Thursday, June 3, 2010

Let's Ditch "My Old Kentucky Home" and "Maryland, My Maryland", Too!

Last year I wondered aloud when Belmont Park moved from "Sidewalks of New York" to "New York, New York". Turns out it was 1997. I wasn't thrilled, but it was one classic for another. But now, at the risk of sounding like an old fogey, what the hell is going on with now a change to Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind"??

According to NYRA marketing director Neema Ghazi the song "has become a “quintessential 21st century theme song for New York City." Good God. I have to guess that this is a lame attempt to try and be relevant and hip to a new generation of horse players. We can't lower take-outs or provide free parking and admissions, but changing the signature tune of the oldest of the Triple Crown races is what's really going to capture the younger demographics imagination.

Tears well in the eyes - of old AND young - every year as the strains of "My Old Kentucky Home" take flight as the contenders move onto the racetrack and meet the roaring and singing croud. Granted, "Maryland, My Maryland" is the same tune as "O Christmas Tree", but there is a certain amount of local pride and tradition associated with the official state song. After only thirteen years of "New York, New York" - hardly long enough to become a tradition - it's being ditched in favor of a new song that, I'm willing to wager, horsemen have never heard before.

Should we never change in racing? Of course not. We need to evolve and continue to try and cultivate a new fan base - especially that younger demographic. However my thoughts are start with what's really important to this group and go from there. These folks have grown up with casino action that offers free parking, easy wagering, a better price point, no admission charges and excitement in the air. The boom of these Gen Xers in the poker arena shows that they will take the time to learn strategy and intricacies of a new game if it can be packaged right. We need to make the product more accessible, understandable and exciting while maintaining some semblance of the traditions that have built this sport. The latest and greatest video slot machines still share the casino floor with the old classic spinning reel games and video poker. The classics still earn and have appeal and it's NOT just the blue hairs.

And another thing, the Gen Xers that I know (and help raise!) love what's new and hip - but once they discover the joy in whatever endeavor they pursue, they also appreciate the history and mystique that came before them. Racing needs to recognize what's important and update that and still maintain the traditions that add to the lore and enjoyment of the game. That's the ticket to the future, not changing a Classic race's theme song which smacks more of desperation than of a well balanced plan.


Anonymous said...

This is not an attack on rap music or Jay-Z, because I have an appreciation for both, but this decision is pretty awful. If there were anything to suggest a correlation between horse racing and hip-hop, aside from MC Hammer owning a Kentucky Oaks winner, I would be all about trying something new to expand the demographic, but it just isn't there.

With that said, there is a fine line between "hip" and "traditional", and that line can be walked to great success. A prime example is the National Football League. When one thinks about the music associated with the NFL, the first two tunes that come to mind are often the Monday Night Football theme and the brass-driven march played in every NFL Films presentation.

These songs harken back to the league's infancy in the mid-20th century, yet they are appreciated across the demographics in today's game. Ray Lewis plowing Tony Romo into the turf to the NFL Films music looks no less badass today than it did when Dick Butkus was ripping some poor QB's head off to the same song in 1970. Time has made them timeless, the same way everyone from the jockeys on the track to the fans watching at home know the heaviness of "My Old Kentucky Home" and it drives them to tears.

Yes, Jay-Z is a transcendent musical artist, but playing rap music in the Belmont post parade today would be akin to playing a disco song in the 70s. It may sound cool right now, but in the coming decades, it will only prove the event had as much class as a Super Bowl halftime show.

Glenn Craven said...

The two of you have written almost anything that could need to be written on the subject.

Idiotic change of music.

Who died and left the 15-year-old in charge of NYRA?

Traitor Vic said...

I gotta tell ya, as much as I appreciate the artistry of Dale DeGroff and his creation, The Belmont Breeze, that has been the "Official Cocktail" of The Stakes since the big Overhaul/Update of 1997, I still prefer the good ol' White Carnation while preparing to watch as my money goes down the tubes.

I think that, this afternoon, I'll probably sip a White Carnation as I listen to Mel Tormé on the stereo (watching, with the sound muted, as the crowd stares at one another in confusion while hearing "Empire State of Mind". I enjoy being a cantankerous fuddy-duddy