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…