Swim with the sharks

Swim with the sharks

August 30, 2020

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by Trey Nosrac

He began the festivities by hurting my feelings with the truth, “Your sport is fading. To fix it, participants can’t remain myopic. They need to step back, look at trends, and take some action.”

“Seeing trends and doing something about them are different fish. Trey sees that I’m losing more than I’m making, that doesn’t put Apple stock in my portfolio.”

“Let me ask you some simple questions.”

“My favorite kind.”

“How many new fans hop onto the harness racing bandstand each year?”

“Not many.”

“How are the demographics?”

“Not good.”

“How many people will challenge artificial intelligence when wagering on a horse race?”

“Not many.”

“How many people are going to walk off the street and find a harness horse race riveting entertainment or a terrific gamble?”

“Enough, stop. Pull this train to Obvious City into the station. Give me a solution that hasn’t been on the table 57 times.”

“We’ve talked about the entertainment factor several times and how a lack of human conflict and drama are missing ingredients. We have not talked as much about artificial intelligence, but I predict it will be a big problem in all forms of intellectual gambling.”

“I don’t hear a solution yet from my favorite Silicon Valley expert.”

He smiled, then said, “Two scenarios. You come home from another hard day of doing nothing consequential and decide to spend a harness racing evening.”

“Easy to consider.”

“Do you look forward to purchasing race programs and spending hours calculating what wagers you will make?”

“No, my time is valuable. Plus, I need to squeeze my harness racing in before watching a doubleheader of Naked and Afraid and Shark Hunters.”

He rolled his eyes and kept at it, “You are a hardcore harness racing player.”

“Yes, I am.”

“And you keep playing even though you KNOW you are making poor wagers compared to other sports?”

“Yes.”

“This is your version of an enchanting evening?”
I sighed like a steam engine, “Okay, okay, enough of the questions and badgering. Enchant me.”

He spoke slowly, “Now consider scenario number two. Trey comes home from another hard day of doing nothing consequential and decides to log in for some harness racing. This time, you do not purchase a program or make a wager on a horse. You make a wager on a person.”

“What person?”

“One of four colorful contestants. Simon Simpson, Greta Devers, Mike La Blanc, or Tim Elgin. Some of these handicappers are new to you, some are familiar faces, but all have a backstory online and an engaging persona on screen. Pick one.”

I contemplated, “I’ll go with Simon.”

He flashed a thumbs-up, “Okay. You click on your betting platform and wager $50 on handicapper number 1, Simon Simpson.”

“Then what?”

“You have 15 minutes until the first race. You can grab a beer or order a pizza, rest your fevered mind and prepare to slip into the mind-numbing world of the satisfied consumer.”

“You say that like it’s a bad thing.”

“It’s a sad thing.”

“Who am I rooting for again?” I asked.

“Simon.”

“Who am I rooting against?”

“The other three players and their selections. You see, on this evening, each of the four handicappers receives a bankroll of $1,000. They must wager $200 on each of the first five races. Between each race, the contestants will explain what wagers they are making and why they are making them.”

I said, “And I’m guessing that after the fifth race, the winner is the player with the biggest bankroll.”

He nods, “The contestant who wins takes all the money left on the table and gets to return next week. The winners at home are those who selected the winning handicapper.”

“If it’s Simon, how much do I win?”

“$150.”

“I can see where this would be entertaining. It would give me people to bitch at and cheer for, which seems to be what makes the world go around. Some of these handicappers could become famous.”

“And your beloved sport would get some tremendous exposure. I’m dead serious, some TV executives or showrunners could have some great, inexpensive content at a time when new content is hard to find.”

“You make things sound so simple,” I said.

“Not simple, logical. Give the consumer what they want. Don’t force-feed them what they don’t want.”

I perked up, “Like that new show premiering this fall, Famous People Hunting Sharks While Swimming Naked and Afraid.”

He chuckled, “Sounds like promising programming. Your sport should get into the water.”

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