Leaving cranky behind

It’s Monday morning, 5:22 a.m.  7 degrees here in Brooklyn. The Jets lost. If I had any sense at all, I’d still be cranky. I might even be crankier.

But the weekend offered perspective. Hours of research into the weekend post on the Toboggan – its history, the horses and connections who’ve won it, the storied tracks at which it’s been run – was an excellent tonic to the vitriol in which I found myself steeped last week.

So, too, was a fun conversation with Nick Kling and Tom Amello on their Sunday morning Capital OTB program, Trackfacts, in which we talked Eclipse Awards, Twitter, and women in racing. Amello tried, I think, to lure me into a conversation about college basketball and any parallels it might share with racing, but I wisely stayed out of those waters.

But perhaps most responsible for pulling me out of my cantankerous mood were the dozens of comments and e-mails that proved exactly the antidote: civil, thoughtful, reasonable messages from people who care about racing. One in particular stood out to me, and I print it here with the writer’s permission:

Let me assure you that the core of the Zenyatta fans were not anti-Blame (I was at the Breeders Cup, first race I ever attended, and have always been a fan of Blame) as much as we were pro-Zenyatta.  After being second for two years for HOY, it seemed to us that her time had come.  I can assure you that she made a significant number of us into lasting racing fans who were not previously, myself in particular.  As a novice, racing gave me the impression of a rather “closed” sport, not very inviting to new fans.   Zenyatta flung the doors wide open and invited everyone in.  It made it so much fun.  Also, If Blame raced another year, I for one would have been elated.

I have been a Fan of Barbaro since his Kentucky Derby and aftermath, and was made aware of so much through that experience that I would never have known otherwise, including horse welfare issues, what racing is about, etc.  Zenyatta took that experience to a new level.

I am a big fan of Blame and respect the writers no matter whom they supported, but they gave the impression of talking to themselves and their peers, rather than the public at large. Also, they seemed to disparage everyday horse fans like myself, and said some pretty condescending things that I have never heard said about fans in other sports.

Jo Ann Scalf
Nashville, TN

Jo Ann’s e-mail raised several important points, not the least of which is her experience of feeling excluded and condescended to. “…they gave the impression of talking to themselves and their peers, rather than the public at large. Also, they seemed to disparage everyday horse fans like myself…”  We would do well to keep Jo Ann’s words in mind as we go forward this year, thinking about how not only to attract new fans and gamblers to the sport, but also how to keep them.

In that vein, I point you to Dana Byerly’s most recent post at Green but Game, in which she highlights the fan education site that she co-founded, Hello Race Fans!, and that offers a variety of ways for new and experienced fans and horseplayers to get involved in racing (full disclosure: I’m a contributing editor). An easy way to access one of HRF’s resources is to sign up for the Derby Prep Alert, a weekly e-mail highlighting that week’s prep races as we head towards Louisville in May. We kicked things off last week with a preview of the Grade 3 Lecomte at Fair Grounds, won on Saturday by Wilkinson.

And see that big banner at the top of the page? If you click on it, you’ll be directed to a page that is guaranteeing you free money. $100. Cash. And all you have to do is open a NYRA Rewards account and bet $100. You bet $100, NYRA gives you $100. Easy. No catches.

Several years ago at Saratoga, NYRA offered a similar promotion for its ADW, a “Bet $50, Get $50” deal for new account-holders. Without that incentive, I’d never have opened an ADW account, and while I don’t bet enough to get the rewards that the program offers, having a phone/internet account has come in handy a number of times.

So regardless of the amount that you wager, consider opening an account. NYRA can now stream live race videos on its site; the platform (both on a computer and on your phone) is easy to use; you’ll support one of the advertisers that helps to keep this site going; and if you bet $100 in thirty days, you’ll get $100. Win. The promotion ends on January 31st.

