Every once in a while on a Wednesday morning, the Sports Curmudgeon, alter ego of NPR commentator and sportswriter Frank Deford, makes an appearance on Morning Edition; more regularly, he appears on his own website, grousing about whatever has struck—er, smacked?—his fancy.
This week, I feel like the racing curmudgeon.
As you might have noticed, I’m feeling uninspired. Stale. Unmotivated. This happens every once in a while, and I can usually shake it with a visit to the barns, a chance to see and touch and smell and hear horses, and remember how wonderful they are. That’s not so easy at this time of year; it’s not so easy for me at Aqueduct.
And I’m tired, so tired, of the headlines and the bad press and the inaccuracies and the potshots. I’m tired of hearing about the “state bailout” of NYRA—which doesn’t exist and never has. I’m tired of reading uninformed opinons in publications of various types, opinions that promulgate untruths, that whip the masses into fantasies of misguided injustice.
I’m tired of nobody (except Alan Mann at Left at the Gate) pointing out that New York State owes NYRA money for the legitimate sale of the land that the tracks sit on. The idea that New York State owns New York’s treasured racing property—both physical and intellectual—terrifies me more than the prospect of Alexander Ovechkin and open ice. But if the state’s going to have it, it could at least have lived up to its end of the bargain, and actually handed over the money it said that it would. Or taken the steps in the VLT process that it said that it would. By when it said it would.
And I’m tired of the outcry about the salaries of the NYRA executives. I’m all for accountability, meeting expectations, and compensation within reasonable bounds. But good Lord, why aren’t we bitching about the salaries of our inept, self-interested legislators? That’s where my tax dollars are going, and I gotta tell you: it’s legal larceny. In 2007, New York State politicians averaged $79,500 in salary, third highest in the nation. Not, granted, a particularly generous paycheck. But still: paying them ANYTHING feels like it’s too much. So that they can infight, delay, posture, pose, and obstruct? Can we talk about THAT for a little while?
I’m trying to cheer myself up. I’ve got a snow day today: that’s good news. Punts Kitty won yesterday and added to the Madison Fund: that’s good news. I’m working on my Saratoga rental: that’s good news. I’ve got a few good post ideas that with a little motivation, I can probably pull together. That’s good news. Inexplicably, I’m not a failure in our charity league, and that’s good news.
And today’s Friday, and tomorrow’s Saturday, and that means I can go to the races. And that’s good news. (At least it was when I wrote this–earlier today, NYRA cancelled Saturday’s races. So much for that bit of good news.)
Update: a reader wrote in to note that Matt Hegarty of the Daily Racing Form did indeed write on the State’s responsibility to NYRA in December. Giving credit where credit is due, here’s an excerpt:
Given New York’s enormous budget deficit and NYRA’s recent bankruptcy, the state legislature might be reluctant to dip into the till to help out NYRA again. However, NYRA doesn’t have to go hat-in-hand to the legislature, according to Hayward. The settlement agreements NYRA negotiated as part of its bankruptcy reorganization included a provision requiring the state to fund the association’s operations until it begins to receive slot-machine revenues if the casino was not operational by March 9, 2009. As a result, Hayward is confident that NYRA will not have to shut down, as it threatened to do in 2007 unless the state came to its rescue – even if that means having the state ask the casino operator to front NYRA the money. (emphasis mine)
The full article is part of the DRF Weekend series and thus requires a subscription to read.