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Monday, October 3, 2011
Good as it gets

By Jay Cronley
Special to ESPN.com

New sporting events can be about as meaningful as infomercials, barely beating reruns in terms of interest. The chief need to be filled by most new sporting events is a corporate sponsor needing more money.

Something like the Fed-Ex Cup is hardly water cooler talk at work. It's more like cheese nacho talk overheard upon occasion in municipal course snack shops. The Fed-Ex Cup is a golf event. To win it you shoot low scores at tournaments few follow closely. Who won this year's Fed-Ex Cup, and where? Be back in a sec. The screen says the winner was Bill Haas icing the title at East Lake. The runner up was Webb Simpson. No offense, but I somehow missed their rise to this top.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup series has been around a while under different names and features a point system to determine playoff drivers. I come from a long line of sports players who have great respect for the classic time out. During all the time-outs I have known, nobody could steal home, could score a lay-up, could dance into the end zone for six points. But in car racing during a time out, under a caution flag, drivers can make up great distances of ground. Given technology that can duplicate human organs on something resembling a copy machine, you'd think that there would be a simple enough way to return cars to their original upright positions at the time of a wreck. I have always watched three race events a year, Daytona, the Indy 500, and the original Go Daddy commercials. After the big races early in the year, somebody had to have said: Now what?

The relatively new BCS system of picking two college football teams to play for a national championship is based on theory, conjecture, popularity and money. Boise State could finish undefeated from now until the moon turned as blue as its field and not be permitted to play in the final game. To date, the BCS has been lucky with contenders losing late to make way for the big dogs to play for king cash. This year, a huge mess is developing with six legit contenders campaigning for one spot in the championship, as the SEC winner is a guaranteed finalist: Wisconsin, Boise State, Stanford, Clemson, the Big 12 winner, and the SEC runner up, if it's LSU or Alabama with one loss.

The one new sporting event that has work even better than it looked on the drawing board is the Breeder's Cup championship run that goes Friday and Saturday, Nov. 4 and 5, at the garden spot of thoroughbred racing, Churchill Downs.

Several elements make this a picture-perfect sporting event.

One, it is truly a world championship, something along the lines of the Ryder Cup, the USA versus Europe, with the occasional competitor from Dubai mixed in. It's primarily the British keeping the Breeder's Cup from being about as unworldly as the World Series in baseball. Members of the British media think they invented horse racing when all they did was perfect turf racing. It's hard not to feel a bit of nationalism when one of those characters dressed in a Sherlock Holmes hat and looking like he used to caddy for Benny Hill comes on the screen and says the Americans are running for third or fourth in a turf race. Many U. S. horses gravitate to the turf; it's all European horses know.

The Triple Crown races come so early in the year and are so stressful for young horses, the winners are hard-pressed to win again, often even race again.

The Breeder's Cup races tolerate no excuses. You think you're tough, here's the place to prove it. Chickens are obvious. The best horses at the end of the year usually win.

The most inviting thing about this sporting event is the risk-reward relationship of money wagered. When most horses can win a race, a lucky $2 bet can turn a fish into a whale.

Write to Jay at jaycronley@yahoo.com.