Where are the stories?

Monday at Aqueduct, before the fifth race:

A journalism student, covering the Big A for a school assignment, looking bored and utterly uninterested in the goings-on below, asks a veteran turf writer: “So what are you writing about today?”

Turf Writer explains that he’s likely going to be focusing on out-of-town racing, given the stakes racing being run elsewhere.

Journalism Student is disappointed; such an approach will not help her complete her assignment. But she must be given credit for having the intrepid nature of a true reporter: undaunted, she forges on:

“But if you DID have to cover today’s races, and you’d only gotten two hours of sleep, what would you write about?”

Turf Writer, far more magnanimously than should be expected, flips through the program, and gives her Tour of the Cat, the eleven-year-old making his 77th start in the ninth race. Mission accomplished, off she goes.

I guess perhaps it was because she was sleep deprived, synapses not firing properly, powers of observation compromised, that it didn’t occur her to, oh, maybe actually watch a race and—call me crazy—glean an idea or two for a story.

I wonder if she watched the first race, in which favored Chit Chat Cat and Trillian hooked up in the stretch, with Trillian getting the bob.

I wonder if she paid attention to the sixth race, in which Griffen Avenue opened up a daylight lead and was nipped at the wire by a charging Navedano.

I wonder if she ended up watching the Tour of the Cat race, in which the veteran looked like he might notch the twenty-first victory of his career, and I wonder if she felt any disappointment when he got caught and had to settle for second place for the thirteenth time.

I wonder if, even for a moment, she stopped thinking about what a drag it was to be out in Ozone Park for an afternoon instead of home sleeping off a hangover, and I wonder if she contemplated watching a race with a little curiosity or interest, or standing in the paddock with an ear or an eye open to what was happening around her, or observing the action in the clubhouse.

Silly me.

12 thoughts on “Where are the stories?

  1. Racing requires a tremendous amount of patience combined with a huge attention span to follow properly. Racing is real and racing is organic. With all of the instant gratification gizmos/mental masturbation available racing is a hard sell to a young person.

  2. I wouldn’t worry about her too much; with all the newspapers closing and, especially, eliminating racing coverage, there won’t be many jobs in (real) journalism left by the time she graduates.

  3. My nine year old is more than capable of looking at the form and then watching the race. He get’s it. Racing’s big problem is there isn’t anything to draw in the 18-24 year olds. Del Mar draws a young crowd each week with a hip concert. If 5% of the kids leave as race fans, it’s a winner. I wish I had an answer, so I’m doing my part and spreading the gospel of racing to anyone who’ll listen.

  4. At her feet was perhaps the grestest racing story of the time. I would suggest she ask her professor, Sandy Padwe, what Bill Nack would have done with this story. Therein lies the answer.

  5. Good journalism takes curiosity and the willingness to ask questions – in addition to the ability to write well. Journalism may change over time, who the hell heard of a blog just a few years ago, but it will remain in some form. Like network television, newspapers will change in amount of clout they weld, but they will remain in some form. That being said, the NY Times could go belly up by May, since it has an overwhelming amount of debt.

  6. Thanks for reading and for the comments, folks. What, I wonder, do journalists do when they are assigned a beat with which they are unfamiliar? I’m sure that it takes a fair bit of nerve and courage to plunge in and ask questions that might be considered “dumb”–but how does one overcome such a complete sense of ennui? JS: what is the “this”? This post? This anecdote?

  7. Overcoming ennui. Maybe it’s attitude combined with curiosity. I get the same comments about baseball-how can you watch a game-isn’t it boring?

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