Thursday, November 18, 2010
Riding the Third Rail
(SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY - November 18, 2010) The readers’ response to the recent column I wrote entitled “Psycho Talk” is not surprising to me. As a matter of fact, the sentiments expressed are consistent with the phenomenon I wrote about. I consider my piece an affirmation that passion is good for the sport. My closing paragraph is clear about how I think about that.
Even though the public reporting of the fans’ over-zealous attachment to certain horses has been largely ignored by the media (for obvious reasons), it does not mean that the topic should not be researched, understood and written about. No movement more clearly describes the past six years or so accurately illustrates horse racing’s recent history. Nevertheless, I believe that in the heat of the conversation, some readers stooped beneath the level of dignity with their comments and I’m disappointed in that. Some comment writers should be ashamed.
Lacking the intelligence to craft a proper rebuttal, several readers used disinformation and relied on distortion of history to get their licks in. (I forgive the misspellings; they could be typos, e.g. NEGITIVE and f_ucking.) Few readers who posted comments have my resume or know what I’m really like, yet they didn’t feel in the least bit inhibited about calling me names or saying that I’m unqualified, disrespecting my age, using profanity or spitting in my face verbally. Fielding ignorance like theirs comes with the job. I didn’t eat snakes in the army like one reader wrote. But I’m sufficiently tough-skinned. Still, the erosion of civility in society is troubling.
Is the piece provocative? Well, of course, it is. But then why would I want to write something that bores you or replicates something you’ve read elsewhere? Does it reflect anger? No, I think the comments in response to the column are angry. Is the editorial unusual in the way it is challenging? Perhaps it is in the world of horse racing, but not within the context of thought-generating op-eds about politics, life trends and current events that you read in newspapers daily. Is not horse racing a realm in which disagreements flourish?
I am not sorry that some people were offended by what I wrote. I wrote nothing that insulted anyone directly, individually or unfairly. What some readers are experiencing – identifying personally with the remarks written about the behavior of unspecified individuals – is common.
At the same time, if you’re really a Barbaro maniac, Rachel Alexandra fanatic or avowed Z-lot, you may want to reflect deeply on the various ways you’ve exhibited your loyalty. You might find that prejudice, pettiness and open hostility to people who disagree with you have, on occasion, earmarked your passion.
On the other hand, you may not reach this conclusion at all. You may conclude that your behavior has been appropriate throughout. That would be consistent with how I think you'll react and consistent with what I wrote.