THE WAVE OF THE FUTURE
The other day a banner was unfurled at Yankee Stadium which read MIKE BURKE IS THE GREATEST. Now why would anyone do a swell thing like that? Burke doesn't even play for the Yanks. He's their president. We don't know the story behind this poignant banner, but we suspect that the two chaps who held it up were trying to get on TV. In New York you don't go to ball parks to watch ball games anymore. You go to get on TV. And one way is by bringing banners. Ostensibly, these are supposed to exhort the players. But, for the most part, the players couldn't read them if they wanted to. They're held up for the TV cameras and can't be read from the field.
The fact that New York has two terrible ball clubs doesn't entirely explain this...this thing. When a class event like a pro golf tournament hits town it's just the same. For instance, Arnold Palmer hits his second shot into the gallery. There he is, about to try a tricky wedge. Is anybody watching him? No, everybody's waving at the camera.
The way we see it, TV's wasting good money paying for baseball and golf rights. Why not rent a stadium, open the gates and televise spectators for three hours? Or hire an assistant pro and let him hit a few buckets of balls while the gallery waves to all the gang down at the Green Shamrock Tap.
Better yet, tape these great shows so those talented performers can wave to themselves on TV. Perhaps that way the fans who want to see a ball game or a little golf can do so in peace.
OUT OF THE RUNNING
In a recent issue of The Blood-Horse, a weekly devoted to Thoroughbred racing and breeding, Jimmy Kilroe, vice-president and racing secretary at Santa Anita, has a mournful piece about racing's failure to grow with the times. He says that for years the sport "has been beguiled by statistics which assured us that we had never had it so good." For instance, a record 40,558,460 people went to the races in 1966 compared to 40,540,199 in 1965. But, Kilroe points out, the average daily attendance was down from 9,110 in 1965 to 9,075 in 1966—and from 11,176 in 1946. Obviously, what's up is the number of racing days. But not, we might add, the quality of the races.
It's Kilroe's theory that attendance is hurting because the sport is too intricate for the general public—that "a day at the races, as engrossing as it might be to the cognoscenti of the sport, is an exercise in utter tedium to the uninformed." He cites a survey called the Stanford Research Report which found that 47% of racegoers felt they knew less than the average about racing, 41% guessed they knew about as much as their fellow bettors while only 12% thought they knew more.
Kilroe argues that in order to prosper racing has to "fill the intelligibility gap for the 80% of our players who have no clear idea of whatever is going on out there—more than half the people interviewed at Garden State Park could not name one famous horse."
This says something, but perhaps not quite what Kilroe intended. In the same issue of The Blood-Horse there is a table of racing's 50 leading money-winners. Only two—Buckpasser and Native Diver—are still going to the post, and the latter has never won out of California.