Have you heard? Predictably, inevitably, here in New York, yet another agreement to get VLT’s installed at Aqueduct has been scuttled, this time by the “unlicensability” of AEG, the most recent choice by the most recent governor of the Empire State. If you’re keeping score, this is the third VTL operator to be named, each by a different governor. So we’re up to, what, about a gazillion dollars in lost revenue since slots were approved by the state in 2001?
I’ve thought about how to tell this story, how to comment on the state of New York racing. And then I realized…who needs inspiration? After all, the story has been told before…
Psycho, directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Though the Bates Motel has been rendered obsolete by the moving of the highway, proprietor Norman just can’t get himself to face the reality of a business environment in which his motel is no longer viable: “But it’s no good dwelling on our losses, is it? We go right ahead lighting signs and following the formalities…”
A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tennessee Williams. Poor Blanche DuBois—her genteel upbringing does her no good in the rough and scrappy French Quarter of New Orleans, leaving her looking for allies in a world that bewilders her. “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers,” she says. Let’s hope that her strangers are not judges waiting to rule on NYC OTB’s bankruptcy case, or the state legislators upon whose wisdom and honor NYRA must rely for its income.
Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett. Vladimir and Estragon while away the time as they wait for Godot, someone they’ve never met and won’t recognize. They kill time “to hold the terrible silence at bay,” and at the end of the play, they are still waiting for Godot, who has yet to make an appearance and likely never will. Is there a VLT named Godot?
The Wizard of Oz. “I am Oz, the Great and Powerful!” No fewer than three governors have held the fate of New York racing in his hands—and then there are the political leaders who have joined them in humbuggery. Jaded New York racing fans need no longer to be exhorted to “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain…”
Casablanca. In moments of disorder and criminal activity, Captain Renault gives the command to “round up the usual suspects” to create a pretense of order and morality. The suspects are rounded up, “justice” meted out…and life goes go, exactly and as corruptly as before.
How about a little poetry? English poet Stevie Smith tells the story of a man whose desperate call for help is misunderstood by those whose aid he seeks:
Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.
In the face of such bleakness, perhaps our best option is to turn to music, and a little classic American R&B?
And perhaps most accurately summing the feelings of many of us who love New York racing, who may indeed be dancing to keep from crying…