Sports Arena

Borzoi Ballet

Lots of good breeding was on display in Madison Square Garden the last few nights.

By 2.10.04

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It's been a while since Madison Square Garden has been the site of such sportsmanship and honorable competition, though maybe it was troubling to see the athletes plied with treats each time they took the floor. On the other hand, none of them demanded renegotiated contracts, nor did they snap at the judges, or trash-talk their opponents. The hardest thing to decipher was if the losers let it be known that they intend to return next year.

The Westminster Kennel Club's annual New York event continues to grow in stature. Perhaps the popularity of the brilliantly funny sendup movie Best in Show created new interest and viewers (a major coup for the USA Network). But whereas the movie had fun at the expense of the dog owners, in real life they remain bland and polite, so far as viewers are concerned. Odder still is that all the breeds on display are even more polite, if that's at all possible. What happened to the fierceness dogs are known to feign, especially when they find themselves among strange dogs in congested conditions? Instead they all behaved as if they were at a fancy New York charity event.

I have no idea which dog ultimately won top honors, nor do I particularly care. I'm just a lowly average dog owner, and so far as I can tell each one of the creatures is an absolute winner. What's more, I don't trust the judging, since the verdict in each of the seven rounds was handed down by a single controlling judge. How could he possibly choose between a tiny beagle and a horse-sized Irish wolfhound, both of whom competed in the hound division? And how could he have passed over all three of the various dachshunds? Same goes for the stern version of Lynne Cheney who judged the sporting dog competition. The most charismatic participant, the Irish Setter, had absolutely no effect on her, finishing in the back of the pack. Crueler still was her heartless rejection of the ever-sweet German shorthair.

Now I'm certain that most viewers watched purely to root for their favorite breeds, much like parents at school pageants adoringly absorb their children's performance. Years ago I had an Irish setter. He was all personality, an unforgettably good animal. So naturally there can be no better dog than one of his successors. I take it personally when his exceptional charms aren't immediately recognized and feted.

Same goes for dachshunds, though there are some who think my little girl dog would only win in a "Meanest in Show" event. For some reason her ears aren't as long as the ones on dachies you see on calendars or in Madison Square Garden. That's a flaw? So she's sometimes stressed, but who wouldn't be with a build like a centipede? In any case, her breed won no recognition last night, and next to no air-time. USA Network seems to prefer bland beagles, even playing up the difference between 13-inch versions and the 15-inch variety. One can bet Apple will soon come out with a 17-inch edition.

Maybe my favorites weren't elegant enough? Some of the breeds were dressed and groomed to the nines. One poodle could have handled the Super Bowl half-time show all by itself, with thick out of control hair around its neck and other such tufts mixed in among spindly shaved legs and a rear that seemed to be shorn of meat as well. Many long straight-haired specimens looked less like dogs than parade floats. So perhaps the sport is guilty of more excess than the average fan is aware of.

By the way, I should add that for all the prancing the dogs had to do around the floor (all but choking on leashes that demean them), I get to see real, spontaneous prancing at my home most every day. No not from our little dog, but from one of our cats, who never fails remind the world that he's not a dog and that you'll never get him anywhere near Madison Square Garden.

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About the Author
Wlady Pleszczynski is editorial director of The American Spectator and the editor of AmSpec Online.