as if this was the closing drive of the Super Bowl. “Is that her all the way in the back? What’s that guy (Mike Smith) waiting for? Is she going to get beat?” His voice was rising with each question and he scooted to the edge of the couch. When jockey Smith got her in that trouble at the top of the lane, he threw his arms and head around in frustration … asking “Where is she going to go??”
Then, when she found the seam and burst to the lead, he jumped off the couch, threw his hands in the air and high-fived me in victory.
The moral of the story is that the fundamental excitement of the game is still there, and it will always be there, even for kids who have grown up in an entirely different world than you and I did.
The question, that I can’t begin to answer, is “How does the game reach his generation?” All it took was 5 minutes of pre-race insight for him to “get” what he was rooting for, and he was just as fired-up as he could be. I don’t have a clue…wish I did…as this one little slice of life clearly showed me that it’s not a game whose time has passed it by.
What a wonderful story and I thank Dick for sharing it with me and all of his racing friends. And I agree with him, there IS “magic” in the sport of horse racing, and the game MUST finds ways of tapping into it!
If you’re even a small part of the sport, you KNOW what it’s like! It’s that feeling you get as you walk into a still-empty Santa Anita or Del Mar on the morning of a BIG day. It’s that feeling you get when a horse like Zenyatta walks into the paddock like she owns the place. It’s that feeling you get when they come to the gate and you KNOW that 20-1 outsider you LOVE has a big shot to provide you a GIANT score!
You and I know “the feeling,” and not everybody does. But, as Dick Harbin points out, a well-told “set the stage” story DOES have the power to generate the emotional involvement that turns the average person into a racing fan!
Remember that the next time YOU have a chance to sell the sport we ALL find so fascinating!