Desert duel was fine for the 5 seconds we actually see it. The podrace was cool looking but didn't add anything to the story. To this day I'm convinced they animated the race first, then contrived the "Watto doesn't accept the currency of the galaxy" plotline to shoehorn it in.
Well, you're not wrong. The biggest issue I really had with it was that they allowed Anakin to race at all. Not only was he a child, but he was also a Slave. That seems like a guaranteed way to try and fix a race.
Something they apparently realized during the filming of ROTS, which is why the marketing worked so hard to convince the audience otherwise.
A real shame too, I LIKE the actors and legit think they all could've given us great new Star Wars characters to enjoy...but the people writing the scripts dropped the ball so hard that it cratered, then began to dig...
But....but Rian Johnson was just being subversive and clever and...and.....and I can't keep that charade up any longer. At this point it wouldn't surprise me if this was a deliberate joke on his part. RJ figures he can use Spaceballs to make a beloved Star Wars film....then reveal in fan adulation and money while secretly laughing at them behind the fandoms back....then it caused a divide and he had to try and actually defend this.