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Tom Jones' Two Cents

Sports analysis, perspective and more.

The time has come: abolish horse racing

Shooting from the lip

A look back a weekend of televised sports, including the tragedy at Churchill Downs ...

Worst event of the weekend
Eight How many? Just give me the number so I know. How many more horses have to break down and be euthanized before we abolish all horse racing? A couple of years ago it was Barbaro. On Saturday, it was the filly Eight Belles at the Kentucky Derby. Those are the ones we've seen recently. Think about all the horses we never hear about in little races we never see who break down and must be destroyed.

Enough. These animals are dying unnecessarily and purely for our entertainment and greed. Don't give me the argument that horses like to race. Horses like two things: food and making other horses. Beyond that, we don't know what they like because they don't speak. They are trained (I would use the word "forced'') to race.

Don't give me the argument that there are risks in other sports, such as NASCAR. Drivers make the decision to get into cars. They assume their own risk. Horses make no such decision. They can't decide not to race. And don't tell me it's just an unfortunate "part of the sport'' and that "these things happen now and then.'' As far as I'm concerned, one horse dying is too many. Ask yourself this: If Eight Belles had not run Saturday, would she be alive now?

Horses are dying. It's our fault. And it can be avoided. Why we don't avoid it, I'll never understand.

Worst coverage
Big NBC seemed either utterly unprepared or went out of its way to downplay the tragedy during the Kentucky Derby. It didn't totally ignore second-place Eight Belles' breakdown, but it went back and forth in an uncomfortable zigzag between the euphoria of the winner, Big Brown, and the sadness of Eight Belles. It's as if the network had a scripted celebration and it was not going to deviate just because something unpleasant happened. And as uncomfortable as it would have been, NBC, which is in the business of covering an event, was obligated to show viewers how the filly broke down. The only shot we saw was a brief replay from the blimp. Either it didn't have another camera on Eight Belles (a bad mistake) or it chose not to show it (a much bigger issue).

It was also uncomfortable to watch the executive from sponsor Yum! Brands and the governor of Kentucky talk about what a "great day'' it was and "what a race''' it was. It's almost as if they were saying, "Don't pay attention to President Lincoln's box, wasn't the play great?''

It was sickening to watch people smiling and celebrating while a horse was euthanized just a few hundred yards away. It's almost as if no one — NBC, the governor, the sponsors and all the people in their fancy hats — was going to let a dead horse ruin his good time.

Heidi Worst show
NBC's red-carpet, Hollywood-type Access At the Derby, which was part of the network's Kentucky Derby preview, not only was the worst show of the weekend, it might have been the worst on television all year. Host Billy Bush sounded like he couldn't pick a horse out of a lineup of pigs. "Who are you picking to win?'' he asked again and again of C-list celebrities as if any of us really cared which horse Heidi and Spencer from MTV's The Hills were picking. Seriously, Heidi and Spencer were one of the first interviews. Are you kidding me?

Worst poor sports
Jagr Shame on Pittsburgh fans who boo Rangers star Jaromir Jagr. It wasn't Jagr's decision to leave Pittsburgh (the Pens traded him), he played hard during his time in Pittsburgh and won two Cups, and he has had nothing but nice, classy things to say about Pittsburgh and the Penguins since he left. Those who boo him are only showing their ignorance, but this is typical of the way Pittsburghers often treat their former stars. Pittsburghers are famous for living in the past -- you can't walk down the street without tripping over someone in a two-sizes-too-small Jack Lambert jersey -- and become highly insulted anytime anyone dares to have success somewhere else. And save your letters. I'm from Pittsburgh.

Worst ticker
Flashed on ABC's ticker across the bottom of the screen during the Hawks-Celtics Game 7: "Desperate Housewives, All New — Tonight. 9/8c.'' That's true. I'm not making that up.

Best imitation
Everybody thinks he  can imitate legendary baseball announcer Harry Caray, but few can really do him well. One who can is the Cubs' Ryan Dempster, who used his Carey imitation to read off the Cubs' lineup during Saturday’s Game of the Week on Fox. "I'm turning that into the Baseball Hall of Fame,'' announcer Joe Buck said. "How good was that?''

Funniest line
During Sunday's Outside the Lines on ESPN, longtime New York Times writer Robert Lipsyte was asked whose story is more tragic: Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds or Mark McGwire? Lipsyte said, "Roger is the most tragic because of his awful taste in music.''

Worst graphic
After the Flyers' victory over the Canadiens on Saturday night, Versus posted a graphic that said the Flyers reached the conference final for the first time since 1997. As Versus signed off, announcer Dave Strader repeated the line. Actually, the Flyers advanced to the Eastern Conference final in 2004, when they lost to the Lightning in seven games.

Nicole Longest song
Two minutes and 18 seconds. That's how long it took Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls to sing The Star-Spangled Banner before Saturday night's Oscar De La Hoya-Steve Forbes fight on HBO. "If it's up to us,'' host Jim Lampley said, "she can sing it at every fight.''

If it's up to me, she can sing, but tell her the microphone will be on for exactly 1 minute, 30 seconds and not a second longer.

Worst outcome
With all due respect to the Flyers, who deserved to beat the Canadiens in the second round of the NHL playoffs, it would've been better for hockey if the Habs were still alive. By the way, Canada’s Cup-less streak continues. A Canadian team hasn't won the Cup since Montreal in 1993 and won't this season.

Best improvement
Maybe it took a cue from how ESPN uses Peter Gammons on its baseball broadcasts, but it seems as if Fox is giving "insider'' Ken Rosenthal a little more air time on its Game of the Week broadcasts. And it's a good move. Rosenthal adds some decent information, such as Saturday when he mentioned how the Cubs would love to trade for Baltimore's Brian Roberts to solve their issues in the leadoff spot. Fox needs to keep using him often.

[Last modified: Monday, June 14, 2010 2:41pm]


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