May 16, 2009

Preakness Day pt6: Postmortem

It's hard to see how this day was anything other than an unmitigated disaster for the Maryland Jockey Club. The infield was still fun, but empty compared to years past. At a time when there are more questions than ever about the future of the race in Maryland, that's the last thing they needed.

As for the race itself, I was wrong to write off Rachel Alexandra. Mine that Bird looks like a huge finisher with a great chance to take the Belmont.

Preakness Day pt5: Where are the hoes?

That's the question some drunk guy just asked me. Any other year the answer would have been easy, but today I had to say "thay stayed home."

I fully expected the crowd to be smaller this year, but there are maybe 25% of last year's crowd here. It's bad enough that not only did my brother and I play Rock Band at "Preakness Village," but we didn't even have to wait in line very long.

I'm not very optimistic for the future of the Preakness in Maryland. It will be sad to see such a rich tradition die, but the organizers have no one to blame but themselves.

Preakness Day pt4: Ghost Town

We just went walking around to check out the Preakness debauchery, only to discover that the normally crazy par of the track is pretty much abandoned. This doesn't bode well for the future of the Preakness in Maryland.

It's still a fun time, but apparently the fraternities decided it wasn't worth showing up, which makes the whole experience less fun for everyone. It's a lot more of a calm atmosphere with none of the usual insanity.

Preakness Day pt3: Concert is Ruining Everything

I don't know if this pic is clear, but they're showing the concert on the screens instead of the odds for the next race. Seriously? I have no idea who the organizers think they're attracting here, but they're alienating their core audience of degenerate gamblers.

Preakness Day pt2: Calm Before the Storm

Hopefully this works.

I just waited in line for 20 minutes for a beer, which is only $1 until 11. I'm not sure how well that will work when people actually start showing up.

It's a much smaller and calmer crowd this year, but that might change later.

Seven Reasons This Is Maryland's Last Preakness

Preakness Day in Baltimore is a huge event for Maryland, but today might mark its last running in the Old Line State. A confluence of factors seem poised to finally push the second jewel of the Triple Crown to another venue.

1) No Beer, No Fans. The Preakness infield had one policy prior to this year that was a bigger draw than any entertainment they could put on the track or on a stage. You could bring in as much beer as you could carry. As one can imagine, this made for a one-day Mardi Gras. Baltimore draws from a huge college population, reaching University of Maryland, Johns Hopkins University, University of Delaware, Penn State University, and smaller colleges like Towson and UMBC. The infield was a breast-baring, bare-knuckled brawling, beer-hurling orgy of inappropriate youthful behavior. The fans one-upped themselves year-after-year, until they finally went a little too far. The running of the porta potties made it apparent that maybe people were bringing a little more beer than they needed.

2) God's Wrath. The weather in the mid-Atlantic in mid-May is completely unpredictable. The temperature can range from 50 to 90 and the chance of soaking rain is relatively high. This year brings a high of 77F with an 80% chance of rain and a high likelihood of strong to severe thunderstorms. Considering many if not most infield tickets are bought at the gate, bad weather is a huge deterrent. Do not forget that the race day runs from noon to about 7:30 p.m. That's a long time to spend soaked.

3) Ownership Bankrupt. Magna Corporation filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this year. Originally Pimlico, Laurel Park and the Preakness itself were to be sold off, but Magna succumbed to pressure from Baltimore and the State of Maryland, and withdrew those assets. Their current plan includes Santa Anita and three lesser tracks. There are plenty of tracks that would love to have the Preakness, like Arlington Park (which made a bid in the past), and an auction of the second jewel of the Triple Crown would attract more out-of-state attention than in-state.

blahbblahblahlahblah Ladies and gentlemen....Buckcherry!

4) No Triple Crown. The Preakness' greatest asset is that there is almost always a Triple Crown still possible. When Calvin Borel steered Mine That Bird through 18 other horses to don the roses, America cheered the underdog while the Maryland Jockey Club cried into their stirrups. No one believes he can win the Triple Crown. His own jockey opted to ride the filly, Rachel Alexandra, that destroyed her competition in the Kentucky Oaks the day before the Derby. No Triple Crown means attendance drops, TV ratings drop, and the betting handle drops.

5) Bad Economy. This one speaks for itself. Corporate boxes go unfilled. People cannot gamble as much. The upfront costs of attendance retards last-second attendance.

6) No Slots. Maryland approved slot machine gambling by referendum last November, but Pimlico is not one of the approved venues. Nearby Delaware Park and Charles Town (West Virginia) have slots, and have taken a lot of the quality racing, trainers, and jockeys with them. Slot revenue allows for bigger purses. Pimlico's weekly cards are filled with $5000 claiming races, maiden clunkers, and otherwise horrible racing.

