Breaking Stride

Fast Five

July 2, 2016

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by Trey Nosrac

I am a counter-culture kind of guy. While many self starters in the transportation business drive for Uber, I roll for an outfit named Lyft. My car is always spotless and I let my riders decide if they want to remain mute or chatter like chipmunks on speed. For those who climb into my Prius who want to talk, I try to steer them away from the routine questions (Why do you drive? How much do you make?)

To nudge conversation in a different direction, I use visual cues. Taped onto the sun visors above my dashboard are photos of my daughter at her wedding, a harness racehorse and WWI battlefield. I selected these because I like history, harness racing and my daughter. Most of my riders are youngish, 20 to 35. The younger age demographics probably explains why the discussion rarely turns to harness racing or history. This irks me.

Tipping is a tricky issue in my business. I send mixed messages. Clearly displayed is a sign I made that reads, “Tips or gratuities are ABSOLUTELY NOT REQUIRED.”

However, this sign rests in a small straw basket on the console between the front seats. Many people drop a five dollar bill in the basket, especially if it is a ride of over 10 miles or if I have helped them with local information. In the biz we call this a semi-unsolicited donation, a forbidden five, or a fast five.

As I wait for my next ding, the signal my next passenger is looking to get fetched and delivered, allow me to give an unsolicited fast five of my own. Five reasons why so few of my young customers ask about the harness race horse photo, or conversely, five mandatory items that would help my beloved sport step into the daylight.

• HD or you are DOA. Seriously. Any visitor to any screen that does not have a high definition presentation is like asking pals over to watch the Super Bowl through an alga-covered aquarium. Once you get used to HD, you never want to watch without it. Some of my friends have like, triple HD; the screen is more realistic than real life and makes me dizzy. A little secret for people running racetracks, I have filtered my wagering on harness racing to only tracks in HD in order to more clearly watch myself lose money.

• Dead audio time on a presentation of a harness horse race should be punishable by instant termination or by placing the announcer into wooden stocks on the public square and having his or her tongue stretched. This vacuum void of sound on the majority of horse racing presentations is so stupid it is beyond belief. Turn in ANY other sport, ANY other anything, and you will never find five seconds without non-stop blather. Who cares what is being said — talk about wagering, horses, owners, trainers, controversy, Donald’s hair style, or Taylor Swift’s latest boyfriend. Get a panel of “on air” heads and NEVER let them shut up – this is how entertainment works.

• This one may surprise you: Every harness race should have a seriously angled starting car fence that guarantees that every single horse in a race travels exactly one mile. Friends, we have unraveled the human genome, explored the surface of mars, invented cars that drive themselves, and we replace body parts – surely an automobile with a engineered starting gate (probably at about a 45 degree angle) is not beyond our technological chops. A silicon valley infant could calculate the formula of an equitable race start and build the thing in his crib. Not only would this eliminate post-position bias, those watching and wagering could more clearly follow their horse in the race.

• Wardrobe update. No offense, but for somebody watching their first horse race. those helmets and clothes scream 1957. Since my personal wardrobe is pathetic, I am open to suggestions. However, the helmets with those tiny brims may have been hip in the era of zoot suits and were an improvement over those funny little cloth caps, but they are not working today. Possible suggestions are full-faced motorcycle helmets which are kind of slick, perhaps Darth Vader helmets or those hockey goalie masks with the wild paint jobs. Oh, and it must be mandatory that after the race, the driver must remove the helmet for interviews, even if they are balding.

• Obviously a spectrum of race presentations exist in our little harness universe; some are okay, all could be better. Mohawk is one that appeals to me; they have a split screen (full field/leaders) and floating numbers. We have to keep pushing the envelope. What about giving the viewer the opportunity to toggle between views, live microphones on the horses (not that phony track) and several additional camera angles ala some European feeds? And…

Oops, just got a rider. I’ll get back to you when I get a few quiet minutes between rides.

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