To serve the cause of accuracy and objectivity and set the record straight on harness racing, here is what I actually told Andrew Beyer in our lengthy interview quoted in the Oct. 18 Washington Post. So much was omitted that it gave a distorted view.
I told Beyer I rejected his theory of a harness racing decline, that a number of current indicators were up and encouraging, and that as far as on-track attendance is concerned, thoroughbred tracks are experiencing the same problems as harness racing, from Belmont Park in New York to Hollywood Park in California, for the same reasons: simulcasting, intertrack wagering, lotteries, off-track betting, changing wagering habits of the public.
I mentioned the threatened closing of Suffolk Downs and serious problems at Birmingham and Canterbury Downs and other running tracks. I pointed out that when off-track betting and the Meadowlands are included, as they must be, there is twice as much money bet on harness racing in the New York metropolitan area today -- $4 million a night to $2 million -- as there was 23 years ago when Yonkers and Roosevelt, without competition, were drawing 24,000 a night. Beyer's column carried none of this.
Beyer knows the Meadowlands' harness races in New Jersey will outdraw and outhandle the Meadowlands' runners this year, as they have for 11 years since the track opened; that Detroit's Hazel Park harness outhandles Detroit Race Course runners; that Chicago off-track betting is doing more business on harness racing than on the runners. He may not know, or at least did not mention, that Pittsburgh harness is up this year, Florida harness is up, Ohio harness is up, Maine harness is up and even California harness is up 15 percent in handle and 10 percent in attendance at Los Alamitos. Certainly he knows Rosecroft is up in its finest fall start ever.
Beyer's harness obituary, like Mark Twain's, was greatly exaggerated. His quotes of my remarks were accurate but sharply out of context, and he may have given the totally erroneous impression that I agreed with his conclusions. On the contrary, I think he was miles off base.
Stan F. Bergstein Executive vice president, Harness Tracks of America
Fun While It Lasted
It had been years since I saw a hungry team in Redskins uniforms, but for the previous three weeks, Redskins fans have been treated to a degree of enthusiasm not seen here since the Redskins won the Super Bowl. It has really been fun and my wife and I are two fans who will be disappointed to see the regulars return.
We've been told over and over for the past three weeks how inferior the substitutes are, and what wonderful players the regulars are. But I am unconvinced, and it's obvious that the Subskins are hungry. It would be great if we could keep the hungry team, and infuse it with a few regulars to shore up weak spots. Instead, what we'll get will be a complacent regular team (they've been telling us for three weeks how superior they are) who will still be as concerned with union issues as with winning.
I haven't missed a Redskins game on TV in 10 years and I've been on the waiting list for season tickets for years. But I'm not sure I'll watch when the Realskins return. I'm not sure I like them any more.
William L. Roberts Sterling
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