It’s funny when writing this blog, that you never quite know which pieces are going to garner the most reaction. Sometimes I’ll put out a link that I’m really into and I don’t hear much back on, others get passionate responses and feedback that spring seemingly from nowhere.
Last year’s Cup piece is one such example of the latter.
Some were with me on my indifference to the … hang on, I can’t call it a sport … um, indifference to the ‘event’, but others felt sincerely blighted that I’d taken a potshot, well, many potshots, really, at something they enjoy deeply.
And hey, if you’re someone who doesn’t get absolutely comatose on Cup Day, who am I, or anyone else for that matter, to condescendingly dismiss a marked day of your calendar?
So, with the memory of this year’s AFL Grand Final firmly in mind – one of the best days of my year by far, with my house filled with people, kids, food, drinks, energy and excitement – I will now present the ‘Anti-2011 Cup Day’ piece!
(For those who think I’ve sold out, I’ve pasted last year’s piece below.)
The top 5 features of the Melbourne Cup
5. Jockeys are in the limelight!
For too many months of the year, these men walk our streets, unnoticed by most over 1.5m tall, dismissed as tiny mini-me’s with voices made for cartoon animation. Now, they hold centre stage.
And do they grab it with both hands!?
Betting scandals, death threats, who’s in form, who’s jumping ship, is this race fixed, suspensions; the little world of jockeys is one of the most fascinating subplots of the racing season!
And can we even call them subplots? Besides a couple of the trainers, these guys are the celebrities of the Cup! (Sorry, B-Grade celebs who have travelled from the US of A.)
4. It’s a day off, peoples!
I am currently sitting at my kitchen table, taking waayy longer than I should be to churn this piece out, because I’ve been making eye contact with my 5 month old son, who’s sitting happily in his toy car, pressing buttons, chewing on everything, and smiling and laughing at his dad.
The last 4 days, we’ve had a tonne and quality and quantity time together. All because of this horse race! Sure me being around interrupts his feeding as he looks around for daddy, but that’s a price I’m sacrificially willing to pay…
3. The freaking horses!
Who are the most underrated sports stars in your world? That nuggetty little midfielder in your footy team whose hard ball gets enable the stars to shine? (I’m looking at you, Brad Sewell.)
The unselfish passer on your basketball team who doesn’t put up 20+ points a game, but whose importance for team chemistry is crucial? (Introducing … James Harden … Good luck without him, OKC…)
Or is it the soccer gun whose sacrificial play and willingness to not take the Middle Eastern or Russian money to play elsewhere ensures your team’s continuity on and off the pitch? (Gareth Bale, don’t you dare now take the money and leave the Spurs!)
Forgive me for the idealism of the previous paragraphs, but for me, the stars of the Cup show are the horses. Their size, presence, muscular frames and pure, raw speed is breathtaking. Did you know that they lose like kilos in sweat alone in the course of the Cup race?! Seriously. Sensational animals.
2. Cup Day bqqs!
At 2pm today, we’ll be hitting a friend’s house, chilling in their beautiful backyard, nibbles all around, a few quiet ones and a number of people I don’t know who I probably will know by the time we leave.
I have no idea if we’ll watch the actual race, that’s not the point. It’s 26 degrees in Australia and I’ll be at a bbq. There is absolutely nothing to complain about.
I don’t know about you, but for me, a ‘usual’ Monday is as frenetic as it gets. You’re running around setting yourself up for the working week, there’s a tonne to do and you have zero breathing room to kick back and exhale, until you return home that evening.
Not on Cup Eve!
Whether you work or not, the Monday of Cup Eve is different. I’ve been on the job on that day, and as annoying as it is to not have the whole long weekend, the pace is completely different.
And if you are lucky enough to not have to shine up the work shoes, all the better! There’s a payoff the night before, minus the Sunday night blues; the world seems brighter, you’re not clock watching at night thinking ‘I’ve really got to hit the hay soon’, and somewhere in there, your head gets juuust enough space to start thinking about Christmas!
And yesterday, did you even think about work?! My house is pristine, the backyard is mowed, pruned and weeded, I watched an entire NBA game, had a bakery lunch, dinner and a movie with great mates – on that, see Argo! It’s as intense as it gets, but Affleck has hit yet another home run, and the washing is as up to date as it’s ever going to get with a kid who’s disdain for clean nappies almost outweighs the ability of our washing machine to keep up!
