Frank Vespe of The Racing Biz brings Nestor the same great inside information that WNST-AM 1570 listeners are treated to every Saturday morning from 10-11 a.m. With another Preakness coming (and going), here are some realities of the Triple Crown and the horse racing industry that can’t be ignored.
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Nestor Aparicio, Frank Vespe
Nestor Aparicio 00:01
Looking back at W and S T, Towson Baltimore, it’s Preakness week I got an extra bounce in my step I’m gonna shave up, put my jacket on look all pretty. Then on Tuesday we’ll get together on fallston we’re all the horses are will be at the local well doing the Maryland crab cake tour all presented by the Maryland lottery. I have to say it’s a lottery scratch offs. It’s a throwback from the 50th anniversary, the first ever scrote scratch offs. They’ve been lucky I’ve had a lot of winners and we have winners that fade these we have winners the captain Larry’s, I have winners. The crab race this week that it likes in the markets we are giving away some tickets will be given those winners in fallston also our friends at window nation 866 90 days when you buy two you get two free it’s five years 0% financing putting us on the road for the Maryland crab cake tour and many many crab cakes and oysters and like it will thirsty this time your superior to wash it all down. We’ll be doing that. I’ll tell you what, it’s Saturday is the 148th Ronnie I know that because John Wade had a pee 148 behind him all night on Monday night. I got to hang out with this guy a little bit and all sorts of my track dogs. I mean, she cute. The great Gary quill was in the house, reminding me that I once gave him my Alex Lifeson red jacket that he wears every Preakness. So if you see a guy wearing the red jacket from Alex license exit stage left video of 1981 it is Gary quill. This guy has been doing racing there for a couple of weeks. If you tune in on a Saturday morning, you hear our golf guys from Charlotte from eight to 10. And then Frank brings a very, very local flavor to what’s going on here in Maryland. He was a part of the John Waite and the post position draw and only have one beer although it was a lovely, lovely evening out in Hale Thorpe where they brought the ponies together. How are you Frank, that’s been a pleasure to have you on always pleasure to have you on a Saturday mornings as well around here and I know you’re following the horses a lot more than just this Saturday. Here.
Frank Vespe 01:51
I am. Thanks for having me on Nestor. I appreciate it. And it was good to see you last night. Had you guys enjoy John. Wait, you seem like you were into it better to see my
Nestor Aparicio 01:59
wife always than me. And but Yes, John, wait was great. You know, I’m going to have David on from the thoroughbred folks who put the event together. I saw politicians. I saw horse racing people. But I saw something that look you’re an old school or like me and you’re in I mean, you know, you can give everybody your background and your credibility in the horse racing space. But it’s like I told Marty McGee this morning. It’s like I’m gonna tell Dick Gerardi and Bob Baffert text me five times from the post position draw Monday not apologizing that he’s not coming on this year, because he comes on every year. But there are those of you who live this and it’s a hard life and it’s a hard business and everything. All of my lifetime feels like it’s stacked against the race. The Preakness horse racing, doping. The problem is you have a Churchill person’s triple crown. No one else but mage come into the race. But on Monday night, I get all wistful again. I see a dude dressed as a legitimate Black Eyed Susan, which was hilarious. And I get the spirit of what I’m doing the crab on the honorary ambassador crab jockey, whatever the hell that is. I’m in fade Lee’s on Wednesday this week, man. I want the Rambo. We’re positive. I like Monday nights with John Waite where people can come out and celebrate Preakness knights.
Frank Vespe 03:20
Yeah. No, it’s you know, as you said, there are a lot of issues facing raising a lot of issues facing Maryland racing in particular, but but this time of year, this moment this week is is is a time to celebrate and a time to be positive. And you know, it’s it’s a great race. It’s got a great history, a great tradition behind it and people enjoy it. Not, you know, people in Baltimore, people in Maryland, but also horsemen coming in from out of state, they always say this is my favorite of the triple crown race.
Nestor Aparicio 03:51
That to me for 25 years, and he literally means it. He’s like we come in people are nice to us. We get a crab cake. It’s it’s manageable. You know, it doesn’t feel like the derby is just, I mean, the derby.
