Occam’s Razor, Rube Goldberg and the Philosophy of Marketing Horse Racing. Keep it Simple, Stupid.

Phew!  That’s a long title, isn’t it?  The problem with my brain is that it’s overloaded with  information…some of it useless (hence my skills at Jeopardy!)…some of it, valuable…most of it, awakening me at 3AM, a mad scramble that resembles an Everything Omelette at Denny’s.

Occam’s Razor, and Rube Goldberg.  What do William of Ockham and Rube Goldberg have in common?  And what in God’s Name do these two gentlemen (separated by 500 years, and different ends of the spectrum) have to say about the way in which horse racing is marketed in the age of the Internet?

Occam’s Razor is a mathematical theory that states (to put it VERY simply)–that the simplest solution to a problem usually is the correct one.

And Rube Goldberg?  God bless him, he invented Rube Goldberg Machines, a complex series of events and gadgets, which make for fascinating and fun observation–but which, in the end, produce results that could have been achieved with minimal effort.  Mr. Goldberg created his machines precisely for this reason:  as with Synchronicity and God, Goldberg wanted people to see the complexity of his machines–be amazed, and amused–then, observe, “Why didn’t he just…?”


That “just” is the simple solution that, yes, could have been produced right at the beginning.  

If anything, a Rube Goldberg Machine proves Occam’s Razor.  Those gentlemen, separated by 500 years–posited the same thing, from opposite ends of the theory.  Luscious!  🙂

Of course, the reason for this column today is that the Kentucky Derby–thence, the Preakness and Belmont Stakes–are upon us.  American horse racing’s ancient rituals, enacted like clockwork every Spring.  And, just like those ridiculous folks who live in upstate New York who express shock every time it gets cold and snows IN THE WINTER–with that degree of regularity, horse racing officials will knock themselves silly, trying to find new and creative ways to market this sport.

This mad dash to BRING MORE PEOPLE TO THE TRACK!!!!  To MAKE THEM NOTICE US!!!!!  To SHIP IN CELEBRITIES WITH THE COLLECTIVE IQ OF THE EIGHTH POLE!!!!!!  is embarrassing, at best.  Laughable, at worst.  But in the words of Karen Walker, the jaded (yet, lovable) character on Will & Grace — “It’s funny…’cause it’s sad.”

It’s laughable, and yet simultaneously sad, simply–and “simply” is a key word here–simply because, marketing horse racing should be the easiest job in the world.

You’re all sick of reading my writings about it–and hearing me yammer on about it–but that doesn’t diminish the Truth in what I’m saying.  Horse racing will grow with wild abandon, and flourish when–and ONLY when:

1)  HORSES take back their place as The Mane Attraction, and
2)  Womyn, and our potential both as  fans and professionals in this sport–are seen as being far-more than breathing hatracks, walking on stilts.

It seems that everyone these days in American racing concentrates so much effort to bring people to the track–luring mere mortals with the siren call of sex (insulting bikini contests); drugs (encouraging drinking on “college days,” and “King of the Infield” contests) — and rock ‘n roll (turning beautiful, historic race tracks into concert venues, so that stoners will like us, too!).

A:  “They like us!  They REALLY like us!”
B:  “They’re high.”
A:  “Oh.”

Litany of Things that Horse Racing is NOT:
*  An extension of New York Fashion Week.
*  A celebration of the illegal and lethal concept, that alcohol-fueled drinking-then-driving is FUN, and sanctioned by the horse racing community at-large.  To promote binge drinking in the infield or anywhere on a track is irresponsible, at best.  Illegal, at worst.
*  A children’s fair, with clowns and face painting.
*  A health expo, where cardiologists give out diagnoses to people who are not their patients.
*  A dog park.
*  An appropriate location for a bikini contest.*  (*N.B.:  NOPLACE is an appropriate location for a bikini contest.  Since, ummmmm…that’s sexist, and this IS the 21st Century.)

And last, but surely not least:  horse racing is NOT:

*  That hard to figure out:  either the details of the thing:
a)  Horses run toward a goal.  One of them wins.  OR,
b)  How to get humans to get excited about a).

Instead of the aforementioned distractions from the REAL action at a race track (that of watching HORSES, RACE…) — I suggest the following adjustments:

*  Celebrate The Hat Thing, but interview womyn who are actual fans, professionals or otherwise, businesswomyn in the sport–in THEIR hats.  Stop with the putting of dimwits on TV screens, who’re betting the #1 horse because they like the jockey’s silks’ colors.  (This is, it’s fine and dandy to show beautiful hats on womyn–but those womyn don’t have to be young and gorgeous–females in horse racing do not exist to decorate the cakes of the old boyz in the track’s Board Room.)

