Monday, March 28, 2011

Who will watch horse racing sober?

There is a new Sheriff in town, at least in Camden, South Carolina, the home of the Carolina Cup horse races.  New Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews and Camden Police Chief Joe Floyd are joining forces to crack down on alcohol abuse at the Carolina Cup races.  They are going after underage drinkers, those who ferry alcohol as “cooler carriers” and anyone who has too much to drink at the event.

Such sounds good and it is certainly good public relations for both Matthews and Floyd to show how tough that they are on crime.  That said, trying to make sober one of the state’s biggest drinking parties is not going to be easy and it just might backfire.

We at VUI have only been to one Carolina Cup event.  It was not all that enjoyable.  People dress up in their best clothes to get drunk and watch horses race.  The kids of semi wealthy people make up a good part of the crowd.  They are in ties, drunk and obnoxious.  The elite show up, drunk themselves from the coolers brought in by the guys who cut their grass.  All that said, what we saw was a few thousand drunk people dressed in good clothes watching horses race.  Frankly, if we are going to get drunk and watch some futility in sports, we will take Death Valley or Willams Brice.  At least there we don’t have to wear our Sunday best and pretend to be important.

Locking up some rich brats and those who enable them will not bother us at VUI.  However, as people tuned into politics and how this state works, Matthews and Floyd need to know they are playing with fire.  A good many of the kids and the adults who get drunk at something like the Carolina Cup think they are entitled to do so.  Messing with their fun could have political consequences.  Locking up some redneck for being a public drunk at Joe’s Bar and Grill is one thing.  Locking up the kid of someone important is another in this state. Locking up someone important gets you on the news one day and people looking for your replacement the next day.   That is the political reality.

Besides, have you ever been to a horse race?  If people are not gambling on the outcome, they are drinking hard.  Likely they are doing both.  Take that away from them and they might as well be watching two middle schools from Georgia playing volleyball.  Nobody gets dressed up and lays down money for that.

It all does make VUI wonder what will be next?  Will Darlington County “crack down” on drunks at the Southern 500?  Will Richland and Pickens Counties “crack down” on Clemson and Carolina game days?  Think on it.  Law enforcement could really thump their chests and pad the pockets of the local coffers if they set up DUI checkpoints coming out of Death Valley or Williams Brice and cracked down on those drunk tailgaters.

Of course, a round or two of such enforcement and heads would roll and people would stay away and not spend their money in the local economies.  That is the ugly reality.  South Carolina is a Bible thumping state, but at events like the Carolina Cup, the Southern 500 and Clemson and Carolina football games, we as a people party hard.  We also spend a lot of money that pumps into local economies.  That is why for decades now law enforcement has kept order, but not cracked down at such events.  The potential costs, both economic and political, have outweighed the benefit of cracking down.  Of course the good folks in Kershaw County have to bluster a bit and talk crackdown, but really do they expect people to come to their town and watch horses race while sober?  They really expect Buffy and Chippy to come there and be interesting in horse racing?  It will not happen.  A tough crackdown will result in people not going to Camden next year and spending money.  Making the Carolina Cup a sober event is like banning all people who live in trailers from attending races at the I-20 Speedway, it just can’t be done without destroying the event. 


  1. From my experience, it's more accurate to describe a lot of the folks in College Park as wanting to make people THINK they are the kids of old-money South Carolina elite - when a lot of them are either from lower middle class blue collar families or some not even from South Carolina altogether.

    I used to go to the Cup with friends from Furman and Wofford every year during college - half of whom weren't even from South Carolina. So you basically had a bunch of kids with Georgia tags and Palmetto tree stickers on their cars trying to fit in to some kind of old-South Carolina stereotype - yet they are always too eager to tell you how much better Atlanta or Dunwoody or Peachtree City or wherever is to South Carolina (yet where did they choose to come to school). Then you have people like some of my friends who came from the mill villes in Upstate SC and all of a sudden got to Wofford to find out they had to let some website called or something like that dictate to them how to dress, act, walk, etc.

    Anyway I'm going to the Cup this year to hang out in the adult section this time. Seems that if you bust your hump working on a Republican political campaign you might get an invite to that politician's set-up at the Cup. O

    OK, I need to go find my loafers because I do love that style.

  2. You know the mating call at the Carolina Cup of a co-ed?

    "I am so drunk and you are so cute"