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Social Media In The World Of Horse Racing - The Good and the Bad

The sport of horse racing like the world at large, is evolving. It seems as if every year (or every day, for that matter), someone is inventing or introducing us to something that will better our sport and or our lives.

 

Over the years, the evolution of technology has definitely affected the sport of horse racing for the good. You can look back in history and find some of the wonderful marvels technology has brought our sport. Whether it's Clay Puett's creation of the first ever electronic starting gate, or George Julius's invention of the Totalizator ( Tote Board), the history is there. 

 

Over the decades Americans have turned to horse racing as an escape in times of despair. Seabiscuit was a hero with a cult like following during the depression. Citation was an inspiration during World War II. Secretariat made us feel good in a time when Vietnam had us all down. And when our eyes were blackened and our hearts were broken after 9/11, Tiznow won the Breeders' Cup Classic for America.

 

With invention and evolution comes responsibility, and with any new endeavor comes excitement and freedom.These freedoms must not be taken lightly or abused.

 

Maybe the biggest evolution in technology in the sport (and the world in general),has been the introduction of social media and social media websites. In the past, a horse racing fan was forced to read papers and listen to the radio to get the scoop on their favorite horses.Now we're in the Facebook age, one can comment on a race literally moments after it's been run.Facebook has also introduced horse racing fans around the world to each other..This is something that this sport has needed for years.

 

The social media outlets – Facebook and Twitter – have given the common fan a voice and they've also given the fan a chance to talk to and get to know the stars of our sport via the internet.  These platforms have already helped grow the horse racing fan base and will continue to do so in the future. But it's something we must be careful with.

 

Social media sites have lead racing fans to participate in discussions that have sometimes turned vitrolic. Often, these discussions evolve into side arguments that have been made time and again, which have nothing to do with the actual topic. This is not something a potential fan will find appealing, and new fans are hard to cultivate because of the bad publicity the sport continuously receives.

 

A perfect example of this is the ZenyattaRachel Alexandra- debate. Zealots among the two fan bases of the two great fillies often hijacked discussions having nothing to do with either and turned them into a who's better debate. It often got very personal and quite ugly. We look no further then some of the recent political debate between some of the competing factions on both sides of the isle to see what effect such rancor can have on the fragments in the middle.

 

I bring this issue to the forefront because of the reaction to an article Brian Zipse wrote about Goldikova's quest to be the greatest of grade I winners. Brian just showed statistically that Goldi has a chance to have more grade I or group I wins then any other horse in the grades stakes era. Immediately, this article turned into a debate on Facebook, Zenyatta Vs Goldikova,who was the greater mare?

 

Any article or blog that praises another horse now a days is subject to being taken over by Zenyatta's many passionate fan. Z's legacy is enormous and what she's done for the sport is something we'll never be able to measure. I fully appreciate Zenyatta's incredible contribution to the sport, and in fact I wrote an article about my feelings towards Zenyatta after last years Breeders' Cup.

 

No one's indifferent about Zenyatta.There are as many people out there that are ready to call her out (unfairly), as there are people that think she's the greatest horse to ever breathe air. Zenyatta will go down as one of the greats of horse racing, as well she should. And I think she'll be remembered in the ranks of Seabiscuit, Secretariat, and Seattle Slew, and all the other greats of the sport.

 

The problem is, these people that so badly want to defend her greatness and constantly want to debate her with any current horse in racing,actually end up hurting her legacy. Some new fans just introduced to this sport this year, could associate Zenyatta with all these terrible debates and personal attacks made on the social media sites, which is sad. Zenyatta will never be duplicated on the track and her personality will last in my memory forever.

 

Let's take a step back, take a breath, and allow our new fans to experience the great things about this sport. Let them enjoy the stars of today without comparing and debating with the stars of yesterday.

 

Discussion is fine, these social media outlets let us express our opinions in a way the common fan has never been able to. But we must use this incredible innovation for the betterment of our sport, and not get bogged down in superfluous random arguments.

 

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Older Comments about Social Media In The World Of Horse Racing - The Good and the Bad...

