A fan by any other name?

Following the launch last week of the Self-Appointed Fan Committee, a second fan advocacy group made its début on Friday. The motto of the Thoroughbred Racing Fan Association, also known as Thorofan, is “giving the fan a voice,” and its website provides the following mission statement:

The Thoroughbred Racing Fan Association is a non-profit, membership-based
corporation designed to foster growth of the Thoroughbred racing industry by
providing racing fans with an organization to actively support their
interests.

The goal of the Thoroughbred Racing Fan Association is to enhance fan enjoyment, increase knowledge of all aspects of Thoroughbred racing and enhance skills in handicapping. The goal of Thorofan is to cooperate with other organizations in the Thoroughbred community. We seek to retain existing fans and strive to develop new ones through education and membership benefits.

Sounds great. Interesting that it’s membership-driven, though I suppose that you can’t fault an organization for wanting to generate some revenue to advance its causes, and it’s no different that way from a number of other advocacy groups. I wondered what it meant that “the goal of Thorofan is to cooperate with other organizations in the Thoroughbred community,” and when I clicked on the “Sponsors and Contributors” link, I thought that perhaps I’d found out, as the first listed corporate contributor is the New York Racing Association.

So let me get this straight: this is a group designed to foster and support fans’ interests, and it’s financially supported by the main racing organization in the state? Is this the “cooperation with other organizations in the Thoroughbred community”?

Whether this relationship will cause conflicts of interest for the fledging group is entirely speculative at this point, and maybe Thorofan will be able to act independently of its contributors. And I’m sure that whatever NYRA is contributing is a big help to a grass-roots organization. But it just doesn’t look good to have a fans’ group supported by the very entity that makes a lot of the decisions about the fans’ enjoyment of this sport. I’d be more sanguine about Thorofan’s goals and efficacy if it were independent.

Moving through the website, I came to the newsletter section. One of the items contained therein is a letter in response to an article regarding the relaxation of the clubhouse at Saratoga this year. The letter reads in part,

“Your piece is marvelous! I had no idea they were relaxing the dress code! Don’t
most people like to get dressed up to go to a special event? Do they want people
to come dressed like they are ready for yard work? I get tired of seeing the
attire of the Wal-Mart crowd.”

Rather than detailing the ways in which I find this attitude offensive (as if they weren’t obvious), I will point out that a June 24th article of The Saratogian explains that,

While maintaining a strict dress code in the paddock and box area, men will no
longer have to wear a jacket and tie in the “At the Rail” pavilion and paddock
tents.

Dispensing with a jacket and tie doesn’t qualify in my sartorial world as “relaxed” attire, and it doesn’t appear as if shorts and tank tops—the “attire of the Wal-Mart crowd”?—will become the norm in the exclusive areas of the track any time soon. Ms. Letter Writer can relax.

Whether a “relaxed” dress code is a good or bad thing for Saratoga I will leave for others to discuss; if this is the sort of issue that Thorofan is going to take on, though, it’s advocating for fans who are unlike me. The dress code in areas of the track that I can’t afford to go in anyway wouldn’t make my top ten—maybe not even my top fifty—list issues to address.

I’m not sure who Thorofan’s audience is, but it might be easier to tell if the group provided some details on what it would like to accomplish and how it will get there. What I’ve seen so far doesn’t have me reaching into my pockets for the (admittedly reasonable) $20 membership fee.

15 thoughts on “A fan by any other name?

  1. I like to do a little yard work between races when I’m at Saratoga.My guess is that their goal is get more people to NYRA tracks and they’re going after the folks who like to take tours, be a part of a group, etc.

  2. I’d like to know where NYRA found the money for Thorofan. Didn’t they just say they have enough cash to get through the Saratoga meet? — John S.

  3. Both Thorofan and SAFC are great ideas and big steps in the right direction.It’s hard to believe that no body existed like Thorofan in the US until last week. The Racegoers Club in the UK and similar bodies have existed in other countries for a long time and charge a small annual membership fee but have some form of financial or other backing from bodies like NYRA.The people who have started Thorofan are very enthusiatic-i met them all by accident 2 weeks ago in Saratoga.I think SAFC is a great idea but worry about 2 aspects of it. The submissions i’ve read are great and very insightful. But what concerns me is that every month a submission will be sent in that will probably have completely conflicting messages from fans. As an example i know you’d prefer a Saturday/Sunday Breeders’ Cup-I absolutely want it to stay as Friday/Saturday (but with the appropriate changes to race names and schedules). I know we both have extremely valid reasons for our positions-but I think a group like SAFC needs to look at all the submissions and come to a considered opinion on a number of issues where its contributors are either split down the middle.There is another area of fan participation that exists in Britain but only in isolated spots in the US. Saratoga (through Parting Glass) and Louisville have Racing Clubs where people of all backgrounds and different levels of participation in the sport can get together normally on a monthly basis-invite a speaker or a panel and then socialize afterwards. As an example the London Racing Club meets 11 times a year. Has a membership of about $20 per annum-which mainly is used to hire a meeting room in a Central London hotel. The meetings of this club (and all the others in the UK) are plugged in the Racing Post and there’s a small charge for each event for members but non-members are welcome but pay slightly more.Is there one of these in New York? All you need is between 6 and 8 really enthusiastic people to form a Committee. Invite a famous racing celebrity to be your Hon. President and then ask someone from the New York racing media to chair forthcoming events and then find a Central Manhattan location-or move events round the Boroughs.

