By: Sara Tumminia, Isabelle Jenner, Kevin Reese, and Alex Shea
“I’ve opted for fun in this lifetime.” – Bill Walton
Wow! We can’t believe all that has happened in the last 12 hours! Traveling all day on Saturday was definitely worth it. We started off the day with breakfast in the hotel, and then left bright and early at 9:30 AM for the Hollywood Bowl. Due to a minor setback, we had to find an alternate way in, which meant going through the fence. The Hollywood Bowl amphitheater is an amazing facility; with the Hollywood sign in the background. The architectural structure is very unique because the amphitheater is built into the ground, as opposed to being built from the ground up.
From the Hollywood Bowl, we took a nice bus ride to the Griffith Observatory. Terminator, Charlie’s Angels, Rebel Without a Cause, and Jurassic Park: What do these movies have in common? They were all filmed at the Griffith Observatory! This area provided us with a breathtaking view of the Hollywood sign, the mountains, the beautiful houses, and the LA skyline. This was probably the best place of the day for pictures with so many good views to take group pictures in front of.
Off to the Races! Santa Anita Racetrack was breathtaking. The grounds and track were impeccably clean, green, and beautiful. We met with Alfred Granillo, the marketing coordinator at Santa Anita, and he provided us with insight into marketing at the racetrack. Santa Anita Racetrack was built in 1907, has hosted the Olympics, and was even a movie set for Seabiscuit! Over the years, the track has made many renovations and improvements, but has still maintained the Art Deco façade and feel that fans have become accustomed to.
Horse racing is a family sport – at least it was to Mr. Granillo and his family devotion to it is what made him want to work at Santa Anita. That being said, the demographic of horse racing and the type of fans that frequent Santa Anita are older – 50+. The marketing department is always trying new things and using tools such as social media to attract a younger age demographic to the park. For example, Santa Anita recently held a scholarship contest with local universities that awarded a scholarship to a lucky student who happened to bet on the right raffle bucket that corresponded with the winning horse. The goal of social media, coupons, and contests is to raise fandom for the sport of horse racing among young people and boost attendance for the park. Win-win! Alfred continued to tell us that the marketing department runs their own user friendly website, graphics, sponsorships, and ancillary events in efforts to boost fan attendance and fandom for the sport in general. Ancillary events are what the track hosts to attract fans when there are not races going on. Some held at Santa Anita include Tokyo City Cup, the Ramen Festival, and Winner Circle BBQ Championship. Imagine losing 2,000 pounds of body weight in a year. That’s exactly what we learned when we met with a jockey named Aaron Gryder, who does that every year. Speaking with Gryder was probably one of the coolest experiences because of his insight and knowledge into a sport we knew virtually nothing about prior to our visit to Santa Anita. His grandparents were big time betters at the track and he knew he wanted to race horses since he was 4 years old but was scared. When he finally rode a horse at age 13, it was his fear of falling that kept him on. He left home at age 13 to live on a farm in Mexico where he learned to take care of horses. He then proceeded to get his horse-exercising license (which he lost succinctly). That didn’t stop him though! He still travelled to Tijuana, Mexico by himself at the age of 16 and raced there. He jockeyed in New York for 10 years but came back to Santa Anita, where his heart truly lied. Aaron Gryder is 5’6” (tall for a jockey) and has a strict 7-day workout and diet plan. To be able to compete at a high level, Aaron stated that he needed to maintain his weight between 113-115 lbs. Aaron has been a highly successful jockey throughout his career. He won the Dubai World Cup in 2009, which came along with a purse of $6,000,000. However, a very small portion of that actually goes to the winning jockeys. Jockeys are required to pay a percentage of their winnings to the owners, trainers, and agent (if they have one). In a typical losing race, a jockey may receive about $75, which after all is said and done, only about $30 goes into the jockeys pocket. Throughout his career, Aaron estimated that he has ridden about 30,000 different horses in races. Combine all this and it becomes clear that jockeys can overcome the obstacles and rigors of the sport because of one thing – the love of the sport. Our next and final speaker of the day was someone who had a small height advantage over Aaron. We drove south to Dana Point, to the beautiful Ritz-Carlton hotel, which overlooked the Pacific. We were ushered into a small room, where we were promptly met by the 6’11” Bill Walton, former UCLA and NBA standout. Bill took a little over an hour out of his day to instill life lessons and share wonderful anecdotes about his career and various hurdles he has had to overcome. One of the first things Bill shared with us were his three rules of life: never wear a tie again, tell his wife he loves her everyday, and don’t deal with fools and nonsense. It was amazing listening to someone who has such strong values and openly shared them with us, all with an enormous smile on his face. What was most inspiring was the fact that Bill has remained extremely positive throughout his life, despite being hampered by an exuberant amount of surgeries and a near death experience. Bill discussed how he has gone through 37 orthopedic surgeries in his life, as well as having major spine surgery after getting in a bicycle accident. Bill praised modern medicine, along with his wife, for giving him the strength to keep fighting and for the ability to get through all the hardships he has experienced. Bill talked about how he is the happiest he’s ever been right now, despite not playing the sport he loves and has made millions as a result of. His definition of happiness has four parts: health, family, a safe place or home, and the hope and dream that tomorrow is going to be better. Bill left us with a quote from John Wooden, “it’s the things you learn after you know it all that counts”. This truly summed up our time with Bill and ended an extraordinary day one.