Gentlemen, start your leashes.
The Westminster Dog Show is back for its 137th consecutive showing, an impressive feat, and a true testament to the grandness of this event.
Entries from all 50 American states, along with several foreign countries, comprise an impressive field of 2,721 dogs—the largest number in 15 years.
This year also sees the introduction of two new breeds—the Treeing Walker Coonhound and Russell Terrier—which brings the total number of types up to 187.
Here's a quick breakdown of when and where to watch the action, complete with some thoughts on why you'd be wise to do so.
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York City, N.Y.
When: Monday, Feb. 11 and Tuesday, Feb. 12
Watch: USA, CNBC
Live Stream: Westminsterkennelclub.org
|Mon., Feb. 11||8-11 p.m.||CNBC||Hound, Toy, Non-Sporting and Herding Groups|
|Tues., Feb. 12||8-11 p.m.||USA|
Sporting, Working and Terrier Groups, Best In Show
*The Westminster Dog Show will air on tape-delay for the Pacific Time Zone. Make sure to avoid spoilers if you plan on watching the taped feed at 8 p.m. PT.
Why You Should Watch:
The 2013 Westminster Dog Show kicked off at Madison Square Garden this afternoon, with 2,700-plus meticulous canines representing 187 uniquely different breeds. Many of you don't consider this relevant or newsworthy; you think the event is some sort of sideshow or joke. But if you're a member of that pessimistic faction, the only joke here is on you.
The annual pageant gets a bad stigma among certain sports fans for being too prim, too straitlaced and too proper. Some go so far as to call it a haughty display of opulence from America's most stuck-up class.
It's hard to argue with that, too. I mean, at its very core, this is a beauty contest for dogs—a group of stuffy judges get together to decide which pup is groomed and shaped most perfectly then award him/her a ribbon. If that's not haughty, I don't know what is.
But that arrogant adherence to decorum is exactly what makes this event so cool.
Whether we care to admit it or not, we live in times of rapid decadence. Especially in the sports milieu, where PEDs, recruiting scandals and God knows what else serve to damper the morality of our players. We live in a world where on-court tantrums are happenstance, and everybody has their own, choreographed, in-your-face way of celebrating every accomplishment.
Westminster represents a return to etiquette in a sporting community that desperately needs it. It's a place where the only thing more revered than a beautiful coat of fur is an elegant display of proper form. It's a place where manners and sportsmanship still exist in place of voracious, testosterone-driven competitiveness.
It's the kind of thing that draws so many sportsmen—especially those who some would call "old school"—to compete in Westminster every year. This year's star athletic participant is New York Yankees President Randy Levine. Or, more specifically, his five-year-old Labrador retriever, Mitch.
Of Mr. Levine's dedication to the show, Mitch's co-owner Tom Flaherty told The Huffington Post "I don't think Randy would be half as excited if it was the World Series."
Still think these guys are joking around?
The Westminster Dog Show is never gonna be a premier event on the sporting calendar. It's never gonna inspire any fantasy games (though, per BusinessWeek, it does see some action in Vegas), and it's never gonna warrant constant banter on Sportscenter. But ask anyone associated with the sport and they'd tell you they prefer it that way.
The further removed they are from the dissolute state of most contemporary competition, the better. This is a niche sport in every sense of the word; if you don't belong, or if you don't plan on following their rules, you best find yourself another vice.
I don't know if I have what it takes to follow the dog pageant circuit year round. Eventually, inevitably, my insatiable thirst for brutality will bring me back to football, basketball and hockey.
But for one weekend every year, I enjoy—nay, revel in—the opportunity to sit back and pretend I'm part of this rarified niche. After what I'm used to watching on ESPN, watching the pageant is like staring through the looking glass.
I highly recommend you give it a shot.