Failing the Test

Failing the Test

By Patrick F. Cannon

When this country was forced to go to war on December 7, 1941, not only was much of our Navy destroyed that Sunday morning in Hawaii,  but our Army would be unable to put any meaningful number of troops in the field for nearly a year. But the American people were aroused, and together did whatever was necessary to win the war.

            I was only three years and nine months old that day, but clearly remember the things we and other families did to support the war effort. There was food rationing of course. I remember – when I got a bit older – being sent to the nearby grocery store with a written list and a ration book. If you made bacon or other fat producing meats, you saved the fat in a container; when it was full, it went back to the butcher to be turned in to the Army to provide glycerin for explosive production.

             Tin foil was saved, as were scrap metals of all kinds. People turned in their aluminum pots and pans, which were needed for aircraft production. My father, although he had three children, tried to enlist, but had flat feet and was turned down. But because he was a city councilman, he did get a bit more rationed gasoline, so occasionally we would go for a Sunday drive. I remember being awed by the recently-opened Pennsylvania Turnpike, the first of its kind in the country.

            In 1940, there were 132 million Americans. Sixteen million of them – mostly men – served in one of the armed services. There were over a million casualties, including 407,000 killed in action. Almost everyone else was somehow involved in the war effort. As an example, Americans produced 300,000 airplanes, 50,000 tanks and 1,150 warships of all types; oh, and 34 million tons of merchant ships. Of course, there were some draft dodgers, profiteers and black marketeers, but the vast majority our citizens were behind the war effort.

            Contrast this national effort with today’s response to the pandemic and practically every other challenge we face. As of Monday, 580,000 Americans have died of the virus, yet only some 35 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated, and there remain significant numbers of our fellow citizens who refuse to be vaccinated because they claim it impinges on some vague principal of “personal freedom.” In fact, this refusal is basically a political statement. When the public health  becomes political, when ones “freedom” is more important than ones neighbor’s health and even his life, we have gone far from the kind of unity that won the war.

            Frankly, I don’t see much immediate hope for a country that is so profoundly divided. The far left and right are too entrenched in their equally radical ideas. The center no longer holds. Until it becomes strong enough to actually influence events, we’re stuck, really, really stuck.

Copyright 2021, Patrick F. Cannon

How Many? Good Grief!

How Many? Good Grief!

By Patrick F. Cannon

This will be the 284th week in a row that I have tried your patience by posting an article on Cannonade. I can’t imagine that anyone has read all of them, but if they did, they plowed through something like 155,000 words. During roughly the same period, I have written two books on Chicago architecture – The Space Within: Inside Great Chicago Buildings, published in 2016; and At Home in Chicago: A Living History of Domestic Architecture, which should be out in the Fall. The text for each runs to about 40,000 words. But most people think the best part of the books (and there are four others) has been the beautiful images provided by my partner, Jim Caulfield.

            By the way, I do know how to spell, sort of. The blog is titled Cannonnade because “Cannonade” was already taken. There has been no dominant subject for those 284 pieces, although quite a few have suggested that we have not been well served by our elected public servants, and a high percentage of the people they hire to do the actual work. Those of you who cook have been favored by my many unique recipes. It is my special hope that you would have tried my recipe for kidney stew. Once you get past the smell…

            You have also been plagued by the finished chapters of my ongoing History of the World. I am currently working on the American and French Revolutions. Next will come The Age of Napoleon, but it could be tricky as he was known to lie about his age. But I will persevere. I’m not sure when I’m going to stop, as I’m not sure I will be able to find much in the 20th Century to make fun of. Charlie Chaplin made fun of Hitler in The Dictator, but that was before World War II, and the Holocaust.

            I have also retold some classic jokes. My favorite is the one about the Académie Francais wrestling with the definition of “savoir faire.” Called “The Immortals,”  the search feature on the Word Press site might help you to find it, or I’d be happy to e-mail a copy to you.

            The animal kingdom has not been forgotten. I have written about the joys of owning dogs, and the pain of their passing. On a couple of occasions, I have shared my passion for Thoroughbred horse racing, which seems to be thriving everywhere but Chicago.

            Many of my readers have occasionally taken issue with my opinions. Thank goodness, because arrogance and pomposity often creep into my opinions. To tell you the truth, the longer I live, the less sure I am that I have found ultimate wisdom. Although I often wished it didn’t, the world stubbornly continues to change. And it’s just possible that most folks don’t really care what I think.

