Saturday, May 16, 2009
Updated: May 21, 6:02 PM ET
Gone, baby, gone
Daily Racing Form's Jay Hovdey will be filing daily notes and thoughts while covering the Triple Crown, exclusively on ESPN.com.
With one swift, boardroom decision, when they barred fans from bringing alcoholic beverages to the track on Preakness day, the management of Pimlico Race Course realigned the local economy in ways that make the federal government's efforts to bail out banks and insurance companies look small time.
The Preakness infield always offered the most entertainingly extremes of the American class system at work. At the west end of the grass, inside the clubhouse turn, Preakness Village held up its end of the bargain, catering to the swells with flutes of champagne, lavish buffets and the music of Doc Scantlin and His Imperial Palms Orchestra. On the other side of a gated fence, where the commoners were herded, at least they always had a real good time, even if some of them failed to recall the details. Today, though, was different.
Gone was the early crush of crowds that poured into the infield to stakes out drinking grounds.
Gone were the young neighborhood entrepreneurs, who hauled kegs and cases of beer from distant parking lots for grateful, thirsty patrons.
Gone was the crush of seared flesh, sunburnt and delerious, where fanswere driven to race breakneck across the port-a-potty rooftops, dodging beers,in what had been christened "The Running of the Urinals" and immortalized on YouTube.
Gone, too,was probably half the infield admission revenue, as well as however much was sold in concessions once the storebought wells went dry.
Gone, baby, gone.
In its place, a kinder, gentler infield lawn party replaced the traditional orgy, although there were a few nods to the handful of Hedonists who showed up anyway. There was a Hooters recruiting contest, an exhibition by professional women's volleyball players, and a music concert kicked off by Buckcherry.
"Are you f---ing ready! Are you mother-f--ing ready!" beseeched lead singer Josh Todd, who was greeted at one distance reach of the infield with a resounding, "No!"
Aw, c'mon. It wasn't that bad. After all, the beer was still cold. I had possibly the worst hamburger of my life, and ate every bite. There were nohurled containers, and no suddenly muddy ground, churned by impromptu, co-ed rugby scrums. But it was early. The mild highlight was a tented area that included a virtual reality NASCAR experience and an oxygen bar (I was homesick, so I went for the eucalyptus, while the young man behind me swigged a Black-Eyed Susan and asked, "Is that crack?"). But the real draw was a set of video games, called, in a stroke of marketing genius, "The Running of the Urinals." I kid you not.
I scored a wimpy 15 hits tossing beer cans at jockey targets as they digitally danced across the tops of the outhouses. The real field of about 175 port-a-potties from Don's John Sanitation Dervices was a mere stone's throw away, lending texture to the video experience. The rooftops of Don's real Johns were poignantly vacant.
And all the while, on the other side of the fence, Doc Scantlin and His Imperial Palms Orchestra played on.