Where angels, perhaps, fear to tread

So we’re just about there: Eclipse Award ballots are due tomorrow, and in a few weeks the seemingly endless, acrimonious debates about Horse of the Year will be over…all except the shouting, which will not, I suspect, subside when the winner is announced.

Fervent dissent about the Eclipse Awards isn’t limited to who has earned Horse of the Year honors; also widely debated is the process by which the awards recipients are selected:  Who gets to vote for them? Why don’t get fans get a vote? Shouldn’t the people who love the sport the most get to decide who gets the honors?

And then there’s the question of accountability: the National Association of Writers and Broadcasters, to which I belong, makes public the votes of its members. The other two voting blocks, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and Daily Racing Form do not.

Loud are the cries for every vote to be made public, for every voter to be accountable to the racing public for his ballot. I have no choice; at some point or other, my ballot, which I submitted last night, will be made public by the NATWB, so tomorrow, I’ll be publishing here my votes in each category.

But I do so with no little trepidation. Over the weekend Thoroughbred Times published a commentary that I wrote about being a first-time voter; in it I noted that as I have considered my selections, I have sometimes felt like a student who doesn’t quite know what the assignment is. I gotta tell you: assembling my ballot has been kind of nerve-wracking. My experience with the whole great big wide racing world (apprentice jockey? I admit it: I abstained. Breeder? Owner?) is a lot less than most of the people voting, and frankly, I don’t want to look like an idiot.

And I’ve discovered, to my dismay, on Twitter and on blogs, that if people think I’m an idiot, they’re going to tell me so, in no uncertain terms.

I am proud that the commenting community here is largely a civil one; we disagree without insulting each other, and we seem to tolerate fairly well conflicting opinions. But already, in response to my commentary, someone remarked that if I don’t vote for Zenyatta for Horse of the Year, I should have my vote taken away. Yikes…one and done, if I don’t vote the “right” way? No possibility that a persuasive case can be made for any other horse?

In the classrooms in which I teach, students – and the teacher – are asked to demonstrate both the capacity and willingness to consider multiple viewpoints, to disagree without being disagreeable, to understand others’ points of view even when they differ from one’s own, even when, perhaps particularly when, you want to persuade someone. If I want to get you think what I think, calling you an idiot is not exactly going to make you a willing listener.

Alas, the internet isn’t the classroom, and here, it’s apparently OK to launch personal attacks when you encounter a dissenting perspective. The primacy and infallibility of one’s own opinion, whether you’re a blogger, tweeter, journalist, turf writer, is the currency most valued. I’ve been disappointed to see people I respect hew so stubbornly to one opinion that they can’t brook any conversation about alternatives. Forget fruitful discussion, in which conflicting points of view are shared, discussed, and mulled; I’m right, you’re wrong, end of story, oh, yeah, and you’re an idiot, too.

So, yes, I’ll publish my ballot tomorrow, and I know that people will disagree with some of my choices, some of which I think are a little unorthodox, but hey, I have my reasons and after all, without guidelines, it’s up to me to decide the criteria, right? And if necessary, I’ll duck and take cover, and hope that I don’t feel as Benedick did after his conversation with Beatrice in Act II, scene i of Much Ado About Nothing:

…I stood as a man at a mark, with a whole army shooting at me. She speaks poniards, and every word stabs…

2 thoughts on “Where angels, perhaps, fear to tread

  1. I don’t envy your position at all. I will go on record as saying that if Zenyatta doesn’t get Horse of the Year, I will be very sad. I’ve gotten more enjoyment out of her than any other horse in recent memory, and her flying by me in the Classic was the most amazing thing I’ve ever felt at a racetrack. Losing Horse of the Year will not take anything away from the memories that I have of her, but I feel that the award would cement her place as a great mare in history. Remember: for every Zenyatta lover out there, there are ten people who drip animosity when they call her a California horse who never beat anybody. Personally, I can’t comprehend any true racing fan that could look at Zenyatta and not say “WOW.”
    But that aside, I can see where someone would vote for Blame. In another year, I would be all for Blame- he had a great year, and I rooted for him in every race (except one). I hate to say it, but vote for Blame is a valid vote and though some would disagree with it, suggesting that a vote be taken away is kind of childish and exactly why so many refer to Zenyatta fans as crazy people who won’t listen to anyone. No matter how you vote in any category, there will be people who disagree. Good luck in the great reveal! 🙂

  2. This years the focus is on HOTY because the outcome is significant. Since there are no guidelines then everything can be considered.

    Blame is a terrific horse but he is the poster boy for an insider mind set unknowingly aiding in the decline of horse racing.

    Zenyatta represents the second most important asset to racing after the horse. The diminishing public, and they are saying ENOUGH!!! Horse racing flops along with poor direction, a bunch of sketchy rules and poor leadership. The horse is pushing the cart instead of pulling it. The breeding industry is in forefront and their goals are short term. Triple Crown in 3 starts and cash in.

    Everytbody made a big fuss over RA winning the Woodward last year. Storied race but it had just an OK lineup. I didn’t see Buckpasser, Forego, Seattle Slew, Dr. Fager, or Round Table blowing snot on her. Zenyatta in the 2009 classic was more impressive but it was in California. I think they call this east coast bias. Nothing new, I was on the backstretch at Belmont when that suspect California shipper Exceller, trained by some cowboy held off Seattle Slew in a barn burner.

    If it were any other year I would be touting my true love, Goldikova for the big prize. I know what you are thinking but I saw her first. Kinda.

    Three years ago at the SA Breeders Cup I saw her striding towards the paddock from a long ways off. I didn’t know her name but I was thunder-struck. Love at first sight. Bay mare, sort of plain but she had the walk and look of the eagles. Like Tom Smith when he saw Seabiscuit for the first time. As she strode by I would like to think she glanced at me but she didn’t. Her body language said “I have arrived. I win, Viva La France”. I told my English pard who was holding the Form “she wins”. He pointed to the past performances and commented “you yanks are so smart”. My heart was all a flutter as Goldikova headed for the track. I recall faintly hearing Maurice Chevalier singing “Thank heaven for little girls” as she cantered to the start. She probably smokes and drinks after her wins but I was a goner. Well, Goldi is a big girl now, still very French but deserves to be in he conversation and is a bad ass racehorse.

    Thanks for the A.

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