It was about five years ago when I first realized that I was too poor to even think about the Kentucky Derby. There was a story that Wes Welker had won big during the derby, and pictures showed him celebrating by giving away $100 bills, all while dressed like he was going to try and kill Thomas Shelby in the next season of Peaky Blinders.
Seeing pictures of people dressed for the Kentucky Derby, it looked like everyone was at some British royal event at Windsor Castle. But rather than being spectators, they all thought they were part of the royal family.
Every sport involves some form of cosplay. Wearing jerseys, painting faces, drinking, and eating so much that you can start to look like an NFL lineman. There’s nothing particularly wrong with dressing up for a sporting event, as long as you don’t go in a full uniform, and one of our biggest and most fun holidays is centered on dressing up as things we like. Dressing up can be an important form of escape.
But there’s hardly any escapism in the Derby. The event is funny because it seems like a time and space for fairly wealthy people to dress up like even wealthier people. It’s not like they’re wearing jerseys of jockeys or walking around with screen-printed pictures of the horse that they bet on. They’re just dressing like monarchs and then betting a lot of money, mostly to show that they have a lot of money to bet.
I just hope that none of these people dressed for the Derby harm Queen Anne’s rabbits or try to come between her and Rachel Weisz in 1708.
The fact that the race is less than three minutes long only makes the build-up even stranger. That pageantry doesn’t come close to matching the competition. The excitement of the Derby isn’t about horses racing as much as it is about the parties, cigars, private jets, and the experience of being rich and doing rich things. And I’m not here to determine whether it’s fine for rich people to flash their wealth, but the fact that doing so is part of the big attraction of the Derby makes it unlike any other sporting event.
Many people go to sporting events for the atmosphere. They often enjoy that part of it as much as the actual game. But there’s no other sport that is so tilted toward the lavishness of everything around the event itself.
The fact that the competitors aren’t human probably plays a part in that. You can only relate so much to animals. Projection is part of what draws people to athletes in other sports. But that lack of projection is essential to what the Derby has always been. The history of the sport is just rich people entertaining themselves by watching animals run.
As much as I tried, I couldn’t imagine myself being there. So what I’ve been left with is an excuse to enjoy a few minutes of action and laugh at the outfits. I have no interest in pretending to be a Duke or a Lord, and I don’t have the money to bet on any of the horses, but I do enjoy thinking of the attendees as Kung Lao if he became a fashion model.
So if you don’t mind:
This hat is the most elaborate self-defense weapon I’ve ever seen.
Exclusive picture of Billy Ray Cyrus when he got on the “Old Town Road” remix.
This is how Venusaur looks before unleashing a solar beam.
The shame of this hat is that I know deep inside that under the right conditions and amount of alcohol, I’d probably wear this while pretending to play the banjo.