A league of their own?

Alex Waldrop’s May 22nd post on his blog at the NTRA site is a sunshiny look at the state of horse racing, pointing out some recent bright spots and offering an optimistic view of the state of the game. At the end of the post, he asks for reader input on next steps, and, predictably, a number of commenters call for a national commissioner of racing, which has elicited responses both pro and con.

Waldrop seems to regularly be the recipient of these pleas for a commissioner, and if his definition of the NTRA as it appears on the site (“In a sense, the NTRA is both league office for a big sport and trade association for a big industry, including related businesses like breeding”), especially the first part about the league office, were in fact true, this would make sense. But it’s not—horse racing doesn’t have a league, and there’s no head office. Waldrop has no more power to appoint a commissioner than I do.

And even if he did, what would a commissioner do without a league to oversee? A commissioner could be named tomorrow, and nothing would change without the cooperation of the various racing entities across the country. And they have no reason to accept such organization without there being in it something pretty good for them.

Human beings and organizations by nature resist change and embrace autonomy; very few of us like being told what to do, or joining our interests to those of other people and organizations without seeing the clear benefits for us. This country was founded because of resistance to a central authority (one King George III), and less than a hundred years later, this same upstart country fought against itself over the issue of, among other things, individual states’ rights. We’ve got a long history of fighting against being told what to do.

Many compelling arguments have been made that a central authority would benefit the sport as a whole, but before that can happen, racing jurisdictions across the country need to decide that they would like to be part of an organization—perhaps a league–and that they would be willing to cede some of their own autonomy and authority to the person in charge of that organization.
Those in favor of such a structure lobby Waldrop regularly to make it happen; how, I wonder, would they make their case to racing executives and organizations, without whose support and cooperation such a vision is impossible?

4 thoughts on “A league of their own?

  1. You’re absolutely right that there has to be something in it for the various racing jurisdictions before any national organization — and commissioner — is possible.But I think that what’s in it for them is survival, and their only chance to thrive.Without standardized medication lists, likely standardized trainer qualifications and testing, and a national drive for better surfaces and safer racing (which is the single biggest grip about our sport from non-race fans), horse racing will continue to operate at relatively low ebb among spectator sports.It really is in the best interest of all to collaborate on some of these issues. I’m just not sure they’ll ever come to that realization.

  2. Oh boy, poor Alex Waldrop. Seems the only reason the NTRA exists is to be a punching bag for the couple of hundred vocal internet chatterers *furious* that the game is in a death spiral.I sure hope the death spiral continues myself. I'll tell you why, too.Nothing, *NOTHING* the NTRA can ever do is going to stop the market forces now underway that are cutting racing dates and leveling tracks into mall parking lots.It's the best thing that could ever happen because the racing executives that you speak of will eventually have to get back to the nuts and bolts of customer service just to survive.I've got a 7 point plan for you racing executives…it's really, really simple.- treat me right- quality and value when selling me your edible wares- free everything – clubhouse, racing forms, parking, etc.- free streaming video, any adw can have my track too- free downloadable data- a consistent position and lobby to the state government that you're doing everything possible to lower the rake in place of the silly ass tchotchkes and concerts that are not breeding any new fans at all and you're wasting your budget on now.Every track in the country could get this done within months, if not weeks. If things continue the way they are some slotless track is going to do it too.Guess who's going to be first in line when those gates open?

  3. Glenn: I’m not sure how the elements you list in your third paragraph are going to effect any change in racing’s popularity and handle. I just don’t see how standardized med list is going to entice the average fan OR the gambler to the rail or the literal or figurative window. These are things that people who are already involved in the game are calling for, and we’re already here: they don’t seem like incentives to me.O_crunk: Perhaps I’m misreading you (or vice versa), but I’m not bashing Alex Waldrop or the NTRA, or complaining about the “death spiral.” I was more interested in hearing how those who show up at Waldrop’s site calling for a commissioner would make the case to those whose cooperation is needed to make it happen.

  4. You say: Waldrop has no more power to appoint a commissioner than I do.And even if he did, what would a commissioner do without a league to oversee?I agree and one other point-The NBA,NHL,NFL, MLB are all Franchise leagues. All teams are a franchise with specific monies paid to the league for the right to operate a team in a geographically protected area with specific agreements on how the revenue fees are shared and agreements with all players who are unionized.Racing is not a franchise sport-I dont see how the tracks, some state run, some private, will ever all agree to join a league or set up Franchises. Until then, lets just get the individual tracks follow O’crunks suggestions

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