            Finally, sometimes I just can’t think of anything important or amusing to write about. This is obviously one of those weeks!

Copyright 2021, Patrick F. Cannon

Show Me the Money!

Show Me the Money!

By Patrick F. Cannon

European fans of the sport they call “the beautiful game,” and we call soccer, were up in arms recently when a dozen of its richest and most famous teams announced they were forming a super league that would make one and all really big bucks, and relegate the rest of the teams to scrambling for the leftovers.

            For those of you who know only the American brand of football, the one played by men and women running around in shorts has a unique peculiarity. Say you’re in the British “Premier” league. If you’re consistently at the bottom of the standings, you can be relegated to one of the lesser leagues, an indignity that our own professional teams cannot suffer. What if the Cubs and White Sox teams of the late 1940s had been punished for their mediocrity by being relegated to a Triple AAA league, and the Toledo Mud Hens and Hollywood Stars had taken their place?

            The new soccer league would have exempted its members from this possible indignity. But the real reason was bigger TV and sponsor contracts. In short, more income for the owners, some of whom are Americans who already own baseball and football franchises here. Not that the players are exploited. Both Christian Ronoldo and Lionel Messi pull down more than $100 million a year. Greed now oozes from the pores of owners and players alike.

            While the players and owners are fighting over their shares of the swag, fans here are contributing mightily to the pot. A quick check tells me that Cubs single tickets range from $27 to $53, depending on the day and opponent. A family of four can easily drop about $200 for a day at the ballpark. For those who like a brisker experience, a single ticket to a Bears game can run from $108 to $193. For that investment, you can watch the latest quarterback experiment fail.

            Going to a major league game – whether baseball, football, basketball or hockey – is no longer a spur of the moment decision, unless you are firmly in the top 10 percent of earners. Even then, you might hesitate. While some avid – and prosperous – fans might have season tickets, many are owned by corporations  and doled out to favored clients and customers.

            When we were kids, my brother and I would be given $2.00 to go to Comiskey Park to watch the hapless White Sox. This was in 1948, and that 2 bucks would cover the streetcar ride both ways, admission to the game and a hot dog and Coke. Inflation would make that $21.98 today. Good luck getting even a hot dog and beer for that today.

            As a result, most avid fans rarely see a game in person. And most don’t realize that even on television, they are enriching not only the cable and streaming broadcasters, but the team owners who sell the rights. And the cost of those rights keep going up, hidden in that expensive cable bill. I remember when fans used to rail against big player contracts. One rarely hears that today. Our ire is instead directed against the salaries of corporate executives, even though most of them don’t make as much as starting pitcher or quarterback (or midfielder, or whatever they call soccer players).   

            So, want to take in a Cub’s game today? Check with your banker first.

Copyright 2021, Patrick F. Cannon

Frankly, I Don’t Give a Damn

Frankly, I Don’t Give a Damn

By Patrick F. Cannon

At the end of Gone with the Wind, Rhett’s final words to Scarlett – who begs him to stay – is the classic: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” It’s hard to believe now, but that was pretty racy stuff for 1939.

            I know how old Rhett felt. At my age, I find that there’s a lot I don’t give a damn about anymore. There’s music, for example. Much of contemporary music, both popular and serious, doesn’t make sense to my ears. There are exceptions, but I find most rock, hip hop and rap vulgar and sometimes incomprehensible. I understand it takes talent to do complicated guitar riffs, but must they always sound the same in the end? Is a lyric a lyric if it’s not lyrical?

            Modern “Folk” music sounds as if it were composed and sung by the same person. Both the male and female performers play and sing as if real melody and poetic lyrics had been banned upon the death of Woody Guthrie. Listen to “Folk Stage” any Saturday evening on Chicago’s WFMT and you’ll see (and hear) what I mean. I’m not a fan, but Country music at least seems understandable and melodic. Finally, so-called serious composers have been indoctrinated by their teachers to believe that any sound is actually music, and that beautiful melody and regular rhythm are passe. Much of jazz has fallen into the same rut.

            The visual arts seem caught in a market-driven quandary. What is selling? What might be selling tomorrow? I kept up with the art scene until people like Andy Warhol and later Jeff Koons were taken seriously. Art as a factory; art as repetition. And while I can admire some its practitioners and their work, hasn’t abstract art run its course? Isn’t much of it just design, rather than fine art? By the way, if you want to read mostly incomprehensible prose, try art criticism. Thank God the museums haven’t taken down the work of those old white men (yet).

