The beauty of horse racing is that win or lose there is always another race around the corner, or turn in this case. (Photo by Eclipse Sportswire)
With the recent conclusion of football season (and with baseball right around the corner), I’m once again reminded of the wonderful differences between following the sport of horse racing and following my favorite team in one of the other major sports.
Horse racing is different for a lot of reasons, chief among them is the fact that it’s perfectly legal to go to your local track and bet on all of the action. Beyond the gambling side, the thing that separates horse racing from other sports is that a racing fan doesn't have a single team or entity to direct their passion and support toward on a yearly basis.
When we look at popular teams in other sports we find fans that have “lived and died” with their team over years and years. They stick through their team in the low times in the hopes that, one day, they’ll be rewarded with the crowning achievement in the game: a championship.
With racing, the truly great horses, the ones that people flock to an follow on a daily, monthly or yearly basis, those animals usually only run for a couple of years until they are sent to the breeding shed. And even if a horse isn't retired early, his or her career span probably will be a maximum of seven or eight years, and that's only if they are some kind of freak of nature like John Henry.
Spend a day at your local track you have a new team to cheer for every 35 minutes. If you're following the simulcast from multiple tracks, you have a new team every five to 10 minutes, providing countless opportunities to get over a devastating defeat. When your NFL team suffers a heartbreaking loss on Sunday, you’ll have to wait a week or even the whole offseason before you can find redemption. A devastating loss in the Super Bowl can stick with a fan for month. Suffering a devastating loss in race three at Gulfstream Park on a Saturday afternoon? Grab the form and jump back on board cause there’s nothing that removes the bitter taste of defeat like cashing a ticket in the next race.
A bad day at the track can linger with you for a while but not in the same way as watching your favorite baseball team swept out of the ALCS or Alma Mater lose on a buzzer beater in the national title game.
In horse racing, there is always another race right around the corner as our season is never truly over.
Finally, perhaps the greatest difference between horse racing and team sports is this: horses don't get busted for drunk driving. They don't spout political rhetoric or other personal philosophies to the media. They don't fail to pay child support, get pulled over with an AK-47 in the back of their Hummer, or hold out for a better contract.
The true stars of our sport - the horses – run simply because that’s what they’ve been bred to do. How can you not love a sport where the stars don't have massive, overinflated views of their own self-worth?