7) ZZ Top and Buckcherry. Yup. That's what the authorities decided would replace the draw of all-you-can-drink beer. Is there ANY overlap in this fanbase?

Considering the shortfall in revenue from this year's Preakness, I just can't see the race surviving another year in the State.

Read the Baltimore Sun's take on Pimlico's fate here.

Preakness Day pt1: Anticipation

The plan today is to blog from Preakness, so hopefully technology will cooperate.  Until then, I’m just waiting for my brother to get here and we’ll head out to Pimlico.

I’m probably the only person who ever watched it, but I’m disappointed that ESPN doesn’t show Breakfast at Pimlico early on Preakness morning (they had a similar show called Breakfast at Churchill on Derby morning).  There must not be that much of a market for horse racing analysis at 7am on a Saturday.

Preakness is always a ton of fun, but I’m a bit nervous about how the recent changes are going to affect the atmosphere.  I’m sure there will still be plenty of drunk people providing entertainment, but with less beer and probably a lot less people, things are going to be different.  Also, I hope the ZZ Top concert, beach volleyball, and all the other random crap they’ve included don’t kill the ambiance of Preakness.

If I can get cell reception, I’ll post again in a few hours.

May 15, 2009

Preakness 2009 Picks

These are our 2009 picks.  Looking for 2010 picks?

Preakness week, baby - it's here. If you're not excited for Preakness yet, check out our previous posts on the subject (there's one pic in there that's barely NSFW). Some of the Preakness rules no longer apply, thanks to the new beer prohibitions, so we'll update them next year. Brien is the only one of the ECB authors who will be attending, but he plans to moblog (that's mobile blog) the whole thing, if AT&T wireless doesn't let him down.

On to the picks:
The first thing we have to determine here, is just how good Mine That Bird really is. Was that 105 Beyer a fluke? Was it just Calvin Borel's magic touch (he'll be atop the favorite, Rachel Alexandra)? That extra gear he had in the Derby sure didn't look like a fluke, and at 5-1 I'm willing to consider him.

Like always, let's take a trip through the field
  1. Big Drama - No G1s, but an impressive record. The workouts aren't that impressive, though. No
  2. Mine That Bird - Big pressure, new jockey, flukey result last time. Maybe
  3. Musket Man - I didn't like him in the Derby and even a Show doesn't make me like him here. No
  4. Luv Guv - The D. Wayne Lukas entry just broke his maiden in the slop. No No No
  5. Fresian Fire - Sexy pick for the Derby laid an egg. Great workouts, though. Maybe
  6. Terrain - The speed numbers aren't there, and neither are the wins. No
  7. Papa Clem - I liked him in the Derby, and his 4th was close to a 2nd. Yes
  8. General Quarters - Had a horrible Derby, and nothing in his history suggests anything different here. No
  9. Pioneer of the Nile - Good Derby showing, but overall middling Beyers. Good workout this week. Yes
  10. Flying Private - Stopped in the Derby. That's right, stopped. No
  11. Take the Points - Decent speed numbers, but poor results. No
  12. Tone it Down - I try to give the MD horses love, but not this one. No
  13. Rachel Alexandra - Great Beyers, but this is quite a step up in class and distance. Maybe
At 8-5, there's no value in Rachel Alexandra. If her prices go up, she's definitely worth a look. As for the other Yeses and Maybes, Mine That Bird is 6-1, Fresian Fire is 6-1, Papa Clem is 12-1 and Pioneer of the Nile is 5-1.

I like a $2 Exacta with Pioneer of the Nile and Papa Clem over Mine That Bird, Papa Clem, Fresian Fire, and Pioneer of the Nile. That's only a $12 bet, and should pay out well if it hits.

Consistency is at a premium again in the Preakness, after a horribly mediocre Derby field let a horribly mediocre horse cruise through major traffic. The only horse likely to go off at better than 4-1 is filly Rachel Alexandra who was just purchased and just switched trainers after her crushing, cruising win in the Kentucky Oaks. That leaves a lot of value on the board, which means we'll be playing bet against the chalk.
I think I would spread $10 win bets across 1-Big Drama, 3-Musket Man, and 5-Friesan Fire along with $10 ATB on 7-Papa Clem.
My reasoning on Big Drama is that horses on the rail with great early speed can go wire-to-wire. I know it isn't likely he can hold it, but you never know what traffic and a damp track could do the horses behind him. At 10-1 or better, it's worth a stab.
If you really feel 13-Rachel Alexandra is unbeatable, feel free to put her on top of exactas but you'll need more than $2 to see any real value and there are enough place contenders to make things get expensive quickly.
I would not even consider betting any combination with both Rachel Alexandra and Mine that Bird in the top two spots, because that will be the go-to know-nothing bet of the afternoon. Even a trifecta with those two on top will pay nowhere near the likelihood of it actually happening. Also, I still don't like 9-Pioneerof the Nile as a win option in this race. While the most consistent horse out here, a mid-90's Beyer is only good enough for 2nd, 3rd or 4th here.
So that's:
$10 win 1, 3, 5
$10 ATB 7
And if you're scared a girl will beat you:
$5 ex straight 13/1, 3, 5, 7
If the other guys get their crap together before the race, their picks will appear here.

