The Dark Side of the Kentucky Derby

More

Horse racing puts animals and jockeys at risk for injury and death. Should that diminish a fan's enjoyment of the sport?

roundtable_derbyday_post.jpg
AP Images

Every week, our panel of sports fans discusses a topic of the moment. For today's conversation, Hampton Stevens (writer, ESPN and The Atlantic), Patrick Hruby (writer, ESPN and The Atlantic), and Jake Simpson (writer, The Atlantic) discuss the Derby.


Hey, guys,

There are good reasons to watch Saturday's 138th running of the Kentucky Derby. You can see multicolored silks fluttering under the spires of Churchill Downs and hear "My Old Kentucky Home." The Louisville passion for absurd headwear is hysterical, even spawning a hat museum.

The Derby Day parties are great, too. I've some old friends with deep Kentucky roots who haven't let moving to Budapest get in the way of their annual soiree. They may not have okra for the burgoo, but they'll have bourbon, mint leaf, and sugar for mint juleps. Surely no other sporting event on earth is so closely associated with a specific cocktail, or so charmingly decadent and depraved.

But there are also good reasons not to watch. Some of that decadence and depravity isn't so charming.

Media focus will likely center on Bob Baffert—a super-successful trainer coming back from a heart attack barely a month ago. But rooting for a wealthy trainer, or his very wealthy owner, isn't as much fun as rooting for athletes. In this sport, though, at least if you believe the New York Times, athletes are getting hurt and killed at appalling rates—much higher than at equivalent racetracks overseas, for instance. Not. Cool.

It's one thing for jockeys to get hurt. It's awful, certainly, but at least those men and women choose to compete. Horses don't want to run until they snap a foreleg. They sure don't choose an instant on-track death because of it. Don't worry. I'm not going all PETA on you. But lately we've used this space to discuss athletes in hockey and football who get hurt after making a choice to play their dangerous game. For me, it makes more sense to worry about cleaning up a sport where the athletes don't get a choice.

–Hampton

Jump to comments
Presented by

Sports Roundtable

Patrick Hruby, Jake Simpson, and Hampton Stevens 

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Entertainment

Just In