It’s not easy being Baltimore. You’ve got the violence and the accent and the fact that He’s Just Not That Into You was apparently filmed there and a bunch of other problems of varying sizes. But there’s always the Preakness, which is the only one of the three Triple Crown races at which loutish whites in Todd Heap jerseys outnumber wealthy dandies in silly hats. Hard to see if that’s a compliment or not, but at least it’s different.
While it admittedly doesn’t necessarily make up for the He’s Just Not That Into You thing, the Preakness is one of the stranger, more fascinating spectacles in sport — it lacks the pomp (or pomposity, if you rather) of the Derby and whatever it is that makes the Belmont Stakes interesting, and replaces that classy-drunk veneer with some legitimate urban ruggedness around its fringes and the anarchic Nattie Bo-powered Thunderdome in the infield. This post from last year discusses both, and links back to a terrific article from the Washington Post about the grooms who live — in poverty — in Pimlico’s stables. That article, without all my hijinkery, is here.
And the race, if you were wondering, is in May. As usual. I write about it here, in the cold doldrums of February, because last year’s superwasted infield will, it turns out, be the last of its kind. At least unless those guys in the Heap jerseys are willing to buck up and pay $3.50 for a beer. The Baltimore Sun breaks the news to a readership that frankly is probably not very happy to hear it:
Along with banning outside beer, the new policy prohibits fans from bringing in beverages of any kind, including soft drinks and water, in cans or bottles. Food can still be brought into the infield in coolers that do not exceed specific dimensions. Sixteen-ounce beers will be sold for $3.50.
Tom Chuckas, the Jockey Club’s president and chief operating officer, said several factors were involved in changing the track’s policy, including public safety. With the infield teeming with 60,000 partyers, the revelry, fueled by free-flowing beer, has occasionally pushed the limit. Last year, 126 people were ejected, six were arrested (two for assault) and track staff made 17 calls for medical assistance…
The change in the beer policy received mixed reaction from Preakness infield regulars. Dave Kowalewski Jr., 34, has partied on the Preakness infield for the past 13 years and has even chartered buses for the daylong event. But Kowalewski, a city employee who lives in Overlea, won’t be back this year — nor will his friends or family, he said. “I’m a little upset right now,” Kowalewski said. “This is our Mardi Gras. Sometimes it gets out of hand, but it’s ours. … I really think they’re going to have a remarkable drop-off of fans.”
The infield has regularly been the scene of heavy drinking and hard partying, but wilder moments have drawn more notoriety in recent years, especially the so-called “Running of the Urinals” in 2007 and 2008. Videos of men dashing across the tops of portable toilets while others hurled what appeared to be full cans of beer at them were widely viewed on YouTube.
Thanks to Brendan Flynn for the article, and thanks to the Sun‘s unscientific poll showing that 91.8% of respondents — that’s 1,977 of 2,145 respondents as I type this — are less likely to attend due to the ban on outside booze. Also worth mentioning is that, in place of the free-flowing/throwing beer will be…a NASCAR simulation tent, a women’s beach volleyball match and live performances by ZZ Top and Buckcherry. However bad it was in there — and I’m willing to believe it was pretty bad — surely Buckcherry isn’t the solution to any sort of problem. Wouldn’t it be kinder to just, like, murder everyone?