Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Kentucky Derby 101.8: Why The Derby Is The Most Fun Sporting Event You Will Ever Attend

You're a sports fan. You know that The Derby is a big deal, only because you have always been told that it is really important. But what's the big deal? You don't really get it - to you it's just a horse race like any other, because no one has ever taken the time to explain to you WHY it is so celebrated by the horse racing masses. That's where I come in. The last of several installments.

Previous Installments:

Kentucky Derby 101.7: Why Kentucky Goes Completely Apeshit For Derby

Kentucky Derby 101.6: Why Martha Burk Loves The Derby

Kentucky Derby 101.5: Why The Jockeys Are Total & Complete Badasses

Kentucky Derby 101.4: Into The Unknown II: Field, Style, Pace

Kentucky Derby 101.3: Into The Unknown

Kentucky Derby 101.2: Easily The Most Difficult Achievement In All Of Sports

Kentucky Derby 101.1: A Tradition Unlike Any Other

Back to the lecture at hand...

The Power of Positivity
Events with lots of people, say 80,000 plus, are always fun. I have been to games in Athens, Barcelona, Knoxville, Baton Rouge, Gainesville, Tuscaloosa, Auburn, Columbia, Clemson, and of course the Cocktail Party, and all were a blast for the anticipation, excitement, and electricity in the air. At any such event, as exciting as it is there is always a combative feeling of "us against them" between your team's fans and the other team's fans. The result of this is that their can be some negativity & animosity in the air, and these events take on the feel of a battle if you will , between good (your team, of course) and evil incarnate (the opposition, of course). So you have a blast with your people but always cast a steely, untrusting eye at anyone sporting the wrong colored garb (or Jorts).

The Paddock: Where we hang

The Derby is different, and in a good way. At the Derby there is no such combative feel in the air, no "us against them" vibe. Instead, everyone is on the same page, and the vibe is 100% positivity. Everyone is friendly , approachable, and wanting to talk about the Derby. You literally meet random people from all over the world, trade stories about where you are from and whether you are a Derby virgin or veteran, etc, etc. And it is always fun to ask and be asked "who do you like in The Derby?" and find out who people like and more entertainingly, why. It is difficult to explain, but it is just very cool to be in an environment where 155,000 people are all on this same page and there is pretty much no animosity in the air.

Everyone's Invited
Another cool thing is that the Derby crowd runs the full gamut of the socio-economic-cultural spectrum. You have everything from millionaire celebs/businessmen/shiekhs in Armani suits in Millionaire's Row, to the incredibly drunken party animals in the 3rd turn of the infield, and everything in between. Most other events carve a narrower slice of the socio-economic-cultural spectrum: Masters is lilly white rich folk, NASCAR is lilly white country folk, etc. Baseball and football come close, but they lean very heavily towards a mostly male crowd. Derby is truly all sexes, races, colors, creeds, nationalitites, income levels, etc.

The infield: In a word - Nutty.

Beautiful Women Everywhere
What I am about to say will be considered blasphemous for any southern college football fan, especially for Georgia people, but here it goes: The Derby is the only place where you will find more beautiful women dressed up all purdy-like than in Athens on a fall Saturday afternoon. I know, you don't believe it, but just take a minute, take a breath, and let it sink in. Ask anyone who has been and they will confirm this for you. And they sure do augment the Derby experience, just like they make autumnal Saturday afternoons in the South so scenic.

There's thousands of them. Really.

You know how Vegas is everyone's favorite place, and how every plane into Vegas yo can feel the anticipation and excitement in the air that everyone is hoping to win some money? Throw this element on the already fun time of the Derby, and it's hard to beat. There are 12 races money earning opportunities starting at about 11.30 a.m., and you have a race to wager on about every 45 minutes if you like. The Derby is the 10th race, so the Gamblers Anonymous crowd even get 2 races after the Derby to try to win all of their money back that they lost on the big race. Genius on the part of Churchill Downs, I must say. Oh, and if you have the winner in the Derby and cash a winning ticket, the feeling after the long slow buildup all day is pure extasy. It is like winning your March Madness office pool times 1000. Can't beat it.

The Braveheart Factor
Derby is the Braveheart of sporting events: guys are totally into it, but at the same time it is also very girlfriend/missus friendly. Amazing people watching opportunities abound everywhere. If she's the type who watches the Academy Awards preview show to see what all the women are wearing, then you are set - just hang out near the paddock or clubhouse and you will see a never-ending stream of pretty women in sundresses and hats for her to critique and you to covertly admire from behind the cover of your sunglasses. Alternately, if she likes to get completely shitfaced and flash her tits for large groups of drunken strangers, then just take her over to the third turn of the infield, where she can have her fun and you can covertly admire all of the flashers from behind the cover of your sunglasses.

Making Dad proud

Don't Like Horses? No Problem
You can very easily spend the entire Derby day at Churhill and never see a horse. Just go to the infield and take part in the biggest tailgate I have ever seen: 70,000 people (temporarily making the infield Kentucky's 3rd largest city) who are not there to watch the races but who are themselves participating in a race to achieve maximum drunkenness/wackiness/nakedness/you name it. Spend the day here with your group and I guarantee you will leave with at least 10 epic stories.

This looks pretty early; by mid-afternoon, it is literally out-of-control

So there it is. That is why the Derby is the most fun sporting event you will ever attend. If you ever get the inclination or chance to go, then go. I cannot recommend it enough.


The College Game said...

While I offer a rebuttal about horse racing in light of this...I can say I DO have an epic story about the infield at CD.

1995. Pack of about 12 guys wearing their friend's picture mosey over to the railing where we were at just before the Derby. They pull this urn out of a suitcase and explain that their friend wanted to be buried/ashes spread at CD.

We obliged, and the dude got his wish under the flagpole of the stretch run.

Then we thought the guys were just there to steal our "view", but as quick as they appeared they were gone. We were left in stunned silence.

Anonymous said...

You think all the beautiful women show up at the Kentucky Derby?

Come to Saratoga Race Track in August. Much much better scene.