CNN, Forbes, Betting ‘Sites…N.B., the Diff Between Horse Racing Journalists and 126-Pound Donkeys.

So, your kitchen faucet has a slow drip.
Not much of a drip, just enough that
a)  you keep waiting for the other proverbial shoe to drop;
b)  you KNOW that it’s wasting the precious resource;
c)  you know, also, that it’s costing you Big Bux in terms of water taxes and fees, and yes,
d)  it’s driving everyone crazy.

But a real plumber costs some serious coin, so you go ahead and give your brother-in-law the chance to fix it.  (He’s been bugging you for years, to “…give [him] a crack at”  the maintenance of several things around the house.)

So this tiny drip may be the perfect project to give Bro-in-Law his Big Break–and, Bonus!–keep Spouse happy.  And, Bonus!  Bro-in-Law will do it for free.   🙂

But before you know it…yikes…the wrong part was unscrewed from the wrong part…and a pipe burst…and the floor got nuked…and now…and now…the contractor you had to call in, gave you an estimate of $3,000 to dry up the area; re-lay the flooring and have her (licensed, professional) plumber come in and fix that part of your problem.

You should have hired a professional plumber from the get-go.  But you know that now.

So what does this tale of nepotism, penny-pinching and shortsightedness have to do with the sport of horse racing, and growing the fanbase for our sport?

Well, everything:

 In the last two years, I’ve come across articles in otherwise-reputable news sources including  CNN, Forbes and ESPN that clearly were written by people who have minimal actual knowledge of horse racing.  And every time I read or watch horse racing being dealt such an injustice–it’s like nails on a blackboard to me.  I feel the need to stick hot needles into my eyes, or at least to tear out my purple hair.

Every single one of those gentlemen has extensive passion for other sports, such as basketball, baseball, football and hockey.  But being able to tell a puck from a goalie doesn’t qualify someone to write about horse racing, for–like all sports–horse racing is profoundly complicated.

To the naked (naive, and untrained) eye–horse racing looks simple.  And it is, deceptively simple-looking:  horses with tiny people aboard them leave the same place, at the same time.  They run in the same direction.  One of them will reach the appointed goal first.  

Simple, right?

Right.  If you’re a first-time attendee or racing-on-TV watcher.  If you’ve never been to a horse race track or seen it on television–and you’re being guided by a friend who knows the ropes–that description, above, is perfect.  Baby steps toward learning the sport.

 But, as any new fan quickly learns, there’s so much about this sport than meets the eye during that first introduction.  (A few years ago, I compiled and wrote a jijjed-up glossary of horse racing terms.  When finished, it was 72 pages long.  And that’s just a glossary, not a book of rules, Post Parade or almanac.)

Following new fans always is fun, to see them go from being babies to handicapping pros.  And their combined angst and glee when first they discover a 70+ -page glossary, and realize all the words they don’t-yet know or understand.

Baby race fans are aware of their naivete, and are eager to learn:  why, then, is it so hard for long-established news organizations like CNN to understand that, being able to quote basketball stats does not qualify a writer or commentator to  write or talk about a sport that has over 5,000 years of history, and rule-tweaking, behind it?

And, simply being available isn’t a legitimate qualification for a writer or commentator:  it makes that person an Also Eligible–not a first-round qualifier.

Lest you think that I’m harshly criticizing others, let’s see it in the reverse:

  Were I approached by the NFL to write an article that would be seen by millions of people, in which I introduce the Super Bowl and discuss its nuances–I’d have to thank the NFL for thinking of me–but bow out, because I know absolutely nothing about football.

My ignorance would be obvious from the first few words in my report: I’d look like a fool.  But the NFL would look even-more stupid, for hiring someone who clearly has no knowledge of the sport.

Thou asketh why I’m writing this ditty, in the early-morning hours of the 2017 Kentucky Derby?  Because I’ve been on a slow boil for over two years now:

It started in May of 2015, when a writer on CNN noted that, in order to win the Triple Crown–American Pharoah would have to win all three races in the same year!  OMG!  He couldn’t spread them out, over a couple or three years–he’d have to do it all, in 2015.  

That, to the racing-ignorant writer (AND to his Editor, Managing Editor and CNN, itself)–was a remarkable thought. 

Well, gee, no wonder there’d been only 11 winners of the Triple Crown before Pharoah:  all three races in the same year.  Phew.

Two more articles like that last year–and then, this year I read the same thing on CNN.   Again.

