Power Cap

Power cap- existential handicapping

29 April 2009

Eight Belles More Popular Than Secretariat




For the last few years I see a pattern developing in the media around derby time that a breakdown story or a disaster newsreel(warning explicit content) is shown on TV around the time of the derby. This year is no exception. With the same message being repeatedly broadcast and printed the public is being indoctrinated to equate racing with cruelty. I notice that when I bring up racing at mainstream non-racing message boards the same response of racing is cruelty is mentioned time after time. The response is very consistent. Back at the school yard another consistent reaction was for a crowd to form around a fist flight. What kind of crowd would a kind gesture draw? It would barely turn a head. This is human nature in action and it seems like the media using the dark side of racing to draw a crowd the same way a fight would draw a crowd.

The media is exploiting breakdowns for the horror factor. There is an audience for this. Go on youtube, perhaps the most famous of races the 1973 Belmont Stakes has 265K views while a video labeled Eight Belles euthanzied has 842K views. If it bleeds it leads, the media has found that there is bleeding in racing and has found that there is a audience for this type of content. These breakdown videos are almost like the sports equivalent of "when animals go wrong" or "worlds wildest police chases". Like a schoolyard fistfight they draw a big crowd.

The responses and comments on the on-line articles are predicable. The most common response is; "This "sport" is nothing more then rich people, with nothing better to do, abusing horses. ". These people making these cursory judgments are not bad people, maybe under-informed but their reaction is nothing more than a function of human nature. It is an easy response to understand. I have that animal-abuse-outrage button too, and it gets pressed rather easily. If I hear a story about an animal being abused or dying in a cruel way it outrages me like nothing else.


For many people all they know about racing is from these tragic incidents reported in the media. Between tragic incident stories there is a void of no information at all. From their point of view they feel compassion for the animals, and we can all understand that. To hate the people that abuse animals makes you feel good about yourself. There is noting redeeming or virtuous in animal abuse. Animal abuse represents the worst for human behavior and is often an indicator of a person with diabolical tendencies. The thought of the racing community running horses to death outrages people. In the vacuum of information someone that has never enjoyed horse racing could easily be swayed into believing that racing is pure animal abuse. This is why it is of the utmost importance that racing does everything it can to promote the positive things that people in the horse racing community do. The stream of negative stories must be balanced with positive stories. The kind care that the horses receive and the tireless effort of people that do right by their horses must be highlighted as the false perception that racing is abuse grows.

3 comments:

MH said...

"Between tragic incident stories there is a void of no information at all."

So TRUE. That's the problem. Media ignore racing except for the bad, and when they only report on that, people will naturally conclude that racing must be cruel and dangerous if that's all they take the time to observe. As a journalism student right now, media in general disappoint me. It's even worse when it comes to how they cover horse racing.

Anonymous said...

racing is pouring money into
the New York times corp and
it is showing in its' coverage.

Power Cap said...

There is another article out today on CBS sportline. Same theme as many of the other articles as the author uses the same formula and ends with self-righteous outrage at the animal cruelty.