The Breeder’s Cup moves to NBC – what it means to all parties

A while back we started getting TVG network on our digital package. There was a time when I would flip on the channel and become addicted for hours at a time watching races I knew nothing about until ten minutes before post time and didn’t care about. Granted, it was probably because of how fast and furious races could come, but I was probably ready to dance on horse racing’s grave before then and now I often quietly cheer for the sport to stop shooting itself in the foot and make a return to American consciousness.

So I have to say I like the Breeder’s Cup’s new deal with NBC that will put the Cup on NBC and NBC Sports Network starting this year. After the Cup Classic was relegated to cable the past few years, the main NBC network will now put the Classic on in primetime. Don’t get too excited – we’re talking about Saturday, also known as “the night that doesn’t exist as far as the networks are concerned”, which nonetheless is being increasingly colonized by sports like ABC’s “Saturday Night Football” college football franchise – but it should still help the Cup’s aura as the championship of horse racing. Anything that focuses the masses’ attention more on the Cup and less on the Triple Crown can only be good for the sport – as does building a strong identity of being on NBC, which will now have both.

ESPN is pulling a “they didn’t fire us, we quit” card, and may now be out of the horse racing business. But this deal is very, very good for NBC and NBC Sports Network, especially since the non-Classic races may be up there with some of the biggest non-hockey programming on NBCSN. With NBC now being so strongly attached to horse racing, it’s easy to see them loading up even more on the sport, especially to fill time on NBCSN, which could use all the events it can get. NBC and NBCSN already have this past summer’s “Summer at Saratoga” series (highlighted by the famed Travers Stakes) and have signed up to show many of the Derby prep races this spring. I could see NBCSN loading up on as many relatively top-notch horse races as it can on Saturday afternoons outside college football season, especially on weekends when NBC has golf commitments, which can certainly only be good for the sport in the long term.

Only one other sporting event has moved from ESPN to NBC since the wars started – and the Belmont Stakes had actually reached an agreement before the NBC/Comcast merger became final. Fox has so far been more successful at taking events away from ESPN, highlighted by the World Cup, and ESPN has been more successful to this point at taking events from NBC than the reverse, highlighted by Wimbledon. To pick up a real win over ESPN, even a small one, has to feel huge inside the NBC Sports offices, and goes a long way towards proving that smaller events can have a home on NBC Sports Network. No wonder ESPN’s denying it was a real “win”. If they were interested, they have to have legitimate concerns right now.

Sport-Specific Networks
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A thought on the Belmont Stakes.

You may recall that before the Preakness I was wondering if I would be cursing Rachel Alexandra for skipping the Derby and ruining her own shot at a historic Triple Crown.

There’s still that element with the added element of skipping the Belmont, but now I think I might be cursing her for running the Preakness and ruining Mine That Bird’s shot.

Any Triple Crown is historic at this point after the long wait, but this one might turn out to have been ruined at the Preakness instead of the Belmont like so many others this decade.

There’s a part of me…

…that’s rooting against Rachael Alexandra.

Not because I’m sexist or anything and I don’t want fillies to win against the colts.

I can’t bear the thought that we possibly maybe could have had a Triple Crown, first Triple Crown in over 30 years, and moreover the once-in-forever possibility of a filly winning the male Triple Crown, only the horse that could have done it ran in the Oaks instead of the Derby. I don’t even care why that decision was made.

We could have had something for the media to legitimately blitz over dammit!

One quick thought on the Belmont

Did I really hear Brent Musberger say that perhaps the Triple Crown races could be spaced out?!?

Is it possible that part of the reason we’ve had so many Derby and Preakness winners falter in the Belmont is because these horses should maybe be moved to being bred for more endurance… for the sake of winning the Triple Crown?

That balance between needing a lot of speed to win, but being able to hold up long enough to do it thrice in less than two months, is part of what makes the Triple Crown one of the greatest feats in sports. If it was intended to reward speed alone, it would consist of just one race.

If the horse racing community decides to reward speed alone even more by spacing out the Triple Crown races, they’re doing the exact opposite of what they should do. They shouldn’t legitimize the years-long bastardization of the sport.

Here’s a thought: Is a de-emphasization of the Triple Crown in order?

Sports Watcher for the Weekend of 6/7-8

The first time I filled out most of this schedule, including all the comments on the French Open women’s final, the second paragraph of the UFC write-up, and all the college baseball and IndyCar stuff, I lost it all because I pre-scheduled all the posts with pre-qualified championship info, once a post is scheduled Blogger stops autosaving drafts, and the Internet connection I’m using is fritzing out all of a sudden. DSZGFJBD JGGHFXGDFMS HVCJHJXGD!!!!!!!~!!!~!!!!!

It’s moments like these that are the ONLY reason I keep strongly considering getting a job and moving out of my mom’s place and into a place where I can have my own Internet connection instead of stealing a neighbor’s.


As I was saying. All times PDT.

