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Velká Pardubická, which will be run tomorrow, is part of the long and fascinating history of horse racing. Unfortunately, horse racing is changing. So are newspapers, books and Western Democracy — and not always for the better. Photo credit: Czech Horse Racing.

Earlier this week, thousands of local football fans attempted to relive the cherished memories of their youth when they packed Stadion za Lužánkami for exhibition matches that featured FC Zbrojovka. It was powerful and touching, but it could not have been the same as the games in the past. Nothing is ever the same as what you remember.

The fact is that you can go home, but you can never go back again.

I have been feeling sentimental a lot lately. I have many reasons. Velká Pardubická, the biggest horse race on the Czech calendar, will run tomorrow and it has forced me to consider several scandals from the American industry. I have my 30-year high school reunion next summer. International news is more frightening every day. It’s colder and darker outside. And, definitely, the downheartedness is rooted in the fact that I will soon go to the central cemetery of Brno for a fourth funeral in the last 12 months.

I am not alone in my blues. Several acquaintances are dealing with complex life changes. Colleagues are stressing over workplace changes. Drivers seem more annoyed. Everyone seems to have been temporarily thrown by the recent rainy weather.

In any case, it simply seems that things are being inexorably changed, from the small to the large.

Newspapers

I used to love reading the newspaper while sipping my morning coffee. It is not the same with a laptop and the internet. This is not new, but it is something that I think of often, especially now that the institution of journalism is under attack from many directions as the every-morning-on-your-doorstep medium is dying out.

Books

Who reads an actual, hard-cover book any more? I carried one around for months to model behavior for my children. But I hate to admit that it is more practical and cheaper to read books on my Kindle. I’ll never take a hard-cover book on a tram again. It requires two hands. An e-reader requires just one.

Horse Racing

Velká Pardubická is a grand race with a long history. Thousands of people will be at the racetrack tomorrow and many more thousands will be watching the race on television. I’ll be at home this year with a plate of cannelloni, red wine and my Tipsport account.

It will be hard to watch the race, however, without remembering the many good times I enjoyed during the decade I worked at racetracks. The fact is that the American horse racing industry is teetering on the tipping point of extinction. Thirty horses had to be euthanized this winter because of injuries at legendary Santa Anita Park in Southern California. The Kentucky Derby had an extraordinary 22-minute Steward delay that reversed the order of finish because of interference. More recently, it was revealed that a Hall of Fame trainer may have been given a pass on a positive drug test, and the horse in question, Justify, went on to win the 2018 Triple Crown. Now, come to find out that Taylor Swift cancelled her appearance at the Melbourne Cup in Australia out of concerns over the treatment of the horses.

I have been in the barns and I can personally attest to the affection that trainers and jockeys have for their horses. It is a beautiful sport that will be showcased in all of its glory on Czech television tomorrow. I am not ready to give up on it, but it definitely feels as though the glory years are long since past.

Western Democracy

Perhaps the most consequential bit of collective existential crisis concerns nothing less than the connective tissue of international geopolitics. It is disconcertingly hard to follow the news from the United States. Every news alert brings a new sense of disappointment.

Regardless of political point of view, the state of American democracy is going through a crisis that will have ramifications for decades to come and that will continue the weakening of the liberal democratic foundations upon which many countries around the world are built.

* * * * *

This is my personal and unique list. Hopefully it is not too depressing. I am sure that all of us have a personal list of things that have changed — and not for the better.

For what are you nostalgic? Please share.

I hope that this column will provide thought-provoking observations of local life that will be interesting for a Saturday-morning read. If you have any suggestions or comments, please pass them along to bruno@brnodaily.cz.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors. The publishing of this article does not constitute an endorsement of or any other expression of opinion by the management of Brno Daily.

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