Frank Vespe 04:06
I’ve been several times and the first time I went, I said, this is the greatest thing I’ve ever done. I gotta do this every year. And I did it like three or four more times. And by the end, I was like, I don’t need to do this ever again. I mean, the Preakness. the Preakness is the best of the three triple crown races in my opinion as as a guy who attended for years as a fan and a batter and now work at it, but it has as you were saying it’s got it’s got a more relaxed vibe. It’s not quite as chaotic as the Kentucky Derby. It’s, it’s uh, you know, in days like today, you know, earlier this week before it gets even more chaotic early in the week. It’s so great to be out on the backside because people are relaxed you get to talk to the connections are just kind of hanging out. They don’t have a lot to do. It’s just a nice vibe. And so I’m I’m a fan Preakness
Nestor Aparicio 05:00
well give everybody your background in horse racing and how you get to this to get to this honestly. And then, you know, I went down the backstretch and around five turns with with Marty McGee earlier this week about the Baltimore Sun and 1980s and Charlie Ackerman and Chris Thomas and Andy buyer and Clint Florio and just all of that, that, that means a lot to me. The race means a lot to me, and, and I’ve seen all aspects of everything sort of deteriorate. While I’ve spent this week talking to the Randy Moss and the Donna brothers and, you know, on and on and on trying to breathe a little life and a little interest into it outside of the people that are already interested in. You’re obviously very vested very interested, your show airs here each and every week. But but give me a little flyover for your interest in it. What keeps you going and how my audience may be engaged this week to fall in love with it either for the first time or all over again.
Frank Vespe 05:56
Well, so I started in racing as an adult as just a gambler. I liked betting on the horses I learned from an older relative who kind of taught me the lay of the land and we started coming. I went to Saratoga together, then we started going to the Preakness together. And so I started that way. And then maybe about 1012 years after that had started. My wife came to me one day and we had gone to the Kentucky Derby and she enjoyed it. And she handed me like a prospectus to own a piece of a racehorse. And so what do you think about this? And I like that it was manageable price. I said, Okay, sure. Let’s try it. And from there, I gradually lost my mind. And you know, started with Pacific
Nestor Aparicio 06:41
Iraq belt buckles, you can ask anyone, so yeah, it’s possible. You know, I lost my mom with baseball, and football and hockey and sports and ready, you know, I mean, once you die, but that’s life, right? You want to be passionate about
Frank Vespe 06:53
the right thing, like literally. And then so I started running some racing partnerships. And as I was doing that, you know, I was watching a, you know, in the Washington Post, and The Baltimore Sun were pulling away from covering racing, and it was kind of disappearing on TV. And I said, there’s a niche here like to cover sort of mid atlantic horse racing. There’s tons of racing in Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, and New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and nobody’s covering it, like the mainstream media has pulled away from racing everywhere. And the racing media here in the racing media, just doesn’t pay much attention to the Mid Atlantic, because the bigger raises are New York and Kentucky, whatever. And so then I started the racing biz about 10 years ago, which the racing does.com is the website. And we’ve got we’ve always had a radio show in Virginia this year, we added one here on Baltimore positive on your show on your station, off to the races every Saturday at 10. So, so I’ve been sort of involved in a serious way in racing for about 20 years now. All right,
Nestor Aparicio 07:56
so you’re involved in racing, you do the show, and what does this week mean? And for me, having monitored spend the buck at the beginning of my media career 1985 And
Frank Vespe 08:11
two of monitor as well as the first one? Well, Victor already,
Nestor Aparicio 08:14
you know, he’s also, you know, going to be on this week talking about how that got into Philadelphia park and you know, all the Baltimore guy the whole better on the backside, the whole deal than all these years later, the Preakness still sits here. And sort of the original sin of the modern era is now horsemen worth his salt really wants to run his horse in two weeks anymore, whereas you stay at these maidens and claimers and, you know, you’d run these horses 1520 25 times a year, back in the day $5 billion $5 million horses and stake owners and and all these people that put all this money in a million dollar horses, they don’t want horses injured, they don’t want and obviously, the animal rights folks are very, very involved in the industry as they were the Greyhounds, as they have been with the circus and other industries that involve these creatures. You obviously love these creatures. My wife loves these creatures I was was Ross pet accord. The other everyone loves the creatures, right? Yeah. But bringing the creatures to Preakness shipping them running them in 14 days. It’s just something that doesn’t smell good to a lot of people.
