Friends, I’m certain I don’t have to tell you that this weekend is none other than the illustrious 138th running of the Kentucky Derby in Louisville at Churchill Downs. Without doubt the Derby remains one of the most pristine and classic events in all of sports, steeped in tradition and a prevailing classiness with high fashion and high-end revelry being the order of the day. It is truly a place to see and be seen, a place to rub elbows with the well-to-do and upper crust, a place to enjoy the unspoiled tradition of the Commonwealth.
And then, elsewhere, there’s the Derby Infield.
If you’ve never been to the Derby Infield, let me break it down for you. Mere yards away from the bowties, the flowered hats and the delicately clinking flutes of champagne is another Kentucky Derby. Another world to which Derbygoers the likes you and I are banished. This will not be where shining, decked-out news anchors will be stationed, and it will not be where NBC sets up its cameras for ambient shots of Churchill Downs. For those of us who are the Derby Infield, there is a makeshift society all it’s own, a vigilante code of ethics by which we goons live. If you have a loved one visiting the Derby Infield for the first time, or if perhaps you yourself are visiting the Infield this weekend, I thought I might offer up a list of folks you’ll encounter in Cultural Anthropology: The Derby Infield. Steer clear of these stereotypes, blend in, and have a great time. Fall prey to these tempting personas at your own peril, however, and risk being swallowed up by the Derby Infield Culture itself. Just remember, Infield friends, that if you cross that track into the “Fancy Derby” that security has been cleared to shoot you on sight. I wish you, as always, the best. Have fun, gang.
1. “The Muddy Billionaire.” This person thinks that he needed to wear a suit to the Derby Infield. He was wrong. By 10:30 he will look like the Monopoly Man drug behind a Pontiac Vibe for a half an hour. Everyone knows the correct attire for the Derby Infield is cut-off camouflage pants and a t-shirt from Kid Rock’s Rock n’ Rebels tour. But you can’t tell the Muddy Billionaire this, because he’s sure he looks awesome.
2. “007&7.” This clandestine, liquor-sneaking superspy knows every trick in the book when it comes to smuggling booze into the Infield, Fake binoculars-flask. Pint of SoCo tucked into his waistband. An elaborate system of duct tape strapping a cheap jug of Gordon’s vodka to his chest. 007&7 is a good person to know when it comes to saving some cash on drinks, but only if you’re willing to drink a warm can of Bud Light which has been strapped to his inner thigh for the last forty minutes as he walked ten blocks from his parking spot.
3. “Our Lady of Regrettable Choices.” You can’t miss her — she’s the one standing on a bank of slowly-sinking porta-potties and raising her shirt for a crowd of iphone-wielding onlookers. Or kissing that guy she just met. You know, the one with the beard and do-rag. Our Lady of Regrettable Choices will seem to be everywhere on Saturday, providing YouTube fodder for weeks to come. Because “It’s Derby, and it’s time to party,” or something like that. Don’t worry about her, though, she’ll be just fine and back to teaching your eight year-old son or daughter at a nearby elementary school again on Monday.
4. “The Mayor of Shirtlesston.” You know what this guy doesn’t like about the Derby Infield? All these bothersome clothes. And how else will you see his tribal tattoo or fraternity letters if he’s not taking off his shirt for the world to enjoy? The Mayor hasn’t been spending all this time in the gym for nothing. On the plus side, he probably does a lot of boating. On the downside, he’ll probably lose the Oakleys resting backward on his neck somewhere by the end of the day.
5. “Guy Pretending to be Serious About Placing Bets.” You have to love this guy; at least he’s trying to bring a little bit of class to the proceedings. Unfortunately, if he knew anything about the horse industry, or was nearly as connected as he would like you to think he is, he’d be watching the races on the other side of the track with the likes of Desperate Housewives’ Teri Hatcher or Michael Jordan. Dazzle at how he studies his program! Be amazed by the names of horse farms he throws out! Smile knowingly as the horse you picked just because it reminds you of a hilarious story that happened to your friend comes in ahead of his!
6. “The Pee Guru.” An inordinate amount of liquid going into your body + a limited number of designated restrooms can breed discomfort. That’s why the Pee Guru is always able to help out by manifesting a new idea for you to empty your bladder, whether it be a far-reaching corner of the infield, strategically behind a structure of some sort, or simply by helping out by offering you an empty Snapple bottle and a blanket. He’s scoped out all the angles. The joke’s on him, however — what he doesn’t realize is that the Derby Infield is already covered entirely in a thin layer of urine.
8. “Bob Barffert.” I think this one explains itself. Steer clear.
7. “The Disappointed.” Keep an eye open for these folks, they’re everywhere. They’re from out of town — cousins, friends, old schoolmates. They’ve been impressing everyone in New York/Texas/Florida/Minnesota/etc that they’re going to the Derby for the last three months, and today they won’t see a single horse. You’ll recognize them by that disappointed look in their eyes: “My Derby experience wasn’t supposed to involve a Hepatitis B and a knife fight,” they seem to say. Welcome to the Derby Infield, America!