I’m sitting in the press box at Churchill Downs. It’s quiet. No sound is coming from the many televisions, and people who have time to talk have already left; everyone else is typing.
The lights, those lights that were to make this first night-time Breeders’ Cup racing so special, are still on, illuminating an empty racetrack.
I tell my students, when they can’t come up with a way to begin a piece to writing, to think about how they’d like to engage their readers. What’s the tone you want to set? In what direction do you want to steer your readers? What can you write that will make your readers want to continue reading?
And when they can’t come up with a way to end a piece of writing, I ask them to think about the impression they’d like to leave with their readers. What, I ask them, do you want your readers to think, know, feel when they’re finished reading?
If Breeders’ Cup Day 1 were an essay that one of my students turned in, I’d hand it back pretty quickly for some serious revision.
The Breeders’ Cup day began with a fight between two jockeys in the winner’s circle, on national television. I have yet to see it; I was watching the track feed, which didn’t show that. I may not watch it. That clip is likely to go viral, and many, many more people will see it than will see Shared Account’s thrilling victory in the Filly and Mare Turf, or Awesome Feather’s win in the Juvenile Fillies.
That was the introduction. It was not, I imagine, the tone that the authors of this Breeders’ Cup wanted to set. It is not the direction in which they wanted to steer their viewers. It is not what will make viewers want to keep watching horse racing.
The Breeders’ Cup day ended with a jockey telling millions of people that the horse he was on didn’t feel right. It ended with anyone who heard it watching as that horse was led to the starting gate. It ended with that jockey galloping his horse around the track, on racing’s biggest day, when more people watched racing than on any day except the Kentucky Derby. It ended with Life At Ten being eased, in every careful, solicitous nuance of that word (its root means “comfort”), across the finish line. It ended with furious bettors and angry fans. It ended with “should haves.”
That was the conclusion. It was not, I imagine, the impression that the authors of this Breeders’ Cup wanted to leave with their viewers. It was not what they wanted their viewers to think, know, feel.
Tomorrow is Day 2 of the Breeders’ Cup, but it’s not a revision; it’s a brand new article. Today, unfortunately, can’t be revised.