A grouchy columnist wants tv 'to tame the shrews'

Mar 4, 2008 7:00 AM

Burnt Offerings by Stan Bergstein | I am sorry, but I have had all the shrill and shrieking female "strategists" of both parties that my constitution will handle. Where did these ladies come from? What do they do when there are no primaries? Who ever heard of them? What, other than looks, are their qualifications?

Rather than thinking about Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Obama, I find myself wondering if the guys who run network television and pick the talent ever listen to these shrews, or simply look at them, perhaps lustfully. Does television have casting couches?

I have a suggestion for the network guys. Before you interview these gals, sit in an isolation chamber with voice only, no picture. Listen, and if you can stand more than 30 seconds of their chalk-on-blackboard voices, then take a peek and see if they pass the tube test.

Perhaps I have grown grouchy and intolerant because of the deteriorating situation in racing in this country. For a guy who has lived off horses all his life, the news these days is bad enough to skew one’s judgment of the blather coming from the set in the family room, regardless of gender but to a large degree because of it.

Even the anchors are terrible. Give me one Erika Hill and fire all the others, and do something about racing.

In Maryland, all roads in racing are running downhill.

 Last weekend, the two leaders of harness and thoroughbred racing – Tom Chuckas Jr. of Rosecroft Raceway and Joe DeFrancis of Pimlico and Laurel, both quit. Frank Stronach, who owns the two running tracks, announced to stock analysts that his Magna Entertainment had lost almost $43 million in the fourth quarter of 2007, bringing its total debt to $879.9 million, with $209.4 million of that due this year. Stronach publicly called for résumés to help find new talent, and his company announced there was some question as to Magna’s "ability to continue as a going concern is in substantial doubt."

It is ironic, of course, that horse racing in America now must depend on slot machines to stay alive. Whether they get them in Maryland will depend on voters who go to the polls next fall to decide on a president to guide them and a sport to entertain them.

There is another threat to racing in Maryland, confined at present to one county in southern Maryland – St. Mary’s – but like kudzu or predatory fish a danger to explode elsewhere.

It is video bingo, introduced in St. Mary’s last August under a law allowing gaming devices if the proceeds go to nonprofit organizations. Owners of the machines can take a cut for expenses, however, and the number in St. Mary’s has exploded from 150 initial machines to more than a thousand now, in bars and restaurants.

In New Jersey another week passed without Gov. Jon Corzine’s minions able to convince the 11 Atlantic City casinos to share their wealth with the state’s three tracks. A solution has been "imminent" for months, but no one has signed off on anything.

In Kentucky, the new governor who made slots a platform of his campaign has encountered stiff resistance in his legislature, and a House subcommittee last week refused to approve a bill that would have given Kentucky’s tracks five racinos. They still may get them, but not by mandate. Meanwhile, one Indiana riverboat casino – Evansville’s Casino Aztar – is up for sale, and Centaur of Indianapolis, which is borrowing $600 million to put a racino in its Hoosier Park harness track and build a new harness track in western Pennsylvania, is tempted to acquire Aztar as well, but faces going into deep hock to do it.

There also is a battle in Massachusetts over who gets slots, with the race tracks shut out at present and a battle ongoing there in the legislature as well.

And of course there is New York, where 71 OTB shops, social gathering spots for some who might otherwise be lost or, as one newspaper said last week, "homeless," are beginning to close.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is playing hardball with state legislator, and pictures of "For Rent" signs on OTB windows appeared in New York newspapers last week. It appears that Bloomberg is dead serious about closing all of them come June 15 if the state does not kick in.

Our morning line on this one hasn’t changed. It isn’t going to happen, but you’ll have to find another bookie to handle your action that it won’t.