The Kentucky Derby is a Cultural Happening


From The Desk Of Kenny Rice

We have a herd mentality. No matter how far off the beaten path we wander, eventually we like to be included somewhere if only for a brief period.

Pop culture and sports provide an avenue to group, connecting even if you prefer to stay individually on the less traveled road otherwise.

“See that (insert movie or TV show)?” “What about that (insert game or fight)”? And the transition for conversation eases.

Depending on your age, from a cop named Sipowicz to six friends hanging out; a Seattle hospital staff, a teacher turned drug dealer to lots and lots of zombies, there is common ground on life’s rest area.

This Saturday is such an event. It centers around a sport, but exceeds that simple of a classification. It is an EVENT. There will be over 150,000 in person, thousands more hosting backyard and more formal parties with a theme and 15 million tuning in to the NBC broadcast making it the most watched sports show since the Super Bowl.

It is the Kentucky Derby, an institution on the American cultural front. It’s people dressed in their best, ladies in big–some with their own zip code–hats, food, drinks and fun. Oh yes there is a two minute horse race. The winner gets a blanket of roses.

If your neighbor doesn’t know one horse, they will know who won the Derby by Saturday night. Just like you don’t have to follow car racing to at least glance at the final laps of the Daytona 500 or Indianpolis 500, both also are EVENTS.

The Final Four, World Series, The Masters, all quickly assimilate into the conversation. The Super Bowl is in its own orbit in the world of popularity.

At one time this would be water cooler talk, gathering around the break room at work and catching up. You didn’t have to be an expert but you wanted to fit in enough not to appear out of touch. Now with social media, it’s an Instagram or hashtag away from immediately showing you are in the know.

There is an endless stream of games. A ton of fights. It’s easy to get lost in the clutter. Is this game 3 or 4 of the playoff and what round again? Is this an interim fight or an eliminator?

That’s why Game 7 or championship bouts are definitive, no question we’ll have an answer. And rounded numbers work well like the upcoming UFC 200. Anniversaries attract the herd.

An EVENT does this and more. It’s self explanatory and there will an objective outcome. If there is only one shot ever at it, even better. Inherent drama.

The Kentucky Derby is all that. A horse race, a winner and it is only open to horses in their 3 year old season. One try ever.

Those are the basics. That too is the beautiful simplicity of an EVENT. It’s not complicated. Life is, this isn’t.

Soon you’ll hear that famous phrase “And they’re off…” You won’t be alone. There’s comfort in that.

– Kenny

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