6-9 AM: Tennis, French Open, includes women’s final, Dinara Safina v. Ana Ivanovic (NBC). Okay, I’ve heard some things about these two, but really, do you really think either one of them is really a household name in the US? Most people are going, “Dana Sana wha? Ana Vana wha?” At least it doesn’t involve 3-seed Jelena Jankovic. Who? Exactly.

9-12 PM: College baseball, NC State v. Georgia or Wichita State v. Florida State (ESPN2). Wait, is ESPN regionalizing the super regionals? And Coastal Carolina plays North Carolina on ESPNU at the same time as well!

12-3 PM: Ultimate Fighting Championship, UFC 85 (PPV). It’s a bit odd for UFC to be running events every other week, and then not necessarily show the same people each week. Oh wait, this is in London. Odd schedule placement might be to be expected. Well, I’m still keeping an eye on things.

While we’re on the topic of MMA, the verdict is in from EliteXC, and, well… whether or not it outperformed the Stanley Cup Finals depends on your definition. But expect it to tumble in the future after Kimbo Slice lost his aura. Meanwhile, look for World Extreme Cagefighting – essentially UFC’s equivalent to the Nationwide Series (see below) – to potentially make an appearance in future Watchers; I missed their show on Sunday, which most MMA-heads would say put EliteXC to shame. Of course, that “cagefighting” bit can’t be good for building legitimacy.

3:25-4 PM: Horse racing, Belmont Stakes (ABC). Skip the mindless pregame and cut straight to the race. I’m not sure if they’ll be off before or after 3:30; if I had to guess, it’d probably be after, but you might want to tune in a little early just in case. WILL BIG BROWN WIN THE ELUSIVE TRIPLE CROWN OR WILL HE JOIN THE SCRAP HEAP OF A GAZILLION PREVIOUS OVERHYPED DERBY/PREAKNESS WINNERS THAT FLOPPED IN THE BELMONT JUST SINCE AFFIRMED OR HELL JUST IN THE LAST TEN YEARS?

4:30-7:30 PM: College baseball, Arizona v. Miami (FL) or Stanford v. Cal State Fullerton (ESPN). Yes, I know it conflicts with the event below. I would have done the Nationwide Series race but I’m not doing the Sprint Cup race. The nearest ESPNU games’ start times are 3 and 6 PM. Sue me.

7-9:30 PM: IndyCar Series, Bombardier Learjet 550 (ESPN2). Last week’s race was on ABC coming out of the Indy 500 in a year where ratings are up because of the merger. The ratings: .8. Did I mention that USA Today ran an article around the time of the Indy 500 saying that IndyCar could very well run down NASCAR?

6-11 AM: Tennis, French Open, includes men’s final, Roger Federer v. Rafael Nadal (NBC). How many times have these two squared off just at the French? How about some dap for Gael Monfils making it all the way to the semis before running headfirst into FederTron 2000? I remember when he was a sensation in the boys’ tournament…

1-4 PM: LPGA Golf, McDonald’s LPGA Championship, final round (Golf Channel). WTF is the final round of a MAJOR still doing on the f’ing Golf Channel? I mean, I knew it was on the Golf Channel a few years ago, but I thought they’d corrected that injustice! Virtually every PGA Tour event has its final round on broadcast; what does it say that one of the top four women’s event is considered less important than, well, ANY men’s event? When can this come up for renegotiation? The LPGA needs to correct this injustice… back when it happened in the first place!

(Incidentially, it appears to technically be the “McDonald’s LPGA Championship Presented by Coca-Cola”. That’s as bad as the “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim”. Also, what the hell is with the sports news cycle acting like the US Open is THIS weekend?)

6-8:30 PM: NBA Basketball, LA Lakers @ Boston (ABC). Obviously, I shouldn’t have to say anything more.

This post has something to do with the Derby, but it isn’t about it. Well, maybe a little.

Recently read:

NBC analyst Bob Neumeier correctly predicted favorite Big Brown would win. That
prompted NBC handicapper Mike Battaglia, citing confident Big Brown trainer
Richard Dutrow Jr., to say Neumeier “drank the Rick Dutrow Kool-Aid” — with
Neumeier adding “on the rocks.” Has everybody forgotten the origin of that
relatively young cliché?

Wait, I’m hardly an alcohol drinker (wouldn’t do it even if I was old enough), but aren’t “the rocks” just ice? It may be a bit of an off-color, mixed metaphor, and this probably wasn’t his intention, but it does seem to work

(All I have to say about the death of Eight Belles is that, regardless of whether or not horse racing objectively needs to change anything, they need to do something or they could risk becoming absolutely dead, as people will see it as an insensitive sport where deaths of competitors are simply brushed off, even induced in some circumstances. At this point, Big Brown winning the Triple Crown, far from revitalizing horse racing’s popularity, could actually crush it, because a big reason for watching the Triple Crown – seeing a horse win it for the first time in 30 years – will be gone.)