            As to the movies, I went more or less regularly before they closed. They still make movies about human beings and their struggles, but the real money comes from blockbusters based on comic book super heroes, and even super heroines. I stopped reading comic books when I was about 12, and see no reason to start again. But I am thankful that some directors are still concerned with the struggles of actual humans, so I will continue to seek these movies out.

            I know good and serious works of fiction are being published, but I no longer feel obligated to read them. I tend to read non-fiction, or reread favorites from my younger days. There is a tendency to devalue even great works of fiction because attitudes and beliefs in them don’t square with the so-called “woke” culture of today. Not to read Hemingway, Steinbeck and Faulkner – Nobel Prize winners all – because they sometimes expressed beliefs and attitudes we might now find distasteful, is to deprive oneself of some of the high points of American literary achievement.

            Which brings me back to Gone with the Wind. Apparently, when it is shown on television in the future, it will be preceded by a preface explaining that its depiction of African-Americans was an unfortunate reflection of a more racist time. I think it was the 1960s when I saw it for the first time. Amazingly, nobody had to tell me that it had been condescending to its black characters. I was educated enough by then to figure it out for myself. But if most people need to be protected against their historical ignorance, well, frankly, I don’t give a damn.

Copyright 2021, Patrick F. Cannon 

The “Hated” Opposition

The “Hated” Opposition

By Patrick F. Cannon

If you know your British history, you will know that the political party out of power is known as “Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.” They and the party in power will debate vigorously in the House of Commons, and even trade the occasional insult. Afterwards, they will often repair to the strangely named “Stranger’s Bar” for a convivial nip.

            While our own Congress never had a bar as such, it was once common for senators of both parties, for example, to gather in the Senate Cloakroom for a similar nip. Friendships across the aisle in both houses were once common, as was compromise. Now, if two sides were to meet in the Cloakroom, they might have to pass through a metal detector. We’re now told that Democrats and Republicans alike not only don’t talk to each other, but actually see the others as part of an evil plot to destroy the country.

            Alas, this animosity seems to have filtered down to more personal levels. Based on my reading of the “Dear Amy” advice column, it appears that many people feel under siege by the contrary political opinions of relatives and friends. Families have been torn asunder; kind of like the Civil War, or the White Sox vs. Cubs.

            Now, I admit there are some goof balls on both sides that I’d rather not associate with. But the fact is that I know and am related to people who voted for Trump, not because he was a noble human being, but because they agreed with his policies. Because he proved to be a liar and bully, a few decided not to vote at all the second time around. Some did, but were later appalled by his election denial antics. Just as they are appalled by President Biden’s spending spree (which gave me money I didn’t need).

            Regardless of their political persuasion, my friends are still my friends. The things that brought us together are more important than politics. They are inclined to help their fellow man; donate to good causes; and are often active in community organizations. They have reasons why they support conservative candidates. In most cases, religion is important to them. I also have friends on the other end of the political spectrum. Ditto for them. The lunatic fringe exists on both the left and right and must be ignored.

            This country works best when we try to understand the reasons why people choose one political philosophy over another, then seek to find  the common ground that makes progress possible. Drawing lines in the sand is pointless. In time, the wind always blows it away.

Copyright 2021, Patrick F. Cannon     

Tit for Tat

Tit for Tat

By Patrick F. Cannon

It should come as no surprise that Republican-controlled state legislatures are passing laws making it more difficult for many potential Democratic voters to cast a ballot. Given the same opportunity, Democrats will make it easier for their adherents to cast a ballot. And both parties are in the process of using 2020 Census data to redistrict their states to protect their legislative seats, both statewide and in the Congress.

            Illinois is a good example of the latter. Despite a lot of blather about “fair maps”, the Democrats will carve up the state to suit themselves. As they also control the courts, they have been able to prevent redistricting reform amendments from making it to the ballot, just as they have been able to prevent pension reform. In both cases, the majority of Illinois citizens favor these reforms, and sign more than enough petitions to place them on the ballot. The Illinois Supreme Court, with its Democratic majority, always finds a technicality to stop these citizen initiatives. You have to give them credit for imagination, if not for judicial integrity.

