They call it the Sport of Kings and bathe it with timeless romanticism but it leaves me as cold as the weather in the sporting capital of Australia. The Melbourne Cup is held every year on the first Tuesday in November. Believe it or not, punters, socialites, and various assorted horse people have been gathering at Flemington racecourse for 150 years. I have no idea why.
If you love horses, which I don't, then I can understand how joy is derived from watching them do what they do very well: run. If you love gambling, which I don't, then I can understand the ecstasy of winning money by betting on the outcome of a horse race. I leave aside the devastation, and the there-goes-my-hard-earned-money-down-the-toilet feeling, when you lose. Apart from these two pull factors, what is the appeal?
Which brings me to Melbourne Cup day when people who never even think about horses let alone speak about them with other people or waste their money betting on them, suddenly and miraculously, in a burst of communal euphoria, are overwhelmed by the excitement of the great event. People take time off work to attend the race itself or special luncheons/booze ups to celebrate something. And they dress up fancy. Man, do they dress up.
Here's a quick quiz. Can you name another occasion for which people don their best formal attire and take time off work in the middle of the week?
Funerals. People dress up for funerals, weddings and the Melbourne Cup. How often have you attended a mid week wedding? Never. That's because weddings aren't as important as the Melbourne Cup. It must be important because a total of $98.1 million was spent on bets at Tabcorp in New South Wales and Victoria.
All this adds up to either absolute collective madness, or just a bit of harmless fun in the true Aussie spirit. You can decide which but I think you know where I stand.