On Monday I went to a thoroughbred yearling sale. It was the biggest sale in the province, and the second biggest in western Canada. There were almost 200 horses on offer, and many of them were very well bred and well turned out.
Why am I sharing this? Why should you care what happens here, far out of the heartland of the thoroughbred business? Well, because the sale was a disaster. With just a few exceptions, the horses weren’t selling, and when they were they were mostly going well below what should have been a reasonable price for them. In the first 25 horses, for example, seven of them were withdrawn because of lack of interest, and nine more sold for less than $3,000. Even the top horses in the beginning of the session went for far less than hoped. It wasn’t a lack of people there causing the problems. Attendance was okay. It’s just that no one was buying. People were just sitting on their hands, and looking around at everyone else doing the same.
The thoroughbred industry here has some real problems – Calgary is in between tracks, and the new track is very delayed. That makes people nervous. More than that, though, people were saying that the reasons for the down market stemmed from questions about the economy, gas prices, and those familiar refrains that affect all of us in North America these days.
The reason I bring this up is that the negativity of the market was shocking, and it struck me that it could be a story repeated around the world of sports. For years now we have enjoyed a period of sustained growth and financial success in sports. All of the major leagues are making lots of money, players are mostly happy, and stadiums are full. We’re enjoying it immensely, but I fear we might be taking it for granted. We seem to have forgotten the days not so long ago when stadiums weren’t full, teams were going broke, and people were short of cash to bet. I’m not suggesting that sports Armageddon is around the corner, but I can’t help but feel that we might be in for a bit of a rude awakening in sports if things don’t start to turn around and brighten soon. It seems that we could be better prepared to deal with the problems if we were braced for them, and I certainly got my warning on Monday that braced is what we should be.
That’s my descent into pessimism. We’ll run back into the blissfully fake world of sports tomorrow.