I Blame Kevin Costner
Posted by Larry Wallberg on 08/04/2010
Most of my readers take a dim view of blind faith. However, you may not have thought about this: It doesn’t always manifest itself as religious expression. There’s that whole Field of Pipedreams business about “if you build it, they will come.”
Yesterday, I was thinking about how stupid that phrase is when I was reading this article in the local rag. Let me give you the background.
In a little bit more than a month, Lexington will play host to the World Equestrian Games. The city is going nuts with excitement. For more than a year, hoteliers and restauranteurs and souvenir vendors have been counting their soon-to-be-made money.
If you have no idea what the WEG is (are?), you’re probably not alone. I’d never heard of it (them?) until I moved here last October. To put it simply: they’re a kind of Olympics for horses, a series of effete competitions that only equino-manes can enjoy: jumping and vaulting (fuck knows what the difference is), reining (horses, not cats and dogs), eventing (huh?), and endurance (although mostly of P.R. pros). And of course, there’s everyone’s favorite, dressage (playing with paper-doll ponies) and para dressage (playing with paper-doll parasites). If you’re really interested — but why would you be unless your name is Flicka? —you can find all the relevant information on Google; I’m not paid to advertise here.
Lexington is one of the horse capitals of the world, and hosting the WEG seemed like a good fit. The expectation around these parts was that the area would be overrun with furriners just dying to toss their funny-looking cash around. Downtown streets have been torn up, and are being rebuilt in preparation for the expected influx of alien tender, legal or illegal. Concerts have been arranged, because as everyone knows, Europeans and Asians need to experience our native culture: country music and Christian rock. High school bands will march and play (but not necessarily both at the same time), Kentucky’s Junior Leaguers will hold meet-‘n’-greets, and local eateries will offer special horsemeat buffets. Just kidding. (They’ll be serving the same plain ol’ horsemeat and grits that they always do.)
Unfortunately, the horses have been preceded by the horseshitters. Greedy hotel owners were fed plenty of fodder by the hucksters who swore that Lexington would be teeming with international currency just dying to be spent — literally jumping out of the sissy wallets carried by those crazy-talking strangers. But the story in yesterday’s Herald-Leader reveals that nearly one-third of all the hotel rooms in town, some of which have been marked up to nearly four times their regular price, are still unspoken for. As the saying goes: Foals rush in, but wise men save their bread. The town’s hotel-owners were clearly eager to make hay while the sun shines, but the globe’s horsey set hasn’t saddled up for the ride. So there’s plenty of hay, but not enough hayseeds.
As it turns out, The WEG buzz is just a variant on “if you build it, they will come.” Like all offshoots of that “plucky” but dumb saying, it’s as American as applesauce. It springs from the same mindless sensibility in which a 13-year-old appearing as a contestant on a televised talent competition can say, with perfect seriousness, “It’s always been my dream to play Vegas.” It’s a product of the same empty-headedness that gives celebrities the idea that they’re political pundits. “If you build it …” goes hand in hand with those bumper stickers in which parents express their irrational pride in their backward children.
Here in Lexington, the myth has taken a familiar form: “If you hype it, they will come.” But maybe not, particularly if you try to gouge visitors by charging inexcusably high prices during a worldwide financial slump.
I must admit that as a skeptic, I’m amused by the if-you-build-it mentality. Because, really: it makes no more sense than putting one’s faith in the existence of Mr. Ed. Only horses’ asses believe that kind of stuff.