            It’s difficult to imagine that all these machinations are what the Founders (that much maligned group) had in mind. The concept of one man, one vote, has been transformed into “I only want to vote for someone who looks like me.” The districts that result from this flawed concept assume shapes that even Eldridge Gerry would blush at. Despite the fact that the US Supreme Court has held that creating districts along racial lines is unconstitutional, they have yet to find a way to prevent it.

            My US congressman, Danny Davis, represents the 7th District, which encompasses part of Chicago’s lakefront, much of the city’s west side, Oak Park, and bits of other western suburbs. It was designed to be majority African-American, as is Davis. If you look at the map above, you will see that it’s embraced lovingly by the 4th Congressional District, which performs astonishing feats of magic to insure that it will be majority Hispanic. It is predictably represented by Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.

            I have long held the naïve belief that you should select the best person for the office, regardless of sex, sexual preference, race or ethnicity. The only fair map is that which carves up the state (or city, for that matter) into contiguous districts of equal population. A good computer would make easy work of this. How can this seem a revolutionary concept? When the current system produces the knuckleheads who now so badly run most states and the country as a whole?

            And let me remind those of you who are so enamored of President Biden that if his “infrastructure” bill had actually been only about infrastructure as generally understood, the Republicans might well have agreed to negotiate, as they stand to benefit from the pork barrel just as much as the Democrats. But, who knows? Maybe the president will come to his senses and make what sandwiches he can from half a loaf.

Copyright 2021, Patrick F. Cannon

An Organ of Note

An Organ of Note

By Patrick F. Cannon

My spirited and legendary advocacy for the lamb kidney has insured my lofty place in the cooking Hall of Fame. Long a favorite among gourmets in such diverse countries as France and Ireland, the noble organ may yet find its place on the tables of our own United States, where it has long been despised.

            While most animal kidneys are toothsome and delicious, the lamb kidney is perhaps the tenderest and tastiest. Regular readers of this space will perhaps remember the recipe my dear Irish mother used to make her enviable kidney stew. Let me remind you of its simple preparation.

            After throwing open all the windows in the kitchen and adjacent rooms, and turning on whatever exhaust fans are ready to hand, cut two lamb kidneys into bite-sized pieces and drop into a pot of water.  As it simmers, skim the glob that rises to the top (your dog might well enjoy licking it up). When the glob ceases to form, add carrots and potatoes to the pot and continue cooking until they are tender. If you’re truly adventurous, by all meant add some pearl onions to the mixture. Serve in large bowls, along with some crusty bread to soak up the nectar.

            Kidneys are also favored by the French. I recall with pleasure dining on sautéed kidneys at the legendary Le Francais in Wheeling, north of Chicago (once considered America’s finest restaurant). Chef Jean Banchet cooked them with peppers and spices, with the centers still pink and moist. Ah, heaven! I have also tried Steak and Kidney Pie at various supposed Irish pubs, but usually found that only the merest of slivers of the noble organ were in evidence. Why do they bother?

            But kidneys are amazingly versatile. Here are some additional palate pleasers. First, you can substitute them for livers in your cocktail party Chicken Liver Pate. Chop them up, after trimming the gristly bits, and sauté them with shallots, garlic, and capers. Add some Cognac (use the cheaper VS you wouldn’t dare serve to your guests), then puree and refrigerate. Serve with your favorite crackers or little bits of bread. Beware of the guest who tries to hog it all for himself!

            The Kidneyburger is a staple at Chez Cannon. To ground kidneys, add cooked brown rice, chopped tofu, diced onions, and your favorite hot sauce. Mix and form into patties. Fry in finest lard. Place on burger bun and top with lettuce and tomato. A squirt of Cheese Whiz on top is optional.

            Kidneys are also highly suited to sweet deserts. One of my favorites is the raisin and kidney pie. Simply chop up a few pieces of kidney and add to the raisin mixture before pouring it into the pie shell. Most people find raisin pie too sweet; adding the kidneys mitigates this to a great extent. When I tell my guests what they’ve just eaten, I get great satisfaction from their interesting expressions.

            Another favorite of my guests is chocolate mousse au kidney. You make the mousse as usual, then fold chopped kidneys in just before serving. I can guarantee “oohs and aahs” from your delighted and amazed guests! And of course, the kidney, lettuce and tomato sandwich needs no explanation. You can increasingly find it on the menus of your better diners.

            And should you have a jar of marshmallow fluff in your pantry – but perhaps I should save this recipe for a future post. You may already have enough on your plate.

