Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Quasi-New Feature: The Daily Kentucky Derby Hype Meme

Over the past three years, we've run the Daily Super Bowl Hype Meme to deconstruct and mock the media's overcoverage of stories, ledes and runs irrelevant to the actual playing of the Super Bowl. In just the past Super Bowl, we lambasted coverage about the Archie Manning's bloodlines, impending NFL labor crisis, and a guy who wasn't even playing in the game.

When we began to think about our annual Kentucky Derby coverage, it hit us that the Derby is even more ripe for a Hype Meme analysis. Consider the following:
  • The Kentucky Derby is nicknamed "the most exciting two minutes in sports" for a simple reason: the entire race takes somewhere between 119 and 125 seconds. Everything before it is prelude; the event itself lasts about as long as a Nick Johnson at bat. This is similar to the Super Bowl, where there are two weeks to prepare for a 3-hour game.
  • The main participants in the Kentucky Derby are horses, and as equines, do not really lend themselves to interviews. This means that the media...
  • ...has to go to other sources for stories. This includes people that are completely relevant (trainers, jockeys), partially relevant (owners, breeders) and completely irrelevant (celebrities, touts). And because most trainers and jockeys are putting on a brave face, playing possum, or both, you're unlikely to get much of use out of them concerning the race itself.
  • NBC, newspapers and other forms of the media see the Kentucky Derby as pure Americana, which means we're likely to get violin-laden montages like you'd find in the Olympics and feel-good stories about the connections of a horse. We're not going to say they have no place in the coverage--a good story is a good story--but when they dominate the media landscape, they're overbearing.
  • Horse racing has become a niche sport, meaning the public understands it broadly but not in a way that lends itself to more than perfunctory analysis. While everyone knows what batting average, interceptions and assists are, few know what a Beyer Speed Figure is or what constitutes a "fast pace" for a race. This keeps the media from doing anything beyond Racing 101 discussion in the mass press, because anything else will likely be lost on the audience.
  • Lastly, the mainstream media, in an effort to save money, has done away with the traditional "horse racing beat". This means that the few writers or personalities that still cover racing (we're looking at...you, Joe Drape and Hank Goldberg) know this is their one week of the year to shine and will present whatever piece will be the most attention grabbing. Often, this bears no relation to the race itself.
As such, for the next few days, we'll be running the Daily Kentucky Derby Hype Meme, picking a story a day that the media has grabbed a hold of and overanalyzed. We'll assign a 1-10 rating, with a 1 being awarded to a detailed analysis of how the presence of multiple speed horses effects the chances of Sidney's Candy, and with a 10 being awarded to yet another a maudlin reminiscence of Barbaro.

We hope that we'll get a lot of insightful articles regarding the strategies of the trainers, pedigree analysis and the strengths and weaknesses of the horses. But we're not optimistic.

Memes at a Glance:

4/21: Exaggerating Pletcher's 0-'fer
4/22: The Bankruptcy of the Favorite's Owners
4/23: The Leering, Death's Head Visage of LeAnne Rimes
4/26: Eskanderya Scratches

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