Death, Taxes And …?

The old adage holds that the only certain things in life are death and taxes.  I believe Benjamin Franklin was the author of that bit of wisdom.  As of today, one might make the argument that you can add a third thing to the list of certainties:

  1. Death
  2. Taxes
  3. The Pittsburgh Penguins beating the Washington Capitals in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

It happened again last night; it was a 7th game win-or-go-home situation.  The Caps were at home but they were shut out so they also went home.  This happens so regularly to the Caps that I wonder if they played Tomorrow from the musical Annie after the game…

“The sun will come up, tomorrow …”

It is not often that I am way out ahead of public opinion but if you are a believer in polls it appears that I have been.  For at least the last 20 years, I have been an advocate of removing any Federal restrictions on sports gambling.  The premise of PASPA (the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992) is ludicrous.  If gambling on football games or basketball games were to destroy the sports – hence their need for “protection” – it would have happened long before this because people gamble on sports all the time even though it is illegal.  The idea that the DoJ can and would apply a 70-year old law to Internet wagering is equally ludicrous.

A recent poll less than 40% of Americans when asked about PASPA knew that this act made sports betting illegal outside the State of Nevada.  However, when asked more specifically about attitudes toward sports wagering, here were some results:

  • 60% of Americans think the question of allowing sports betting should be in the hands of the individual states.  [Count me among these folks.]
  • 72% of people who self-identify as “avid sports fans” think the question of allowing sports betting should be in the hands of the individual states.  [I belong in this crowd too.]
  • 19% of Americans say they have placed a bet on a sporting event in the last year.  [Nevada – even counting all the visitors to Las Vegas – does not represent 19% of the US population.]

There is some response data here that ought to get the attention of the various sports leagues.  Remember, the leagues need public attention and involvement in their product to produce TV ratings which support large telecast rights’ fees.  In this poll, they asked people who said they would bet on sports about their attitudes toward games;

  • More than 90% said they would be more likely to watch the game.
  • 80% said they would follow the game more closely.
  • 78% said they would find the game more enjoyable.

Now for full disclosure – which is not commonplace when you hear from someone who is telling you about poll results that agree with his/her position on a subject.  This poll was commissioned by the American Gaming Association which is a group that advocates for casinos and gambling interests.  Everyone should always take polls paid for by interest groups with a large grain of salt but even if these numbers are inflated a bit, they seem to say that a majority of folks now agree with where I have been on this issue for more than 2 decades.

So, I realize that you are now thinking that even a blind squirrel can find a nut occasionally.  However, there is other news out there which shows that something I have been saying for the last 30 years is finally taking hold.  In about a week, we will have the 142nd running of the Preakness Stakes.  The race will be held at Pimlico in Baltimore and there now exists a recognition among folks who matter – the Mayor of Baltimore, the owners of Pimlico, a Maryland State legislator and something called the Maryland Stadium Authority – that something must be done to Pimlico.  The facilities are decrepit; they have been in that state for more than 25 years; they are far beyond the state where some “cosmetic fixes” will suffice.

In any event, some of the folks listed above now recognize the problem but cannot figure out how to pay for what needs to be done.  Here, you can read about the ways these folks are framing the problem in ways that makes reaching a conclusion something that is still far down the road.  However, since I have been onto this issue for quite a while, let me frame it for you – and for them if they choose to deal with the reality of the situation:

The ideal situation would be to implode the entire Pimlico facility and to replace it with a new grandstand, stable area, administrative area and infield facilities.  The problem with that “solution” is that it does not recognize another serious problem facing Pimlico – namely, the track is in a bad part of town.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but if the track is decrepit, it fits right into the ambience of the neighborhood.  And that is a problem because the Maryland Stadium Authority estimates that at least $320M would be needed to renovate Pimlico; no one would look at the neighborhood and think that putting a $320M facility in the midst of the neighborhood would be a good idea.

There is a simple solution here that would cost a lot less than $320M but of course that simple solution is not even part of the discussion.  There is a second track in the Baltimore area; Laurel Park is in one of the Baltimore ‘burbs.  Laurel Park is not a grand facility in the mold of Churchill Downs or Saratoga or DelMar, but it is far nicer than Pimlico is; Laurel Park is not in a decrepit neighborhood; it would take far less than $320M to spiff up Laurel Park to a modern and inviting facility.  The elements of this paragraph ought to be foundation pieces for the solution to the “Pimlico Problem”.  However, since it took about 30 years for folks to recognize that Pimlico is as inviting as a porta-potty, it may take them another 10 years to figure out the easy and less costly way to resolve the problem.

Finally, here is an item from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:

“Nine months after Iceland upset England in soccer there is a baby boom in Iceland. At the risk of being called unpatriotic, this probably beats the American way of celebrating by setting fire to your own couch.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



5 thoughts on “Death, Taxes And …?”

  1. I just watched “Hall and High Water,” in which a Texas Ranger said “Even a blind pig can find a truffle.” I consider this an improvement on the blind squirrel.

    1. Tenacious P:

      Since I love truffles, I certainly agree that your pig/truffle statement is an improved figure of speech…

  2. Using the pig and truffle analogy I will respond to you op/ed of Pimlico. Pimlico might not be pretty and the estimate to make it so might be quite high, but think of it as a truffle. A unique delicacy so rare just waiting to be revealed. The blind pig overlooks everything else seeking the prize. It just might be quite expensive to acquire but worth it to have such a treasure. Just as chefs cherish truffles, true racing fans and horsemen cherish Pimlico.

    1. *your op/ed
      and a “blind” pig cannot “overlook” anything. oops.

    2. Maribeth Kalinich:

      Welcome aboard.

      I believe my first visit to Pimlico was in 1972. I have never lived in or around Baltimore so I was never a “regular” there but I would manage to pay a visit to Pimlico – and to Laurel – about 3 or 4 times a year until around 2000 when I started to go to Laurel much more often that I would go to Pimlico. It used to be a classy track; I cannot use that adjective to describe it any more.

      I would not object to any effort to upgrade Pimlico because it needs upgrading just to survive. My sense is that the cost of upgrading has now gotten to the point where the investment will be so large that the location of the renovated facility will be a major consideration. Not being a Baltimore resident, I have no idea what the extended neighborhood around Pimlico might support in terms of a nine-figure investment, but the proximal neighborhood I drive thru to get to the track does not look to me like a “nine-figure neighborhood”.

      If folks can make the numbers work and resuscitate Pimlico, you will hear no complaints from me. However, as an objective outside observer – and infrequent fan-in-attendance – I think that Laurel is the racetrack of the future in the Baltimore area.

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