If ever there was a textbook case of managerial malpractice, it would unquestionably be the American Greyhound Track Operators Association’s (AGTOA) almost complete abandonment of Greyhound Racing. Seduced by visions of sugarplums, spilling from the yaws of one-arm bandit slot machines, straight into their own alms baskets, and aroused by dreams of transitioning to full time casino operation, they have thrown the racing Greyhound under the proverbial bus.
There is no promotion, nor concerted effort to market the sport that they have been licensed to showcase, and which had enabled them to achieve the sort of wealth, legitimacy and standing to have been granted the right to conduct casino gaming on their premises in the first place—and without which, they would have been forced to compete for that privilege, against other casino interests.
The Greyhound racing community, the supply side of breeders, owners and kennel operators, have been slow to react to this untenable situation. Realizing, finally, as the noose of decoupling is fitted to their necks yet one more time before the trap is sprung, that there would be no last minute plea for clemency forthcoming from the AGTOA, nor any effort, on the part of those officials, to resurrect the sport that they themselves had deliberately undermined and set-up to fail.
The AGTOA has, moreover, willingly abdicated their responsibility for the promotion of Greyhound racing, to the lunatic fringe of anti-racing and animal rights harpies and media propagandists.
Meanwhile, the racing Greyhound, thanks to unprecedented cooperation between volunteer adoption groups and the racing community, has become a virtual pet phenomenon. They are held in such high esteem by their adoptive owners, that the dedication and bemusement they attest to and express over their retired racers, often borders on obsession.
The racing Greyhound has become as much of a sensation in retirement as a pet, as ever he was during the heyday of his racing incarnation. Interest in him, in his life before and after racing, in his history, and in his feats of astonishing athleticism, continues to grow, despite those forces who would assure that he just fade away into the vaporous mists of history.
Supply-siders brainstorm to innovate novel ways to increase pari-mutual handle at the racetrack, and through web-based and off-track third party wagering concerns, without the help, and often, in spite of the AGTOA. It is a daunting task.
Meanwhile, as various and sundry plans and theories to revitalize the sport are discussed and debated, the Greyhounds remain oblivious to it all. They have never been in a better place. While breeding has contracted by some 80% since the turn of the century, they remain a thriving population within racing, and a greatly in-demand population outside of it.
Their personal stories, as retirees, are the subject of innumerable venues throughout social media, where the moment-to-moment minutia of their day –to-day lives and adventures are discussed, swooned over and marveled about, world without end.
The legends of their racing careers are sought after and held in awe, by an ever-increasing number of those who have adopted them. The Greyhound’s public is thirsting for knowledge of all things Greyhound. They are enthralled and fascinated by his raising and racing experiences, and revel in whatever intimate knowledge greyhound professionals can impart to them, and especially when it is personal knowledge of their own Greyhound(s). They understand and respect the breed, unlike many of those in racetrack management, and their newfound allies in the anti-racing /media conspiracy.
With the advent of social media, more and more within the sphere of the racing Greyhound, have come to realize that their beautiful, loving and cherished retired pets, could simply not have emerged, by the tens of thousands each year, from a population of dogs who had been the victims of widespread systemic abuse, neglect and disregard. They have applied their critical thinking abilities. They recognize that a colony of sporting dogs can indeed be perfectly well-adjusted, content and fulfilled, doing precisely what it is they have been bred and raised to do, since time immemorial. The human issues of money, ethics, politics and ideology don’t trouble them in the least. They know exactly who they are, and they couldn’t be more pleased with themselves. As racers, almost all are committed and enthusiastic participants, whatever their level of ability. As pets, they have distinguished themselves as enchanting, beguiling and loving companions. What more could we ask of them?
While greater minds than mine develop new and engaging strategies to re-invent and re-brand the sport of Greyhound Racing, and to interest the wagering public, it might be wise to remember that without the Greyhounds themselves, there is nothing to resuscitate.
There is a huge audience that the Greyhound himself has assembled, purely on the merits of his magnificent manifestation as the living, breathing, and loving embodiment of racing and everything that it entails. They want to get to know the people who are responsible for their Greyhounds, and they long for some perspective on who and what it was that made those Greyhounds who and what they are. They can handle the truth. It is much more believable than the mythology and dogma that has been promoted by those who are light years removed from the everyday lives of those Greyhounds.
Each Greyhound is goodwill ambassador for Greyhound racing. Each of them is a unique individual, and each of them has their own, personal story. What they lack, is for someone to begin telling those stories. The Greyhound’s ever- expanding audience eagerly awaits
What are we waiting for?