Fast forwarding, one of the last persons I would have expected to respond to anything written in this forum was Richard Shapiro, former chairman of the California Horse Racing Board. The cross that Shapiro carries is being the poster boy for the synthetic-track era in California, and I've piled on with the rest of them since the Pro-Rides, the Polytracks and the what-have-yous have turned the West Coast game upside down.
Since Shapiro stepped down at the racing board, he's pretty much been a card-carrying troglodyte. He had some serious personal setbacks, having invested heavily with the infamous Bernard Madoff, and he emerged briefly after the synthetic damage had been done to say that if he had to do it all over again, he wouldn't have.
But Shapiro, who used to take up his pen anytime the trade publications presented a vacant page, has left oratory behind him. So it was with bemusement that a lot of us watched recently when he apparently threw a brickbat at Jerry Jamgotchian at the bottom of a column I wrote about the opening of Del Mar. Shapiro despising Jamgotchian is not unusual; they were foes after Shapiro inexplicably keyed Jamgotchian's car in a racetrack parking lot and paid for the damages, and even before that, Jamgotchian showed up at many Shapiro-led board meetings as a self-styled watchdog/gadfly.
But why come out now, to make some sophomoric comment about Jamgotchian's love affair with upper case? Was this just one more kneejerk reaction, like the car-keying?
Techs at horseraceinsider.com traced the so-called Shapiro remarks to New York. Then Shapiro, answering an e-mail query, e-mailed back: "I have no idea what you are talking about. I don't know the Website, and I certainly did not comment on anything."
There was a domino effect. Another blogger supported Jamgotichian and derided Shapiro. "Jerry speaks the truth," he said. I asked Jamgotchian if he was also masquerading under another name, and you could hear his indignity all the way to San Francisco.
But it didn't end there. There was another bogus missive from Shapiro, this one containing braggadocio about his financial recovery, and suggesting that horseplayers learn to handicap synthetic tracks instead of just complaining about them.
Then Keith Brackpool, current chairman of the California racing board, appeared to post his reaction. The "Brackpool" comment didn't spare four-letter words, upbraided Jamgotchian and forced horseraceinsider.com to invoke its wash-out-with-soap rule.
The real Keith Brackpool answered with: "I hope it would go without saying that given my position in the industry, I would never comment in such a fashion. . . To be crystal clear, (that) was not written by me, nor have I commented on this or any other blog."
The Internet is the classic double-edged sword. Many newspapers used to call writers of letters to the editor, to make sure they were legit before the letters were published. There's no such luxury on the Internet. What they write is what you get, most of the time. By the time the editors and the smut police get to the material, it can be too late. In every deck of cards, there's a jack of spades capable of squirting cider in your ear.