Kentucky horse culture, tailgating should not coincide with binge drinking



Column by Rachael Wylie. E-mail

What’s the big deal about betting on horses?

This question has been asked to Kentuckians all across the Commonwealth during the Spring and Fall meets at Keeneland.

Usually, a true Kentuckian answers this question with a weak knowledge of “the history of horseracing and how it’s impacted Kentucky’s culture.”

Admittedly, I’m one of those Kentuckians who attempts to pretend I know something about horses in a weak effort to set myself apart from all those non-Kentuckians who think Keeneland is nothing more than an excuse to drink excessive amounts of bourbon while gambling away our hard-earned money.

Many people from Kentucky would gasp at the thought of turning Keeneland into some over-glorified saloon — but isn’t this often times what we make it into?

Keeneland is just as much (if not more) about drinking and socializing as it is actually watching races and betting on horses.

There’s nothing wrong with this in itself; however there does become a problem with it when Keeneland turns into a safe haven for binge-drinkers who are mindlessly throwing away sums of money that most of us, especially college students, don’t have.

A poll taken by Students Against Drunk Driving in 2005 showed that nearly 7.2 million people between the ages 12 to 20 would classify themselves as “binge drinkers.” This statistic, though to some may be startling, isn’t that surprising when looking out onto the field of tailgaters at Keeneland.

This same statistic applies to the thousands of college students that participate at UK tailgates during home and away games.

On my last visit to a friend of a friend’s tailgate, I witnessed a group of college guys chugging cheap beer out of plastic baseball bats, and then spinning around in circles and hitting the can in the air after making themselves so dizzy, they could barely stand up.

Now, aside from looking like complete idiots, these boys (as this seems to be the only fitting term for them) were participating in an act that gives Keeneland and UK sporting events a cool undertone that doesn’t always sit well with people who have been negatively affected by the consequences of binge drinking.

Binge drinking can lead to alcoholism, which in turn, can have devastating consequences, such as cirrhosis of the liver, drunk-driving related accidents and wrecked home lives. I bet the baseball bat-boys weren’t thinking about that.

College is a very stressful moment in life and needs to be put on the back-burner and forgotten during the weekends. However, in order to erase school from our minds, we don’t need to become belligerently drunk and make life-altering mistakes that could have been avoided if only we put the eighth Natty Ice down and instead played a friendly game of Twister — or whatever else strikes your fancy.

Keeneland, UK tailgaters and participants need to be reminded (every now and again) that alcoholism is a rampant addiction in this country that oftentimes starts because of a party-minded college culture that exalts making bad decisions. It turns drunken mistakes into laughable moments that are many times at the expense of others’ inability to exercise a morsel of self-restraint.

Drinking is not a bad thing. Chugging beer after beer, in hopes to impress the hammered sorority girl you’ve had a crush on all semester, is.

We’re supposed to be the people that set the standard for the rest of society. We’re the college-educated ones who are supposed to go on and get respectable careers and set examples for everyone else.

How are we supposed to do this if we let our most proud social events turn into nothing more than drinking-fests that are soon to be forgotten—probably by the next day to be exact?

Keeneland goers and die-hard UK tailgaters, have a beer. Hell, have two beers (just for being able to stick out a rather bumpy football season), but don’t lose all control.

Set good examples for those around you while keeping in mind that a good time never has to come at the expense of others or your own self-respect.