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What I Watched on TV On Saturday (Because I Had Way Too Much Time On My Hands)

What I Watched on TV On Saturday (Because I Had Way Too Much Time On My Hands)

I’ve been spending way too much time following the endless buildup to the 139th Kentucky Derby. Anybody who sits glued to the tube for the pre-race coverage must be either a habitual gambler or someone with way too much time on his or her hands or … a media writer with way too much time on his hands (make that, mine).

I first watched the thrilling (and, to me, ultimately disappointing) Washington Caps’ 1-0 overtime Stanley Cup victory over the New York Rangers. Naturally, the soggy Derby preliminary had a tough act to follow. But leave it to NBC to milk every second of it.

NBC, as it does every year with this broadcast, had a big challenge: How do you make the Derby pre-race show relevant to a large TV audience?

Simple answer: You don’t.

At least with the Super Bowl, a network has the promise of having a great rock and roll halftime show (well, sometimes) and the much-anticipated lineup of commercials.

What does NBC have, by comparison? Well, there are the hats and mint juleps and Louisville tradition to fall back on. It’s a tough sell. But NBC did its best. It offered up what felt like a 24-hour preliminary — for a race that lasts roughly two minutes. Plus, it rained heavily before the race in Louisville so the network had a contend with that downer as well.  

Maybe the best way to watch the pre-Derby on TV is to treat it like a regular-season NBA game and only tune into the final five minutes. That’s when we get the moving performance of “My Old Kentucky Home” — really, the best part of the build-up. Skip all the human interest stuff. Ever since Seabiscuit’s story became a big book and a well-received movie, everyone seems to think that a horse has a great back story and a winning personality.

Amazing! They expect us to sit through an endless pre-race show all for the pleasure of watching a two-minute-long race!

And you know what? A lot of folks probably do just that.

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