11/21/2012 12:27PM

Jerardi: At least horse racing is up-front about its deception


If I am not at the track, I can usually be found at a gym watching college basketball. What I love about the track is that nobody is pretending the sport is pure. We all know better. What I love about college sports is that everybody pretends it is pure. We all know better.

The track has its share of frauds, schemers, and outright clowns. It has always been part of the charm.

In a perfect world, everything would be as easy as reading the polls and predicting President Obama would win a giant electoral vote victory. It is not a perfect world or close to it.

The track is nowhere near perfect. Nor would it be as fascinating if it were.

If somebody is trying to darken a horse’s form to cash a bet, my task is to be able to figure that out. I have long since accepted that as an integral part of the game. It does not bother when I am not in on it. I just deal with it.

What I most love about the track is that it is real. You win or you lose. Counting is easy.

What I hate about big-time (read football and men’s basketball) college sports is that it is not real. The truth is somewhere between elusive and irrelevant. It is about one thing – cash, lots of it.

I was reminded of that Monday when Daily Racing Form ’s David Grening called to bemoan the fact that our alma mater, the University of Maryland, was leaving the ACC for the Big Ten where it will play Nebraska instead of Virginia, Minnesota instead of North Carolina.

Our conversation reminded me of what I have told so many of my friends that know I cover horses and college hoops. Their default position on horse racing is that the sport is corrupt and all the races are fixed.

I explain to them that there really is no comparison between horse racing and college sports. I don’t try to fool them by saying racing has no problems. Anybody who is reading this can recite them.

What I do tell them is you can’t compare the two because college sports are so much more corrupt. They are run by a cabal of conferences that exists for one reason – to make as much money as possible from television providers on the backs of the players who not only don’t get paid, but are ostracized and labeled cheats if they so much as take a few dollars from anyone during their college careers.

In fact, line up horse racing, politics, and college sports. Horses are a distant third on the corruption meter. I love politics just because it is so fascinating to see so many people lie with such earnest expressions. I love college sports because I do appreciate the games, the talent of the players, and those same earnest expressions you see from so many politicians. I love horses because they have the pick six, and the Kentucky Derby superfecta is still $2.

Substitute politician for conference commissioner and you start to understand college sports. It is all a mirage, built on the fraudulent concept of amateurism and athletes who happen to be students. It is marketed, packaged, and purchased by so many that schools like Maryland and Rutgers, both on the East Coast last I looked, join a Midwestern league because that league’s own television network promises millions in profits in exchange for getting that network into more homes in the television-rich Mid-Atlantic and New York markets.

If horse racing actually had conferences, this might be the model. But horse racing is decentralized with nobody really in charge of anything except, of course, when the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, that savior of the sport, decided to show its muscle before major races in 2012. No corruption on their watch.

As fragmented and backward as horse racing often is, there is really nobody claiming it is something it is not. If anybody tried to suggest the game was pure, the laughter would be immediate. So nobody tries.

I often get asked if I had to choose between hoops and horses, what would it be. No contest, I tell them.

First, there is the corruption angle. Second, I have noticed neither superfecta nor pick-six betting at any gyms.