The word fan gets tossed around like angel hair. The problem with fan is the four letters that are omitted: atic, as in fanatic.
Listen to the callers who phone in on daily sports radio. Fans are myopic and slanted by emotion. As the saying goes, they can’t see the forest for the trees. I root for the Red Sox and should I ever listen to Red Sox fans talk about the Sawx, my stomach turns worse than Donovan McNabb's. The year after the Patriots won their first Super Bowl, a local television program invited a “professional” homer and he said, in effect, that “I don’t see why the Pats can’t go undefeated this year.” Uh, huh. They finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs in 2002.
My point is that when you fail to detach yourself you bring an obvious bias to your already ingrained and unequivocal bias to everything that is.
Go on. Read any comment thread about Zenyatta. Go on. You’ve got five minutes.
Done? Okay, good. How did that go?
What you often see is virulent, venomous zealotry. This deserves a vote in the awards that matter to a horse’s commercial appeal and legacy? If fans voted in 2006 Barbaro wins Horse of the Year, champion trainer, and champion older filly or mare ... and champion steeplechase.
This is why I find it upsetting that there are advocates for fan voting on Eclipse Awards. Even HRI’s Vic Zast. But like everything he writes, he makes intelligent points pro and con:
“Anytime a result is determined by human subjectivity instead of by direct competition, an element of interpretation enters in. With the exception of Richard M. Nixon and Lyndon B. Johnson, each US president since John F. Kennedy ascended to office for reasons primarily cosmetic. The electorate liked the way they looked and found comfort in what they said. An electoral majority formed from the participation of disparate elements, ranging from individuals who knew the issues completely to those who couldn’t tell you which of the parties each candidate represented.
“It is understandable why the vote for the Eclipse Awards is restricted. Like the Golden Globes and the Oscars, the program is an industry property. As hard as it is for fans of the sport to comprehend the difference between how a professional employed by the sport faces his responsibility and how they might if put in the same place, a difference exists. Moreover, when something’s been done the same way for a long time, changes to that way don’t come easily.”
To his point there are ways to engage the fan that exclude the Eclipse Awards. Look at baseball: that sport allows fans to vote for All Stars. There’s no reason why racing can’t create categories on which the fans can vote and reward whatever horse it is they feel is deserving. Seriously, how did Cal Ripken, Jr. get to be starting shortstop in the All-Star Game several years after his prime? Have horsemen vote for awards too. The 2010 baseball season saw Seattle's Felix Hernandez win the Cy Young while Tampa Bay’s David Price won the Players' Choice as Most Outstanding Pitcher. Interpretation: there’s more than one answer so why not denote another subset of awards: the Fan's Choice where they can vote for Zenyatta all they want.
If another branch is allowed to vote for Eclipse Awards it should be a league of horse players, those who have skin in the game and are ludicrously taxed by takeout. No taxation without representation!
Baseball fans don’t have a say in the year-end honors such as MVP, call it baseball’s Horse of the Year. Throw the fans something, but keep them away from the awards that will have a ripple effect into the post-racing life of several of racing's Select.
I know that the American Colonists fought a Revolutionary War over “freedom,” whatever that really meant (greedy landed gentry!). Let’s just say it’s 1775 all over again and the fans are trapped on the island of Manhattan and there’s no way they’re sneaking off this time.
Brendan O'Meara is the author of the forthcoming book "Six Weeks in Saratoga: How Three-Year-Old Filly Rachel Alexandra Beat the Boys and Became Horse of the Year. You can learn more at The Blog Itself, follow @BrendanOMeara, or go to his web site http://www.brendanomeara.com.