Every April, camera crews from
Portrayed as a grand tradition of what I call the
Though I never attended — my parents were wise to what was going on —a lot of the kids I hung around with did. An attraction in those days that was more of a draw for a lot of people than the races was the easy access to alcohol. My understanding is that the junior booze-fest atmosphere was reined in to a large degree in the years after the drinking age was restored to 21 from 18, and on those rare occasions when I've found myself driving to my parents house in late April, I've noticed the parking situation has improved substantially.
It's my understanding from the folks I know who still attend the event after all these years that, while many a glass (Actually plastic cup. Nothing says party these days like red plastic cup.) is lifted on race day, the Bacchanalia I associated with the goings on in my youth is largely gone.
All the same, the opening of the Maryland horse season this spring set me to thinking about the relationship between horse racing and that great social lubricant, ethyl alcohol and its many forms. In the 136 times
It was certainly a show, but not the one I had hoped to see. The Ravyns played three or four songs before the sky opened up and all electronic equipment had to be shut down and put away. The show that went on after that involved hundreds of people, many of them wearing shirts that said something to the effect of "I went to the Preakness Infield and never saw a horse" rolling around in a huge mud bog disturbingly close to a line of portable toilets. Enough said.
Flash forward to the more recent incarnations of the so called Preakness Infield Party and its semi-official mascot, a centaur (half man half horse) named
At the risk of falling on the "too loud" side of the
There absolutely is a difference between swilling so much beer that standing up and speaking clearly are insurmountable challenges and raising a glass (or red plastic cup) and chirping a toast.
If horse racing is ever to regain any semblance of general popularity beyond a few races in the spring, it has to get beyond being an excuse for young people to over-indulge in a keg party, as much as it has to get beyond the day-to-day image of being the realm of cigar-chomping old men wearing polyester, as they peruse their racing forms and line up at the mutuel tellers.
Horse racing does have the drawback of being a few minutes of excitement packed into a day's slate of races; then again, baseball has a comparable drawback and still manages to draw crowds. And, the ballpark offers ample opportunity to enjoy a cold cup of beer, even as fans and ballpark staff are generally intolerant of obnoxious drunkenness.