July 15, 2013 at 1:00 am

Terry Foster

Flying hydroplanes not entertaining enough for today's youth

Detroit — The grand experiment failed.

My 11-year-old son, Brandon, spent Sunday with me at the Gold Cup on the Detroit River. He said he liked watching the hydroplane races — as he fiddled with his I-Touch. He watched the racing for about 10 minutes, then returned to playing games.

Talk about a generation gap. One of the oldest events in Detroit sports should be revered. Instead, my son — as well as kids in the groups sitting next to us — spent their time on their cell phones, munching on ribs and chicken and throwing around footballs and baseballs during races.

“It was really fun,” Brandon insisted. “(But) in between (races) it was boring.”

But what about playing video games during the races?

“I can multi-task,” he said. “I was looking.”

Adults wide-eyed

In the 1960s and 1970s, things were different.

These boats were magic. The speed and power they produced was amazing. Of course, there weren’t technological distractions either.

Sunday, you could see the difference.

The adults were wide-eyed and focused on the racing.

The kids were mostly glassy-eyed and distracted by their gadgets.

What happened?

Robert Peace and Ray Leach have an idea.

They were part of four families that lined the shore from near the Detroit Yacht Club to the Belle Isle Beach. They pitched a tent and grilled just as they have the last 10 years. It’s a family tradition.

But they’ve also witnessed the changes over the years. The enthusiasm isn’t what it used to be.

“When you look around, you just don’t see as many people,” Peace said. “We love coming here.”

Games not enough

It seems as if everything in sports needs a catch to attract young people.

You have a Ferris wheel and merry-go-round at Comerica Park.

They play loud music at Red Wings and Pistons games.

And every minor league sport fills time with games, rides and attractions.

Remember when sports were just about that ... sports?

The four families had their complaints, too, but plan to be back for next year’s Gold Cup.

As for my son ...

After the third set of heats, he asked: “Can we leave? It’s getting hot.”

He wasn’t hot. He was bored.

And here’s the proof. A few minutes later I asked if he wanted to ride the giant slide located in the middle of Belle Isle. His eyes lit up and he rode it six times.

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Hydroplane racing's action-packed drama -- as reflected here with Jimmy Shane, driver of the No. 5 Graham Trucking boat, passing Steve David, driver of the No. 1 Oh Boy! Oberto, during heat 3A Sunday -- is not enough to captivate today's video-game obsessed youth. / Steve Perez/ Detroit News
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