  4. Hi Jeremy – thanks for the vote of confidence re: SAFC! Hopefully I can address some of your concerns (and perhaps not!).The committee part of the name is kind of a joke in that we never planned on being a committee proper, in the way that you describe it (synthesizing the data and making suggestions on behalf of all fans). Perhaps the project will grow into that naturally but it’s not our immediate goal or original intention. Our first step is just to provide a single point to collect feedback. Eventually we will allow people to vote on submissions, like digg. This will give two levels of prioritization to the submissions 1) prioritizing types of issues by virtue of their frequency (more submissions about drugs than online wagering would make the case to prioritize drugs as a bigger issue) and 2) by digging or dissing the content of the ideas/rants the potential for conflicting ideas might be mitigated.To be honest, I’m not concerned about conflicting ideas as I don’t want to be another gatekeeper. I don’t think we need any more of those. My interest is in getting the feedback in to the hands of the folks who actually make the decisions. We will be doing some analysis, but more to uncover trends than to coalesce into a unified voice.Another angle is that the data we collect could benefit various groups that are specifically aligned around an issue or cause, such as HANA, who’s main interest is take out. They could frequent SAFC, grab data, do research and/or get quotes any time to help further their cause. Also, it would be in their interest to submit their ideas and rants as well, and I know a few of them have. I would encourage any pro-racing fan group looking to effect any kind of change to use the data at SAFC!

  5. Jeremy: what sorts of change do those UK groups try to effect? And what is their relationship with the industry groups? I don’t disagree that such groups in theory are a bad idea; in fact, I support them. I’d just prefer that they be independent, and the elitism of the letter seems hopelessly out of touch with not only the racing population, but with society in general. It seems just a few steps away from what anon @ 7:37 suggests.

  6. I think the dress code is good. Oops, I just offended you. Maybe you can get a lawyer and sue me. Give me a break

  7. Regarding NYRA: It appears (on the Thorofan “About” webpage) that NYRA donated space at the Spa for the upcoming summer meet to set up a booth for the group to sign up members…I’m guessing that they list them as a corporate member in exchange for this in-kind donation. But I’m just guessing…

  8. “I think the dress code is good. Oops, I just offended you. Maybe you can get a lawyer and sue me. Give me a break” Oh please, you give me a break. Liking the dress code isn’t the offensive part darling, it’s the blatant classism. Since you can’t read I don’t expect you to pick up on such a subtlety.People would freak out if the person wrote “I get tired of seeing black people at the track” but it’s OK to say you get tired of seeing working class people. I hate to break it to you, people get tired of seeing self important overdressed white people too. Oops, perhaps I’ve offended you… I hope so.

  9. From speaking with Thorofan founding members, I have learned that NYRA has donated space at the Summer meet this season at Saratoga for Thorofan to set up an information table. They have not contributed any actual money to the group nor do they underwrite the group. That being said it is expected by all that they be a true independent voice for the fan. As with all groups out there, it will bear watching.

  10. “I hate to break it to you, people get tired of seeing self important overdressed white people too. Oops, perhaps I’ve offended you… I hope so.”Response: Sorry , you have not offended me, because I AM A BLACK WOMAN, not white. Yes stupid , Black people can dress up too. I guess you are the racist person for assuming I was white because I wanted a dress code, never thought I would be black did ya? Damm self hating White Racist.

  11. Well, well… aren’t you pleased with yourself. I apologize for assuming that you’re white… I forgot that classism knows no racial boundaries!

  12. “The Thoroughbred Racing Fan Association is a non-profit”They are not a non-profit…yet. They do not have a 501(c)3.I am a little leery of their founding board. Politicans and a tour director (no doubt,looking to add the track to his list of clients.)Don’t get me wrong, I would love to see a strong, active fan club.But what do I get for my menbership fee (besides the DRF stuff)? A lobbyist ? Any direct give and take?And what was their first newsletter all about ? I would like to read short intros about the founding board, mission statement, etc. not about the life of one of the founding members…get the fans revved up, don’t get bogged down in the yawn factor.

  13. Oh my God, it’s like Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots in here! First of all, to the black woman: You were the one who stooped to racist language with your “Muffy” crack. When you come to someone’s blog, treat it like you were going into a stranger’s home — with respect. Then, you too will be treated with respect in kind. I know the people in here, and they are cerebral, sensitive, thoughtful individuals, highly attuned to inequity in society. You’d know that if you read along for a few months. Don’t just show up and start calling people you don’t know “self-hating racist.” With that kind of talk, a dress code would not even begin to make you presentable. As for the new fan groups, if you believe they are necessary in the sport, support them, give them a reasonable amount of time, and then make a judgment about their value. They might just need to grow for awhile before hitting their best stride, just like some old horses we love. Thirdly, you go Brooklyn! — Blinkers Off

  14. Getting up and reading these comments this morning, I am reminded of Mr. Senor Love Daddy in “Do the Right Thing”: “Whoa! Y’all take a chill! You got to cool that shit off. And that’s the double-truth, Ruth.”Not that this discussion comes close to the monologues in that movie, but to set the record straight for anon @ 9:27: I never said that dress codes offended me, just that elitist, classist attitudes do. Please go back and read what I wrote. SaratogSpa: I’d be happy to talk with Thorofan leaders and write a clarification, if any of them is interested. That said, NYRA is still listed first on the corporate sponsor list, so it suggests a significant affiliation between the two groups. Anona @ 11:16: Hmm…wonder why the group wouldn’t just state that non-profit status is pending? Again–it’s probably not a big deal, but the appearance isn’t great. And I agree: tell me about your directors and leadership. I still don’t have a clear sense of who they are and what their goals are. Thanks, everyone, for commenting.

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