If you want to show hats, t’would be a far, far better thing to do, to show real womyn–real womyn who are fans and pros, wearing their hats and talking about, say, conformation.  Or handicapping.  Explaining tack.  

You know, stuff that takes brains, beneath the brims.

*  Stop with the blatant pushing of alcohol, and the wink-wink, nudge-nudge given to college students and people in your infield, and/or in their early 20s.  Yep, they want to drink ’til they throw up.  Nope, it’s not the responsibility of race track management either to provide the venue for binge drinking, OR to be named in a lawsuit when the inevitable fatal car accident happens.  And it’s certainly a stupid marketing ploy.  

Who’s your advisor in this project, racing authorities?  Beavis & Butthead, or another pimply-faced 15-year-old?  (Hint:  that makes YOU a Beavis & Butthead. Heh-heh-heh.)  

In other words:  grow up, horse racing authorities, and stop being complicit in dangerous, illegal behavior of youths at your tracks.  Sure, they’ll drink there today–maybe make a few Drunk Bets–but the majority of the drunks won’t  give a damn about the horses, or the sport–or come back.  Until next year’s Drink-Your-Face-Off Day rolls around.

*  Bring your children to the track–absolutely!  Racing authorities should be encouraging horse racing as a family event!  But don’t bring them here to dump them on a face-painter for a few minutes.  (What does face painting have ot do with horse racing?  NOTHING.)

Instead–radical idea here–bring them here, and encourage them to TOUCH A HORSE.  If you’ve brought your children to a horse race track and don’t do so with a secret agenda, of introducing your child to a horse, and thereby encouraging the most beautiful relationship your kid ever will have–then you are a lousy parent.  Your kids, in close proximity to God’s most glorious creatures, and you don’t seek out a horsie for your son or daughter to pet?  Ridiculous.  Here are the very-complicated steps, the hard work for you, Mommy or Daddy:

*  Find an outrider.
*  Ask her/him if your child may pet the horsie.
*  Get a little teary-eyed, and take pix as you watch your boy or grrrl fall in love.

VOILA!!!  There you go–horse racing’s future, secured into the next century.
You’re welcome.

Note to race track authorities:  Did you see that interaction, described above?  Distribute press releases–create programs–congratulate Outriders for being Ambassadors of the Sport.  Whatever you do–quit thinking of your track as being an amusement park with bouncy houses, and instead–as the birthplace of the Next Generation of Fans, Bettors and Pros.

*  Stop.  Just stop, with the health expos.  If I want an exam–I’ll go to my doctor.  I don’t expect my allergist to have horses in his office, so why would I want to see him in a booth at the track?

*  Bring your dog to the track–IF s/he is a Therapy Dog.
OR a bomb-sniffing German Shepherd.
But DO NOT bring Phydeaux here to get him out of the house.  A place with 3,000 horses (prey animals) belongs to the horses.  Dogs are predators–and, if your dog isn’t used to being around horses–the incessant barking will both spook the horses and drive everyone else insane.  Leave your pooch at home.  Rover will Get Over.

*  Race tracks, do NOT insult every female on Planet Earth by hosting bikini contests.  Just don’t.  Stop it, right now.

They’re in bad form–they’re degrading–they encourage unwanted touching of every female on YOUR property–they belong in the 1940s, and–they’re in just-plain Bad Taste.  Rule of Thumb, track administrators: if you wouldn’t want YOUR daughter clad in almost-nothing, and fondled by drunk men she doesn’t know–WHY, in God’s Name, would you think it’s OK to do that to the daughters of OTHER people??

And, WHAT do bikinis have to do with horse racing?


Horses are the only beings who should be naked at a race track.  Period.  Don’t ask me, ask GOD.

So, there you have it, readers:  my Rube Goldberg-esque argument (many words that lead to one simple thought):  that, if you’re promoting horse racing by promoting everything BUT actual HORSES, and women’s involvement as intelligent, passionate fans and professionals–simply-put, Occam–you’re doing it all wrong.

And, as Einstein said, “The definition of insanity is, doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”


PHOTO Courtesies:  Thanks to:

NBC, for Karen Walker
Mike Judge, for Beavis & Butthead
Jessica Frey Photography, for little boy and horse:  https://uk.pinterest.com/pin/239394536416633112/
Task & Purpose,  for hero German Shepherd Dog and his BFF:  http://taskandpurpose.com/us-marine-corps-bomb-sniffing-dog-receives-top-award-war-animals/
The Exceller Fund, for beautiful photo of the late, tragic, wonderful Exceller:  http://www.excellerfund.org/