Nobody said we don't need it Tim Smith...just wish the crazies who think their opinion is the only one would lose their internet connection.
Without social media none of you would have been heard at all.
Wonderful piece ;) I truly agree with every single word
That's true, Derek. But, isn't it time we get past that? A simple article about Goldikova shouldn't turn into a war of words about Zenyatta, I just used Zenyatta as an example. These personal attacks on the social media sites are hurting the sport, I've seen new fans being insulted for not knowing what some of these veteran players do, and that is just wrong, in my opinion.
I really believe that a lot of the “Zenyatta Zealots” emerged as a result of the constant criticism the mare and her connections received. Many racing fans are very passionate about the horses they follow and, rightly or wrongly, take attacks — or even fair, but negative, commentary — regarding them in a very personal way.
Scott, once again a great article and so true and to the point specifically with horse racing. While horse racing does not have alot of the venues and platforms that may other sports have, most everyone involved in the sport has turned to twitter and facebook for communication. Some is good, some bad and of course some indifferent. While most of the bantering and arguing can be filtered by those that really know what's going on - at times it does get discouraging to see the bantering. I wish some would use that energy to promote the sport more in some way shape or form. I too have met some great people and bonded with some that otherwise I would not have been able to prior to the network media platforms. Additionally, as someone who works in the legal profession I dont think some people understand that even though in facebook you can choose your friends and who sees what that really ultimately all it takes is one subpoena to gather any information on your page. I do believe people should think before they type and use the "filter" from the brain to the fingers a little better. Thanks again Scott.
Scott, you call it 'The Good and the Bad', I call it WIN, WIN. On the positive side, it's been a pleasure to have a place to go to talk racing. And in the process, I've met some great people (this author among them) I never would have met. As far as the negative side, when someone spits the vitriol out on message boards and the like, it makes my decision easy to not talk to that person. I don't have to waste my time with them. :)
Scott you have hit the nail right on the head with this one! Like Andy mentioned below, social media has also connected me to many racing fans and insiders for which I am eternally grateful!! On the flip side though, some of the debates get downright nasty. That can't be very good when what our industry needs right now is positivity and support!
everal of them specifically told me after reading some blog stuff and comments on stories by idiots, that they wouldn't take their kid to the track if that's how horse people act. Some even said we were worse than Nascar fans. I have simply learned to ignore the idiots or block them on facebook if they can't debate in a civil non personal manner. I think you are right on the money with this Scott....the sport has a chance to increase the fan base with social media, but the maniacs will drive some away before they get hooked by that special horse that captured our attention. Unfortunately we know opinions are like a-holes..we all have them, but some are them.
I definitely am appreciative for social media and it's impact on my life with connecting with horse racing fans and professionals around the world. I learned the hard way when i won a Thoroughbred Times Zenyatta foal naming contest, you have to take the good with the bad. I was blasted by several people about the name. The bad part is with social media you have contact with probably 20 times the people you would have talked to about something just 5 years ago. I can't count how many times I've asked people why they can't just appreciate the sport and stop getting personal to the point of downright insane over topics. I guarantee you probably 95% of those people wouldn't speak to one another like that in person. The point you made is one i just offered to someone a couple weeks ago. Zenyatta gave us a grand public stage leading up to the BC. At work everyone talked to me about racing knowing I love it and it of course being in Louisville last year. s
Sure, the Zenyatta folks can be overbearing and lose all sense of perspective, but they will fade soon, and these days, it's heartening to see any discussion among passionate fans of the game.
The good side is that I have been able to meet so many people that cover horse racing, the sport that we all love, and share my experiences and ideas on HorseRacingNation!
I totally agree, facebook is the reason I have so many wonderful friends. And I think everyone should be able to state their opinion, but I also think once a discussion turns into a heated debate that gets personal, we should take a second and really think about what we're saying.
Social media have been very beneficial to horse racing. People with good opinions can be heard. People with lame opinions can be heard. Opinions can be heard. The voices of the game shouldn't be limited to those who are lucky enough to be paid for a forum. There's talent in the shadows. Blogging was the first positive step. Facebook and Twitter bring the passion to the community level, giving us an immediate location to play - for those of us whose lives are so heavily invested in the game.
Faceback continues to be instrumental in building a fan base particularly with younger--generation y and x. Zenyatta has FB size that rivals some human athletes at over 88,000, Rachel with over 14,000, Black Caviar with nearly 17,000. Even Seabiscuit--close to 18,000 fans--continues to remind and educate us of his many feats. I am sure your favorite equine athlete has a FB page. In many instances, if I cannot watch a certain race, I can get the result via FB from my Crackberry, almost instantly!
The good side is that I have been able to meet so many people that cover horse racing, the sport that we all love, and share my experiences and ideas on HorseRacingNation!

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