This kind of sloppy journalism actually makes my keyboard weep.

What I find to be mind-boggling is that, every year, CNN and other general, enormous, otherwise-conscientious news outlets–have provided incorrect information.  The same damned misinformation.  Misinformation that, in the space of one sentence–very clearly spells out the fact that their writer was just brought on to write because, obviously–anyone can write about horse racing.  Right?  

Wrong.  Wrong.  Wrong.

The generalists–including those who have extensive knowledge of other sports, but who get a media credential to a race track once a year because, well, horse racing neither is their priority, nor their passion–generalists may think that they’re writing for an audience who won’t know the difference, if they get something wrong.

But in fact, it is precisely because said generalists are writing on such a large, noticeable, internationally-known stage–that every single fan who catches these glitches–cringes and wonders why the media didn’t just hire real racing writers and reporters, instead of pikers.

I don’t know the answer to that.  Maybe CNN and Forbes think that we all sit around, smoking fat stogies and singing, “Fugue for Tinhorns”  with Brooklyn accents. 

And then there are the wagering platforms that aren’t associated with actual horse racing organizations.  OH, my God.   This year, I read in USAPlayers–a poorly-penned and misinformed article that’s been picked up by several wagering ‘sites.  Included in the misinformation:

1) “…To qualify for these races, a horse must be at least three years old…”

This monstrous mistake–easily overlooked by non-racing people– also was quoted on CNN and other international, respected news ‘sites.

But ummmmmmmmmmm…no.  As anyone who’s even just watched the Kentucky Derby, Preakness or Belmont Stakes has heard:  ONLY three-year-old Thoroughbreds can run in the American Triple Crown Races.  

Then, this nugget:

2) [The Kentucky Derby] “…carries a several million dollar purse…”

Nope, again.  Two million dollars does not qualify as being, “several.”  Yep, I’m being nit-picky, but the fact is that, according to Merriam-Webster, “several” is defined as being “…more than two, but fewer than many.”  So, nope, the Kentucky Derby’s $2 million purse doesn’t quite qualify as being, “several million.”

And the third thing I picked up in just the first two paragraphs of this ill-written, multiply-borrowed, misinformed article:

3) “The race requires the horses to be 126 pounds for colts and geldings, while a filly must be 121 pounds.”

Yeowch.  I believe that the writer made one of two mistakes:

  1.  Either he understands the reality of those weights–but, like so many poor writers, assumes that his readers already share his knowledge of the sport, and thereby will understand his shorthand; OR
  2.  Indeed, he did not know that “weight” means that,  the jockeys’ weight cannot exceed 126 and 121 pounds, respectively.  Those numbers have nothing to do with the weight of the Thoroughbreds.  Oh, my GOD.  Again, any beginner fan knows this fact–but apparently not the writer who penned this article, which is getting extensive airtime on the Internet.

But the way this was written, it indicates that the horses, themselves, weigh 126 or 121.

A 126-pound racehorse would be smaller than a miniature donkey.  

(Make no mistake–I adore all equids, I loves me some donks.  But donkeys don’t belong in the Kentucky Derby…and generalist sports writers and reporters don’t make for solid horse racing copy.)

This Triple Crown season, look for online and published articles in all media–international, local and wagering-focused–that are written or presented by actual fans of horse racing who, through their talent and perseverance — have turned that passion into their vocations.  i.e., actual horse racing writers, commentators, journalists.

You’ll read and watch accurate narratives, by people who share your love for horses, and your understanding of the sport.

If you take in an article or broadcast that boasts a “celebrity”–well, a “celebrity,” anything–run like the wind.  Generalists and celebrity poseurs can’t do the job of a real, working horse racing journalist.  Buy into anything you wish, from a source you know to be reliable–vs.  trusting a generalist or “celebrity” who probably pulled their “facts” out of…their big ‘ole donkey ears.

Your discernment is rather like buying a dress with the union label:  when you know that the source is talented, accurate and an insider–you can rest, knowing that you’re in good hands.  Or, in this case…hooves.

Photo Credits:

Purebred Iraqi Arabian Race Horses by Dr. Mohammad Bin ‘Abdul-‘Aziz Al-Nujaifi

Stop the Lousy Writing, Please! by Lee Duigan

Post Parade, by NYRA (New York Racing Association)

Cub Reporter Typewriter by Pinkoi

Fergie the Miniature Donkey and his friend, Can’t be Dazzled  by Coady Photography