Frank Vespe 09:20
I think you’re right about that. I wrote about this a year ago on the Racing does that look 50 years ago, which is approximately when they sort of solidified this schedule of the Triple Crown races they did
Nestor Aparicio 09:35
it for Howard Cosell?
Frank Vespe 09:36
Right and I know that
Nestor Aparicio 09:38
well. No, they did it for AB state did it for television. They did it to have something that would get people Yeah, I mean, it was a sellable vote triple crown. And hey, man basketballs not caught on hockey. So nothing at that. There’s no March matches, right. Let you know baseball’s October Super Bowls. Let’s own Something let’s own at Masters is over. Let’s own six weeks to tell. I mean, come on. That’s how this was a Roone Arledge. It has to be right. I mean, make sense.
Frank Vespe 10:11
I hadn’t heard it or thought of it but
Nestor Aparicio 10:15
racing really is a kid was secretary and 73. Seattle slew affirmed. Aladar spectacular go through those names, right? I was six 810 1112 years old, and it’s fed me for a lifetime that I’m interested in it. But other people aren’t the people mean, it’s you know how it is. It’s this thick and this wide. And not. We used to be every Oriole fan, every cold fan was all into the Preakness. 120,000 strong going out there. I don’t look, I wonder this with the Orioles all the time, you know how it comes back and how it got away. But when you don’t bring the best sources, you’re right.
Frank Vespe 10:54
Yeah, no, I mean, this is an issue. What I was gonna say it’s like, you know, that schedule was perfectly attuned to the way people handled horses. 50 years ago, when Secretariat won the Preakness, he had run the Gotham then two weeks later, the wood Memorial. Two weeks later, the Kentucky Derby two weeks later, the Preakness that’s what you did with a good horse you ran. Now you don’t. Now none of these horses will have raced in less than four or five weeks between starts. Until this race, and that makes it hard, it’s going to be hard to convince a lot of horsemen that this is a good thing to do to come back on two weeks rest when they’ve never done it with their horses before. And then as you reference, you got all the animal rights issues, you’ve got this sort of white hot public scrutiny of the sport. We got to be doing everything we can to not just take care of the animals, which most horsemen do a tremendous job of, but to demonstrate to the public that we’re taking care of the animals. And I just don’t know that, that this schedule, the schedule doesn’t jive with how people handle horses anymore. I don’t know that it jives with what the kind of treatment people expect from us now.
Nestor Aparicio 12:08
I’ve seen so many written things frank about you know, not just this is how to read, divide, redistribute the American League East or the NFL. And you know what division you need to be at, but there’s no sanctioning body for this in that way. And this was really the Achilles heel. When the liquor companies got together in the industry got together back in the 80s, on visa putting money together to say, All right, we’re going to over incent you to win a triple crown, and to not race at the winner of the derby at the Preakness because there’ll be a whole lot more money in it for you. If you get involved in all three races. To your point, there’s no outrageously incentive incentive, like let’s say, the live golfer guys, where you’re just being overpaid to a ridiculous amount of money to maybe risk your animal or your ownership stake in the animal or to win the glory of the Triple Crown, whatever that value may be, at this point. Now you can ask Bob Baffert, the value of you know, American Pharoah versus big brown or Smarty Jones or horses that didn’t get there at the Belmont right. But to rethink this for the dare I say that I would use a baseball EDM for the good of the game, you know, I mean, is there really anybody there is no sanctioning body, not even a Don King to sort of put it together and say, Hey, man, let’s be reasonable about this. And why is that? Why, why can’t everybody sort of come together and find all the money and bring it all in house? Because I’m gonna Churchill’s fight with Baffert. Right? Like, it is one big game of everybody fights with every
Frank Vespe 13:49