So, enjoy today, however you end up spending it. And if nothing else, there’s only a 3 day working week before we fire up our energies again for the weekend!
More hostile, sarcastic 2011 piece – I apologise; I was 6 months into a year without sport!
So, the ‘race that stops a nation’ happened today
I still don’t even know who won.
One aspect of this year without sport that was never going to be problematic was the Spring Racing Carnival.
I just don’t get it.
There are many reasons why I haven’t lamented that I will miss the Melbourne Cup.
5. The fascination with trainers
I have a dog. She’s fast. I feed her. She races around at the park and just happens to be quicker than most other dogs.
Where’s my adulation?!
Cummings, Waterhouse, Freedman, Hayes, (and hell yes I had to google those names! And don’t get me started on Cummings’ ‘The Master’ book – seriously…) – they’re all treated as superstars for a couple of months each year.
Horses eat hay and enjoy a good run. How hard can it be!?
4. A day at the races
Over 100,000 people were actually at Flemington today to ‘see the race’.
I couldn’t think of anything worse.
Sure – pop me in the Emirates or the Domain Chandon marquee and I’d be happy. (Having recently been bumped by Emirates to First Class with Mrs E from Copenhagen to Dubai, I am pretty sure they’d put on quite a show.) But how many attendees get that kind of treatment – 1%??
Most get crammed into the public stalls, 98.5% of whom are intoxicated and have been since breakfast, you can’t see a darn thing, you’re at the mercy of the elements, the place stinks and you have a .03% chance of actually making a profit on your punts. Which, again, is still .06% less than the average blood alcohol level of racegoers.
3. The fascination with jockeys
Ok, this one I definitely don’t get! One of the lead stories in the news last night was lead jockey Craig Williams (google again) being suspended for ‘causing interference’. Sounds serious.
I have a couple of 8 year olds who live around the corner from me who look strong enough to hold onto a horse for a few minutes.
The amount of times I’ve seen The race run and then some commentator (also on a horse – hilarious stuff) fawn over this 45 kilogram man with a voice to rival that of the said 8 year olds while I sit there thinking/yelling, ‘Talk about the horse!! He didn’t run the damn race!’
I get that there would be some element of strategy – normally comprised of ‘go out easy, and then bolt like hell the last few hundred metres’, but don’t oversell yourself my tiny friends – you look like you couldn’t go 400 metres yourselves without a good feed.
2. ‘Celebrities’ who visit us to make us feel oh so special
Good Lord, how pathetically do we think of ourselves in Australia?
I still remember Entourage actor Adrian Grenier (Vinny Chase) being questioned by comedian Dave Hughes when he was standoffish on Rove a few years ago. Hughesy fell over himself trying to paint Grenier as ‘shy’. Why?? If the guy’s a tosser, say so. Not every septic tank who arrives here is a quality person.
This year, Kim Kardashian (google x 3), she of the 72 day marriage to NBA gimp Kris Humphries, made headline news in being here for the Melbourne Cup. I say ‘headline’ because there was no other way I would know this information unless it made the mainstream media – I’m not watching sports reports…
Eva Longoria, Carmen Electra, Paris Hilton, not to mention ‘Queer Eye for the Straight Guy’ Carson Kressley (g x 4!) – why is it that we are so enamoured with American stars who grace us with their presence and little more? What we put on in this country in terms of events, sports, music and culture can rival anything the world can put on, America most certainly included.
Will somebody please grow a pair and utilise the talent this great country has to offer. (I’m on zero drinks, just for the record…)
1. The lack of fascination with the actual horses
I still remember a great conversation I had with my Year 12 English teacher who was passionate about keeping Melbourne Cup as a public holiday. And look, I’m all for not working, but she ranked today higher than all others.
But what actually struck me, and still does, was her passion for the horses. She described their intensity and clear love of competition and racing. It made for a compelling argument. The thing is – it was the last conversation of that type I’ve had since. 18 years! (Old. Yes.)
All the extra-curricular rubbish of jockeys, trainers, weather, track conditions, odds, punting, ‘celebrities’ – it all gets in the way of the real heroes – the actual horses. They are magnificent animals; huge, powerful, muscle-bound beasts.
I’m just not that into them.