May 13, 2009

Somebody please kill Barry Zito

So the Nationals have one thing to be relevant about these days (aside from chasing 100 losses). Ryan Zimmerman's 30-game hit streak (and counting).

So I'm watching MLB Gamecast this afternoon when I get alerts that Zimmerman is about to bat. Technology is fantastic.

Here's the situation... top 7. Zimmerman hitless on the day with a walk. Runners on second and third. Giants losing 2-0. What does Zito do??

The steroid-shooting (allegedly) son of a bitch violates every rule in the baseball code and INTENTIONALLY WALKS Ryan Zimmerman to load the bases.

Please fall off that hill and die, you useless prick.

Herm Edwards tells us that in football, "you play to win the game." In baseball, playing by the informal code doesn't always allow for that. Maybe that's why some people hate baseball. Nonetheless, we can all agree that if Zito comes up to the plate against the Nationals again this season, and Zimmerman doesn't get another at bat today, and his hit streak was killed due to an intentional walk, Zito is going to get plunked in the back of the neck. They should follow that up with a shot into the dugout at the manager who called for the intentional walk.

May 12, 2009

Idol Recap 5/12/09

So this is actually my favorite week of the Idol season. There are generally some fun scenes with the contestants going home. Of course, tonight, the Idol producers decided to cut that out and save it for tomorrow. I guess they are out of former Idolists to trot out for "live" performances. Blake Lewis and Chris Sligh must be busy.

We all know tonight is all about who will join Adam in the final next week. They really should just let Adam rest his voice and take a bye week. Or, maybe he could test Randy's theory, and come on out and sing us entries from the Hollywood, California Yellow Pages.

Could we have been reminded any more times during the course of this hour of TV that Kris Allen is "humble" and a "dark horse?" Good God... you'd think the kid is talentless or something. I mean, judges and producers, it's pretty transparent that you want a Danny-Adam matchup in the final. Even Seacrest feels that it is incumbent on him to remind America after Kris' incredible take on Kanye's Heartless that the vote for the final two is still up in the air. Alright Idol producers... methinks thou doth protest too much.

Tonight, we saw Simon lob a verbal bitch-slapping hand grenade at not just Kara, but also Randy. Simon rightfully called them out for critiquing a performance of a song that they had chosen because the contestant did not rearrange the song. Hmm... maybe I (and Kris and Simon) are a little dense, but isn't it supposed to be safe to assume that if you play the song the judges choose for you straight to the vest you're not going to get slammed for not taking artistic liberty with the song? I'm all for reducing the Idol judging panel to two chimps and Simon.

Let's do a review contestant-by-contestant starting with...

Danny Gokey
Gokey starts off the night in the dreaded opening spot sounding again, like Michael McDonald. He sings a song by an artist that nobody seems to know, except for the judges. Hell, Gokey doesn't even know the song himself when he just happens to receive the song assignment via text message from Paula while he is live on air on Milwaukee radio. Those pain pills must have given Paula some mean telepathic skills. Anyway, Gokey shows off his power voice, which is, and has always been, third behind Allison and Adam in this competition. Unfortunately he also chooses to try to dance. Just not a good idea. However, Gokey redeems himself in a big way, starting off a monster second half of the Idol show with his own version of the classic You Are So Beautiful. Simon calls it a "vocal master class." It really was pretty terrific and a smart choice to try to separate himself from Kris who couldn't dream of belting out and holding notes that way that Gokey does.

Kris Allen
The "humble, humble, dark horse" contestant starts off with a decent version of Apologize by One Republic. I would agree with Kara's characterization of it as a "competent" rendition. At this stage of the competition, unfortunately, it's not the kind of performance that people are going to remember. It's not particularly strong, there are some flat notes in there, and while good, just isn't great. We will all have forgotten about Apologize by tomorrow morning, however, because when we think back to Kris' performances on Idol, we'll remember how confused and befuddled we all felt when Seacrest announced that Kris was taking on Kanye's Heartless. I mean, I had zero idea what Kris was going to do. I figured that it was his way of saying, "FUCK YOU. YOU WANTED ME TO GO DOWN, PRODUCERS? WELL I'M GOING TO GO DOWN AND GO DOWN IN FLAMES!!" Yeah, I was pretty wrong. Kris pulled out a kick-ass acoustic version of the song. Just him and his guitar on stage. I hate to give Kara credit again, but as she said it best, it truly was "fearless." And it resuscitated some suspense into tomorrow's results show.