Copyright 2021, Patrick F. Cannon

As We Forgive?

As We Forgive?

By Patrick F. Cannon

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” You may remember this noble sentiment from the Lord’s Prayer. It’s a concept ingrained in Christian theology. No less a personage than Jesus Christ taught that if the sinner repents, and promises to sin no more, he can be forgiven.

            In this supposed Christian nation, God may still forgive the sinner, but almost no one else does. In a recent instance, 27-year-old Alexi McCammond – herself an African-American — was forced to resign as editor of Teen Vogue for tweets she had posted 10 years before as a teen-age student. Some of them involved snarky remarks about Chinese fellow students and teaching assistants, so were deemed racist. Apparently, 17-year-old girls cannot be forgiven for being immature, even if they apologize later, as Ms. McCammond predictably did. Maybe Christianity Today will give her a job. She can forget about the New York Times.

            By the way, that august newspaper is among those calling for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to resign. No more hypocritical than most politicians, Cuomo is accused of making unwelcome advances to young women, including some on his staff. Instead of giving the old coot a hearty slap on the face, or just telling him to act his age, they apparently make mental note of his transgressions until a braver woman comes forward publicly, then come out of the woodwork to pile on. By the way, Cuomo is a 63-year-old divorced man, old enough, I guess, to be considered a dirty old man.

            So far, he has refused to resign. If he does, it should be for fudging Covid nursing home death figures, not for being an idiot with women. After all, the country was happy to elect two serial sex offenders – Bill Clinton and Donald Trump – to its highest office. Talk about hypocrisy! I would guess that some of my readers voted for at least one of them in full knowledge of their sexual proclivities.

            Man’s inevitable sexual urges are now an issue in many now unforgiveable acts. Poor Charlie Rose was accused of luring women to his lair for immoral purposes and has all but disappeared from view. One day, the Charlie Rose Show; the next, reruns of Mister Rogers. Then there’s comedian Louis CK, who got his jollies by exposing himself and masturbating in front of bemused and/or appalled women. Pathetic, surely. Career ending? Why? He has apparently gone back to work. If he’s still funny, it should be OK to laugh at his jokes, just as people seem to enjoy Picasso’s work, despite his appalling treatment of women.

            As far as I can tell, none of these men committed an illegal act. If they did, why haven’t they been handcuffed and hauled off to the pokey? Being boorish and stupid has only ever been against the law of good taste, which is violated every day in every way by both sexes. Men who have crossed the line – Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby come to mind – have ended up in prison, as they should have.

            In the spirit of forgiveness, I’m even willing to offer absolution to Donald Trump, provided he admits his many sins, and promises to be better in the future. I concede I’m unlikely ever to be required to honor my generous offer. Who have you forgiven lately?

Copyright 2021, Patrick F. Cannon

Can You Repair the Past

Can You Repair the Past?

By Patrick F. Cannon

The question of reparations for the descendants of formerly enslaved Africans has returned to the front burner recently. Just a few days ago, Steven Chapman of the Chicago Tribune editorial board wrote a column about Chicago suburb Evanston’s reparation fund, which will be supported by citizen donations and its cannabis tax. Liberal Evanston – it voted more than 90 percent for President Biden – has an African-American population of approximately 15 percent, roughly the same as the country as a whole.

Coincidently, Monday’s Tribune included a letter to the editor from someone whose ancestors came to this country long after emancipation, never lived in a Jim Crow state, and couldn’t understand why he should have to pay for someone else’s sins. This is a common argument and there is some justice to it.

The more you know about the history of slavery in this country, the more complicated it becomes. Slavery was introduced in what is now the United States by the British, just as they introduced it in the Caribbean to provide cheap labor for sugar production. In addition to sugar, here it was tobacco and later cotton. It formed part of what became known as the “triangular trade,” which involved shipping goods from Britain to West Africa in exchange for slaves, which were then shipped to the West Indies and America in exchange for sugar, tobacco and other commodities.

The future slaves were largely provided by their fellow black Africans, who captured them during raids or as the spoils of war. Arabs were also involved in the trade, as were the Portuguese and Spanish. The British finally abolished the slave trade in 1833, or just 30 years before the Emancipation Proclamation. You can quibble with the numbers, but slavery existed in what was British North America for 264 years, and in the United States for 100. Taking all this in consideration, how would you apportion the blame?