other zoom and how it’s amazing. Like when you talk to people, I remember when I first started getting involved talking to somebody, well, I’m saying, well see the horsemen and the breeders hate each other. And then everybody hates the track. And they were kind of looking at me, like, are you on another planet? These are all the same people. I’m like, Yeah, but they all hate each other. And I walked all the stalls, right. I mean, and racing is just like, you know, you got one issue, which is that it’s state by state regulation. So that’s had, you know, certain impacts on the way tracks are owned and operated. But then you just have this sort of history where they’re all their own islands doing their own thing. And, and look to your point, you were talking about the the visa, the Triple Crown series of the bonus money that was attached to it. We can’t even manage that anymore. We can’t get the Triple Crown tracks to work together on anything anymore. You know, I remember having this conversation I think last year about the the timing of the races and and I said I think the Preakness should be at least a week later, maybe two weeks later than it is and and the response was, Well Naira who wants the Belmont, they’re not going to move so you’re kind of stuck. back there, you know, it’s kind of like,
Nestor Aparicio 15:02
can I ask you this traditional sports fan, right? Like, I’m a football fan, you’re a football fan, right? For all the nonsense with Dan Snyder, even with the shot he’s done to me or what, you know, Mark Davis did in Vegas or what any of these creeps do it all sort of goes to Roger Goodell. Right. And then Roger Goodell makes decisions along with these white men to have a draft here have a Super Bowl there, cut the pie, fight with the Players Association, but there’s very little doubt who really runs it. And in that sport, I wouldn’t even say media runs it because they run the media, right? Like whether it’s Amazon or YouTube or Fox TV or whatever they’re getting out. They’re pulling all this money in, but you at least see where the power is. And whether it’s good or bad, right or wrong, evil or kind. You sort of at least know it goes to these rich white guys and Rajic there’s one person I’d say a sanctioning body. Same thing with baseball with Rob man for whether it’s all the owners or whatever. in horse racing, there’s never been that. Can I’m just asking you as the expert who does a show here on Saturday. who really runs it? I mean, like who really is the guy? Is it Churchill? Is it naira? Is it Bob Baffert? Is it television? Is it whoever writes the biggest check? And I don’t know if that’s Yum, I don’t even know. I don’t know if the car brand like who bets the biggest on, not batters. But who’s all in on this, that could bring three or four people or five people into a room and say, we really control this, let’s figure it out, even if we hate each other, because it always seems to me that it feels like it has to go that direction. It’s what kill boxing. You know what I mean? Like, and it’s the sports baits. What’s killed baseball, is that the players and the owners have aided each other for 80 years and can’t. That’s why the stadiums are empty. Now. They’re all making money. So they sleep better, but it hasn’t made for a better game.
Frank Vespe 17:01
Yeah, no, it’s a good question. And that’s really a it’s a big issue in racing is it it is, to a large extent a rudderless ship. And so there are more it’s more like there are power centers. So Churchill is a power center. They own multiple tracks. They own the Kentucky Derby, which is the most important event. The Stronach group, which owns Laurel and Pimlico is a power center, they own the Preakness they also on Gulfstream Park in Santa Anita in California. The Breeders Cup is
Nestor Aparicio 17:30
a second. Let me cut you off without words. Yeah. So Stronach if he’s not a king. He’s a queen, but not a he’s not a pawn and he’s not. He’s not a rook or a bishop. Right. I mean, like, like, as far as powerbrokers. He’s in that conversation for real.
Frank Vespe 17:46
Let’s clear. Yeah, I mean, Frank is largely out of the family business. Now. It’s his daughter, Belinda. But they’re they’re in these conversations. I mean, a major reason. major reason, for example, that there was a federal federally created horse racing integrity and Safety Authority, which is going to oversee drugs and stuff. A major reason that came to be is the Stronach group, put some weight behind it
Nestor Aparicio 18:14
to keep going. I didn’t mean to interrupt, but I’m like, No, I don’t think I think of them as being further down the pecking order so much that the Preakness does kind of get screwed a little bit, you know what I mean? Like if they had more juice, and more respect and more power, maybe they’d move this race to July, and to say, will be the third part. I don’t I’m making that up. But I, I don’t know where this is, but it’s not good enough. Right now. It’s not good enough to grow.
Frank Vespe 18:42
I, I think I can’t speak for them. But I think they’re, they’re trying to figure out what they want to do a, you know, Nestor, to be honest, and there’s chatter that maybe they’re getting out of the Maryland business altogether. Or maybe they’re pulling back and creating an opening for somebody else to run the tracks at least part of the year, to raise some of those dates. There’s a lot of uncertainty in the industry.
