Former shipbuilding magnate George Steinbrenner has two loves, er three, the Yankees, horse racing and ad revenue. Like Donald Trump, his only rival in the revered/reviled class of New York City entrepreneur, Steinbrenner is stinking rich, has no barriers to getting what he wants and defines a certain type of big city entrepreneur: the Master of the Ostentatious Universe, an arena of self-promotion best represented by King George's turtleneck/sportcoat combo and love of seeing himself on the back page of the New York Post. He is a tacky, classless man with gobs of cash and legions of fans who think he is an "entrepreneurial" genius because of said gobs of money.

This season, King George replaced the deep left field out-of-town scoreboard with a billboard for the New York Stock Exchange, which reportedly deprives fans sitting behind home plate the chance to keep tabs on the rest of the American League. Perhaps fans who congregate behind Jorge Posada don't care about the Angels/Orioles outcome, but it doesn't matter if they did because it seems pro ball sports are now played mainly to support the advertisers. So why not just go the whole nine yards: "Ladies and gentlemen, you are looking live on tonight's showdown between the Manhattan Mallomars and the Dallas Dr. Pepper, brought to you by the good folks at Safeway. Say, after the game, why not swing by Safeway for some Dr. Pepper and Mallomars? It's what the pros eat."

I bring this up because one might think the Boss would have the horse sense not to alienate his loyal ticket holders (AKA main customers) by depriving them of something they crave (Red Sox scores) for something they don't (a banner for a stock exchange that is closed during night and weekend games). Unfortunately George's ads-at-all-costs has taken hold of his other beloved pastime the sport of kings: horse racing. Initially, in a remarkable bit of restraint, officials from Churchill Downs banned jockeys from turning themselves into human Nascars during the Kentucky Derby, but alas, it was a fleeting victory.

A judge ruled they too have every right to trample fans interest in the actual sport itself and allowed for human billboards, although it did prevent a rumored jockey boycott, which would have been the shortest walkout in recorded history.

At this very moment, Manhattan ad geeks are figuring out how to adorn horses with endorsements for Bud, Rolex, McDonalds, and inevitably, Elmer's. I for one want only to see the shine of the silks in a paddock free of a Home Depot orange and Sprite Remix lemon-lime, but the Steinbrenner mentality always seems to win the day. Maybe I'm in the minority though, if the market is free I guess Willie Shoemaker should've been able to shill for Philly the shoemaker over at Nike. Allowing jockeys (a group that absolutely deserves the extra bucks) to score Jim Beam contracts to line their little pockets, may be the American way, but is "entrepreneurial" synonymous with the crass selling of every inch of real estate in a ballpark and sticking Krispy Kreme logos onto riding boots? At Yankee Stadium and Churchill Downs, the answer is yes.

And speaking of free market, professional sports and the American way, I it's time we only offer prize money to horses sired in the United States. It's gotten too hard for American ponies to compete, what with those Arabian Stallions, next thing you know the Kentucky Derby will turn into the Boston Marathon with all their foreign victors. So, new sports rule, keep the global ad markets free, but the prize money remains stateside, that way we always come out ahead, just like the Yankees in the World Series.

Oh one last thing, before the mint juleps kick in, take Smarty Jones, Read the Footnotes and Imperialism in a trifecta.*

*Inc. gambling tips are too be used only for gentlemanly wagers, which is probably for the best, seeing as how 45 minutes ago I didn't know a single horse in the Kentucky Derby.

Published on: May 1, 2004