What it says on the tin
The Melbourne Cup can be seen as a marketplace:
· The race is the medium
· The horses are the brand
· The TABs are the sales outlets
· The punters are the customers
The benefit of purchasing a brand – ie. betting on a horse – is that it makes you part of a larger community and allows you to participate in the dominating discourse of the day.
Last year, I came close to not betting and it made me feel like an outsider. It actually was a reminder of the fact that I’m not from Australia. I ran up to the local pub and placed some bets and was awarded by an instant feeling of satisfaction and belonging, and the receipts were entry tickets to the platform of the collective consciousness, from which I could successfully interact with fellow punters. Participating provided me with a sense of belonging.
The horses aren’t separate brands; they’re varieties of the same one. Which horse or horses you bet on says something about: a) your knowledge about racing and the competing horses (some people are the early adopters who influence the odds and the decisions of the rest); and b) your willingness to take risk, and thus your personality.
These things, however, are of no importance. Today, there are two kinds of people: those who bet, and those who don’t. Either you’re in or you’re out. Losing is what unites us, much more so than winning.
Melbourne Cup is a positive event which should use its status to actively include everyone. For me as a Norwegian, it helps me to acculturate. I do, however, wonder whether it may be a negative experience for those who come from non-western cultures.
If the act of participation signifies being a true Aussie, the organisers have a communication issue to be taken seriously. A. national event like this receives massive media coverage, and while it alone may not be sufficient to make outsiders of immigrants, the event may become an unwilling contributor to a larger trend where ‘Aussie’/’not Aussie’ becomes the deciding trait by which insiders and outsiders in society are defined and polarised.
OK, off to see the race now. Good luck!
Update: My money was on, amongst others, Warringah. It lead the entire race, but finished last!! I lost money, but it gave me something to talk about with the guys I met in the lift who also lost. A $40 conversation. I didn’t really feel like talking to guy I know who won.