Nestor Aparicio 19:10
Because for Marilyn because we need somebody that is powerful, right? You know, you don’t want to lose your labia and your interest in it. And certainly, when you talk about Santa Anita and Gulfstream, I’ve been to those places, and they feel big. They I mean, when you go to them, they feel like okay, you should have some juice if you own these tracks, to be able to at least manipulate your piece that makes this better for everybody better for themselves, you know, and so give me keep going you have powerbrokers. I was going through all of this. I want to find out who who are the gods?
Frank Vespe 19:42
Well, so you know, you have the ones I mentioned, you got the Jockey Club, which is the breed registry. They’re the ones who determine what is and is not a thoroughbred and they keep the names and stuff. And then breeders I think, you know, the interesting thing is, in certain respects, the breed eaters and I don’t mean like the Maryland breeders who breed a couple horses, I mean, the big Kentucky breeders, there’s a lot of money there. And there’s a lot of power there. And a lot of the issues, you know, a lot of issues in racing, and the sales companies, that’s the other one I should have mentioned, there are a couple of
Nestor Aparicio 20:16
damages, the sport damages, their ability to make revenue right at that level, because I’m thinking we are the breeders involving?
Frank Vespe 20:24
Well, when you get a little bit as the tragedy of the commons, because you’ve got, you know, there are a lot of, as you know, in a lot of things in life, there are short term decisions you make that are good for you in the short term that have long term consequences that are greater and potentially damaging and, and what we’ve seen, for example, over the years in terms of breeding is a shift away from breed to race, which is what most people used to do, to breed to sell. So now most breeders are breeding, not the local guides, but like the Kentucky farms, they’re all breeding to sell those horses before they ever raced. Well, that gets you to breeding a certain kind of horse with certain characteristics. For example, for example, early to race, you know, April, a window and six furlongs as a two year old, which is fine, but it may not be the sound as model may not be the model that goes on farther. So you get a lot of kind of horse racing is very good at making short term decisions and not necessarily considering the potential consequences down the road apiece, and, and so so you get a lot of that. So so there are these kinds of different power centers. But there is no power, there is no Roger Goodell. There’s no handful of guys who can make the decision and just say this is how it is because it’s it’s in all of our best interests.
Nestor Aparicio 21:44
My best piece here, he does a racing show here each and every Saturday from 10 to 11. I encourage everyone if you love racing, you want to learn about racing a little bit, no stay current on racing. We’re staying current around here at wn St. and Baltimore positive check it out out on the live stream today. And 1570 Saturday 10 to 11. You can also reach out to Frank and his crew for all things racing through that. So what’s good about it? Tell me what’s good about racing right now. I mean, this is your life and you love it. And you’re obviously very, very involved in it. We can see the problems in it. Saturday’s what’s good if the weather holds up, right. And it’s a beautiful day out there. And you have to have a good Bruno Mars and my wife gets to wear a hat. I mean, I love the Preakness.
Frank Vespe 22:28
Oh, it’s a it’s a great event. And I think one of the things, you know, look, I as I said, I came in racing through gambling, I think it’s the greatest gambling game. If you if you like, you know, like people liked
Nestor Aparicio 22:40
it and figured out how to gamble on baseball yet, Frank. So you know, yeah, I mean, if
Frank Vespe 22:44
people like to bet on sports, like horse racing is a better gambling game. Because it when you learn to read the past performances, they tell you a story. It’s, it’s a little like, you know, if you talk to an accountant, he looks at a balance sheet and tells you a story from it. And you look at it, and it’s just like a bunch of numbers. That’s what the past performances do. If you learn how to do it, it becomes the greatest gambling game. Plus, you’re not gambling against the house. You’re gambling against other morons like me. And so I always sort of feel like I can find enough morons to beat I’m usually wrong about that. But But I already
Nestor Aparicio 23:18
would always tell me back in the 80s and 90s Oh, man, Preakness day, it’s when you clean up because the drunk people are betting? Yeah, no, like, yeah,
Frank Vespe 23:26
you find out and have a lot of days like that and racing anymore. So that’s one thing that I love. Another thing that I really love about racing is he lives in this place where like, where people and horses come together, you know, and so it’s not just about people. And it’s not just about horses, it’s about the interaction and the kind of symbiosis between people and horses, that relationship and that can be a, it can be a really cool thing. It can be a really moving thing at time. So I think that’s good. And the other thing is, being the characters back there, I mean, you know, this the characters on the backside. It’s like walking into a Damon Runyon story. And, you know, here’s, you know, Sky Masterson, and you know, those guys singing for 10 horns. I mean, it’s just, there’s some great characters in racing. And so it’s just endless material, endless, endless humor, and people are good humoured about that. And so, those are things that I that I say are are good. And you know, I used to say this about I grew up playing ice hockey, and I always said like, if you get it if you get like a six or seven year old boy to a hockey game when they’re young, you know when they’re that young, you will have made a hockey fan and I kind of feel like if you if you get kids at the right age to the racetrack, you probably going to make a racing fan.