Despite all this shared responsibility, if reparations are ever to be paid, it’s down to us. If we’re honest, we must admit that the Federal government and courts permitted Jim Crow laws to stand in the South, and did nothing to prevent more subtle segregation in every part of the country. The electorate, that’s us, was generally happy to go along. Anyone who has lived in Chicago should be aware that African-Americans were excluded from most white areas until fairly recently. And who can deny that many jobs were denied to them? Even when qualified?

Rather than pay reparations for the past (and how could you possibly compute that?), I suggest we invest in the future by paying the tuition and related costs for any African American  — regardless of age — who is accepted at any accredited community college, four-year college or university, or trade school. Since Congress is only too happy to send money to people who don’t actually need it, why not send some along to people who do?

In the meantime, if you don’t really need your Covid relief check, why not send part of it to the United Negro College Fund?  And, by the way, the answer to the question in the title? You can’t.

Copyright 2021, Patrick F. Cannon      

You Probably Don’t Care

You Probably Don’t Care

By Patrick F. Cannon

I thought I’d write this week about something few people are concerned with – Thoroughbred horse racing. It’s hard to believe now, but it was once the most attended sport in America. That was the case in 1957, when I first attended the races at Washington Park in south suburban Homewood. With its sister track in north suburban Arlington Heights – now Arlington International — it made the Chicago area one of the major centers of racing in the country.

            After Washington Park burned down in 1977, Arlington stood alone as Chicago’s preeminent track (both had been owned by the Lindheimer family). I won’t bore you with all the details (it involved bribing politicians), but the Lindheimer’s were forced to sell the track in 1968 to Gulf-Western, operators of New York’s Madison Square Garden, among other holdings. In 1983, it returned to local ownership when it was purchased by Richard Duchossois. In 1985, the original grandstand burned down; in 1989, the new grandstand opened. The track is now considered one of the most beautiful in the world.

            Some of the great horses who have raced at Arlington include Citation, Dr. Fager, Damascus, Buckpasser, Twilight Tear, John Henry, Round Table and Secretariat. Its Arlington Million was the first race in the world to offer that purse. This year, the purse has been reduced to $600,000.

            Alas, in 2000, Duchossois sold it to Churchill Downs, Inc. (CDI), in a deal that made him the company’s largest stockholder. Once race tracks were the only place to legally wager in Illinois, but by then it had competition from the lottery and casinos; now you can place bets on just about any sporting event, and play the slots at your local tavern.

            During most of the time they owned Arlington, CDI lobbied the state legislature to permit slots and other forms of gambling at the track, much as has been done successfully in other states. In the meantime, CDI bought Rivers Casino in DesPlaines. When the legislature finally passed a new gambling law in 2019, they declined to apply for a license, claiming the terms of the new law were unfavorable. The real reason was the track’s proximity to the Rivers Casino.

            Then, a few weeks ago, they announced plans to put the property up for sale, saying it was now too valuable for horse racing, and should be developed for a “higher and better use.” The complex, 386 acres in total, sits in Arlington Heights, IL, one of the Chicago areas more prosperous suburbs.  Arlington has promised to hold racing this year, and to find an appropriate place for its license. Since it was granted the license by the state, it doesn’t actually own it, so it’s a hollow gesture.

            The only track left in the Chicago area is Hawthorne, owned for some 100 years by the Carey family (I went to grammar school with one of them, Judy). Unlike Arlington, they have applied for a  gambling license and have plans to transform the track with a casino and more modern facilities generally. Currently, their purse structure is pathetic, even compared with tracks in Indiana, of all places. Their average purse is approximately $12,500 per race (on Saturday March 6). In New York, that average would be closer to $50,000. I checked on Gulfstream Park in Miami just yesterday and the average purse over 10 races was $37,500. You can imagine where owners and trainers with decent horses would rather race.

            The decline in Illinois has led to a decline in the state’s breeding industry. Doubling of purses at a revitalized Hawthorne (and at Cahokia near St. Louis) would not only attract owners and trainers, but might revive breeding as well. What the Illinois Racing Board should do in the short term is tell CDI “thanks but no thanks” and award this year’s desirable Summer dates to Hawthorne as a reward for their commitment to the Chicago area. Obviously, CDI – which of course still runs the Kentucky Derby – now sees thoroughbred horse racing as a business instead of a sport. When selling widgets makes more money than the thrill of a photo finish, you can kiss the “greatest two minutes in sport” goodbye.

Copyright 2021, Patrick F. Cannon