So it’s Monday, and it’s 7 degrees, and the Jets lost. But tomorrow will be Tuesday, and it’s supposed to be almost 40. And while the Jets will still have lost, the Rangers will play at home. On we go…

15 thoughts on “Leaving cranky behind

  1. As a Bears fan I share your cranky feelings. As a horseracing fan I think fan enthusiasm is a plus for the game. The more people who enjoy a day at the races the better. When one thinks about it the parimutuel system originated as a bet among gamblers who backed their differences of opinion with actual dollars or francs or pounds. Lets bring more in, opinionated or not. Fan education should be a positive step and it is great that you a part of it.

  2. Don’t forget the caveat from the old OTB ads: “Bet with your head, not over it.” Not so easy for everyone.
    You have to be a borderline degenerate to make that NYRA rebate schedule really kick in.

  3. Teresa, Jo Ann Scalf out of Nashville really nailed it. Great insight. In my numerous posts I was hoping to say something as eloquent but Jo Ann is smarter and has better control of. the English language.

    Teresa and post #1 {Linda} there is another kind of cranky. I call it reverse cranky.

    It is 5.22 am and you are pulling out of the Rohn River checkpoint on the Iditarod Trail. 7 degrees is balmy and you might have overdressed. Ahead lies a 100 plus mile non stop run to the village of Nikolai. Crankiness is building as you realize a stop might be required for more tropical attire. Also by noon your team could be overheating and around 2pm the trail, light on snow, will be bare ground turning to mud. This is a route race, only 640,000 furlongs remaining to the homestretch. Up ahead is the Yukon River where minus 50 awaits you. Crankiness associated with overdressing has been abated. But any thoughts about good deli food in the Man O’ War room could bring on terminal crankiness

    Like the Thoroughbred horse these wonderful athletic sled dogs have a way of leaving cranky behind as you near the wire. Both four legged athletes are the stars of the show.

  4. Bob those four legged athletes in the Iditarod are incredible!

    OK, it is supposed to hit 40 tomorrow and rain instead of snow so the crankies hopefully will go away 🙂

  5. Only 7 degrees in the 718? It was -20 degrees this morning up here in the 518! Love Trackfacts Live-Tom and Nick are smart, funny and inviting to all who watch or call in.

    I can also vouch for the ease of use of the NYRA Rewards site, although I do wish they would lower the reward threshold for a small-timer like me.

  6. A balmy 28 here this morning!

    I’ve always been troubled the Iditarod,Bob, though I admit that I don’t follow it very closely – not entirely convinced that it’s humane for the dogs (and I have the same concerns about racing).

    Pam, thanks…and agreed! Let’s work on converting fans into gamblers…who bet smartly, as DJ Loo points outs.

    Linda, hate to say it, but looks like snow is headed your way.

    Robert, those rewards are way, way out of my reach.

  7. Teresa, Your concern is noteworthy. The animal rights folks have demonized all forms of animal racing.
    Competitive running [dogs,humams,horses], Performance enhancing and pain killers are legally more prevalent in horse racing.
    Folks who don’t follow the Iditarod are generally concerned when they read about dog fatalities but more so in horse racing.
    Penalties for drug violations in sled dog racing are severe whereas in horse racing they are a joke.
    All drugs in all sports should be banned and the pemalties must rally hurt.
    There are some trainers right in your back yard who ought to be flipping burgers.

  8. August Song, You are reminiscent of Gunga Din. While we are crafting these sport changing blogs you interject with some really terrific refreshing stuff. Carry on.

  9. In 1854 Lecomte raced Lexington two heats of 4 miles each. In the first heat he set a world record for the distance. Total 8 miles in one day.

    Uncle Mo is the leading contender for the 2011 Derby. He
    won’t race 8 miles in 8 months.

    Maybe some more ambitious racing by our stars would generate more fan support and bolster the betting interests.

  10. Even a feat like Conquistador Cielo’s 1982 demolition of the Metropolitan and Belmont 5 days apart is ancient history, Bob. I would also guess that the reason the once prominent Stepping Stone has become an afterthought is because it’s run so close to the Derby.
    (Do they even run it anymore?)

  11. Thanks, everyone, for all the links and other resources. Derby Trial is still run, Grade 3, April 30th.

    I think it’s hard to card long races because of so few entries. The Gallant Fox got scrapped because NYRA couldn’t get a big enough field.

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