Nestor Aparicio 24:45
Well, I’ll tell you what, I’ll have a nicely nicely reference for his Sky Masterson. And we’ll do some guys and dolls. I had a really good theater teacher in high school named Bob Riggs who, who brought me down with all that stuff. A Fright Fest was here on Saturday doing the racing show, talking about Your business and how to find you and the other 51 weeks of the year. And obviously, you’re around here on Saturday as well. And we’ll be here on Saturday with a full preview for the Preakness. Yeah, now
Frank Vespe 25:08
we’re excited about that. Looking forward to that we’re planning among other things, we’ll have the Kentucky Derby one of the owners have made for the Kentucky Derby winner is going to join us so looking forward to that. But yeah, as you said,
Nestor Aparicio 25:21
Venezuelan people there now be cool to them right now. You guys are
Frank Vespe 25:25
these guys are tremendous. I mean, it’s just they’ve been so generous with time so accessible, and it’s such a cool story. I mean, it’s it’s a great story, and I haven’t a lot of fun with this one. So I
Nestor Aparicio 25:37
still see Jack Nolan every year and he’s got the best stories, but you know, I mean, there’s the winners of these races and being around them for so many years on the back. From the time I saw Charlie Willingham with Ferdinand back there beautiful chestnut. And you know, Dewayne Lucas and Nicky Zito and just the connections the horses I know why you love it and why you’re immersed in it just not in my it’s not. Baseball was in my bloodlines on horse racing and then football but, but I always I’ve never had a bad day at the track.
Frank Vespe 26:09
Honestly, you can’t have a bad day at the track. By the way. I knew a little bit Dave man who was one of the funny side guys with with Jack Knowlton. And one of the first times I met him he was saying, you know talking about funny side I said I had that I had funny side and the derby. I loved him in the derby. And his immediate response to this is a total horse race like they was well then you must have had the exact us.
Nestor Aparicio 26:32
Right, exactly. So anyway,
Frank Vespe 26:35
so you can find us on your station 1011 Saturday’s off to the races. Also the racing biz.com online we cover Mid Atlantic racing. So it’s Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey, Pa so so racing all through the mid Atlantic, we’ve got plenty of handicapping. We got Preakness profiles of every horse got all kinds of coverage going on right now about Maryland racing and all year long about Maryland and throughout the Mid Atlantic
Nestor Aparicio 27:02
make you want to go watch Guys and Dolls and Technicolor and sing a little bit but greatness is here this weekend. John Waite was in. My wife’s favorite performer Bruno Mars is at the Preakness which is pulling us to old
hilltop you gotta come hotel top. Yeah, never gonna go
Nestor Aparicio 27:19
see the boating Saturday night. We’re gonna make it a daily double. There’s a little racing for you there. We will do that with you know, it’s funny how many idioms that I probably use that are down the stretch they call it either way. I pray this is in town. Frank’s here. So many of my racing buddies are dearly departed, and I’ve mentioned many of them this week in conversations with Marty McGee and digerati. But we still love you old hilltop and Preakness. Hi ho Pimlico all week long we’d be doing around here I am Nestor. We’re doing the Maryland crabcake tour up in fallston. At the local on Tuesday, we have a whole schedule all summer long. We’re gonna be coming all over the place our beauteous health or Glenburnie Timonium Hunt Valley downtown Fells Point they’re all signed up. The whole schedule is coming after the race this weekend. Up at wn st it’s also brought to you by our friends at window nation 866 90 nation you buy to to get through free five years 0% financing do what I did last summer, get some new windows you’ll be really happy it did come springtime like I am right now. We are wn st am 1570 Towson Baltimore. And we never stopped talking greatness. Baltimore positive stay with us.