Recap interlude in honor of the Idol Gives Back interlude of the show. The producers felt that it was important that we remember that in the past, in better economic times when attorneys weren't offing themselves in their offices after being laid off, Idol has donated to charity for a week. How'd you all like Carrie Underwood rehearsing her future taking over for Sally Struthers. As much as I did? Carrie, here's your line, "For 13 cents a day you can support a starving child in Namibia." Carrie Underwood - THE face of American Idol. I'm definitely not complaining about that one.

Adam Lambert
Adam goes in the prized clean-up spot. Simon makes sure that we all are aware that he managed to wrangle Bono on the phone and get special clearance for Adam to sing U2's One. Can there be any more doubt that the producers are desperate for Adam to be in the final next week? Anyway, One is probably one of the greatest songs ever written lyrically, and one of the best songs ever performed. Thus, this performance had tremendous amount of promise. And I just did not like what Adam did to the song. He took it a little too far in terms of artistic liberty and making huge runs and holding out notes. Adam, simple can be alright for songs. You should know that with Tracks of My Tears for earlier this season. Remember Mary J. and Bono's beautiful version of the song? Adam finishes off the show with his version of Aerosmith's Cryin'. Most people will take this as Adam wanting to sing a great "old Aerosmith" song. I personally think Adam is sly like a fox, is banking on being in the finals with Danny, and knows that he just beat the ever-loving shit out of Danny in the one statistic that we can compare them in so far - mimicing Steven Tyler's voice. Parts of the performance wouldn't have been all that impressive even at earlier stages of the competition and would've been deemed to be karaoke. Other parts were pretty great and came the closest to actually pulling off Steven Tyler's voice that we will ever see on this show.

Alright, so predictions...
At this point we know that a huge number of Allison voters lost their contestant, so we have to try to predict which of the remaining three they are going to go to. My theory is that it is the voters of the fourth-place finisher who decide the two finalists, as suddenly 15 million votes become "free agents." I think that Allison's voters will entirely stay away from Gokey and mostly go to Adam. Who won't really need them. A small amount will go to Kris.

Therefore, in the end, I think the producers get their dream and it's

- good versus evil
- cleancut church singer versus black nail polish and leather
- widowed straight contestant versus ambiguously gay contestant

I see a Gokey/Lambert final.

May 10, 2009

Bumper Sticker Ideas and Other One-Liners

Honk if you're an asshole a Steelers fan

I'm Rich! What's your name?

I'm Rich! You can call me Dick.

"Run Run Incomplete Punt." --Joe Gibbs

Valet is French for brothel

Your daughter does anal

Follow me to Long Island! (I'm kidding. I'd never go back, but your city sucks.)

Obama '08. So break into the other car.

Twitter is for dorks. #dorks

For $500,000 I'll give you the spiritual confidence to resurrect your career with Pulp Fiction/a Tropic Thunder cameo.

Juuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuust a bit outside.

I watch NASCAR for the wrecks. I watch hockey for the graceful gliding.

Jesus saves. Rebound! Satan shoots....he SCORES!!!

OMFG LOL! I get your Lebowski/Seinfeld/Office Space reference!

Yeah, I called your 11-year-old a pulsating thundercunt on Xbox Live.

The book was better than the movie, but not as good as the video game.

TiVo has changed both advertising and porn.

Hollywood Sequel - Stripes: Don't Ask Don't Tell

Tiger Woods makes me feel better about slavery.

Limp Bizkit is underrated.

Video hockey qualifies me to criticize your coaching.

Losing on Jeopardy! would validate my life.

i before e = √-1 * 2.71828 

Laughing at your Derrida reference doesn't preclude me from laughing at your fart.

Manny and A-Rod are cheaters. I require Red Bull to click a mouse all day.

If loving Prince makes me gay, I don't want to be ♂

If beer is proof that God loves us, why is herpes for life?

If the rapture happens, I'm totally using your hot tub.

BREAKING NEWS: White kid missing

Tiger's Sunday

Huge golf tournament. Tiger's in the final pairing. His playing partner is melting down. Another win for Tiger. Nope, he's 8 shots back.

There's no doubt Tiger's still the best player in the world, but it's important to note the times he loses tournaments that he has a great shot at winning. Superman isn't dead, but maybe he's human.