TVG lowered the boom yesterday and canned some great television personalities; in particular dismissing on-air talent Bob Baedeker, Chris Kotulak, Frank Lyons, and Frank Mirahmadi as well as sixteen off the air employees. The official reason given by Betfair (which owns by TVG) is they are “restructuring segments of company operations, including streamlining some production roles.”
While it may be true that Betfair is restructuring to cut costs (they lost their number one niche as a result of the TwinSpires-Youbet merger) and have lost quite a few signals for their television network, don't kid yourself; the reason why the on-air talent was dismissed most likely has to do with a movement towards a younger generation to racing. It seems tattooed, barefoot people and silliness are in, classy experienced people are out. Plain and simple; what TVG did stinks (actually another word comes to mind).
Now, I am not a thoroughbred person, so a lot of times TVG would be turned on when I was bored or looking for a diversion. Bob Baedeker, known as Mr. B. was a quiet individual but extremely knowledgeable when it came to thoroughbreds; he added dignity. As for Chris Kotulak, he was one of the nicest individuals you would ever like to meet; he had such a pleasant manner about him and his forte was the quarter horses. I was not that familiar with Frank Lyons, but from what I did see of him, he appeared to be a little less reserved version of Mr. B. As for Frank Mirhamadi, who is also a track announcer as is Chris Kotulak, he was a more seasoned individual who was extremely knowledgeable with his racing as he worked for NYRA and other tracks before coming to TVG. Mirhamadi was the host of their Gate Crashers, which was a step back in time when you listened to races on the radio (necessitated by TVG not obtaining the rights to show certain California tracks live). Harness fans, can relax as Gary Siebel has escaped the purge; likely because he is their resident standardbred expert and most of their talent knows little about harness racing.
I understand TVG and racing is seeking a younger audience, and like the rest of television, looks is a big plus. But is it necessary to aim for the lowest common denominator instead of seasoned experience and dignity or is there room for some balance? The reason I bring this up is not only because TVG dumped these individuals, but because the very same question is going to have to be asked and answered by every racetrack which has a racing show. Do the Ellie Saramas' get dumped for a younger 'hot babe' version? The experience of a Hollywood Heyden or a Sam McKee replaced with some younger hip man? Do our racing shows become MTV-like?
"Well Dude, I really like that Lucky Jim. That hot trainer, Julie Miller has him ready for a big effort this week". Or "What about that horse Slow Poke being ridden by that cute jockey Chantal Sutherland? How can you leave her out of the Trifecta ?"
I know the future of the world belongs to the youth, and with racing, it better belong to the youth. Perhaps it is the fear I am about to be discarded by society (and it is a societal problem) for being over forty, but I would hope while we attempt to appeal to the younger generation, we don't completely consign those forty and over to the scrap heap. Hopefully, racetracks and ADWs are able to find that right mix of youth and experience.
Today it is TVG, tomorrow it may very well be your local racetrack. Whatever you do, please don't call me "Sir".