I noticed one of the racing networks I visit has suddenly gotten very quiet. For the longest while people in the industry and dedicated fans exchanged ideas and everyone got along. Sometimes people disagreed, but they were respectful of each other. Why did it get quiet? Perhaps everyone went to Lexington and has no access to the Internet? I tend to doubt it. So what happened?
The tone of the conversation changed when people disagreed. What was once respectful disagreement got to what could charitably be called disrespectful. What was the topic(s) which apparently sent things over the edge? The whipping controversy was certainly a trigger point, but there were other issues as well. What the issues were is not germain to this discussion; it is the response which is important.
All of sudden the attacks got hostile. Here we had an online gathering of fans and horsemen and the virtual gloves came off. It got to the point where an individual insinuated fans have no clue what goes on and many of their ideas are 'full of...'. You get the idea. Since then, the board has gotten very quiet with little conversation going on. This is what harness racing doesn't need. Let's dismiss the opinions and suggestions of our fans. Not just casual fans, ones that live and breathe harness racing that they take the time to post on these boards. While we are at it, let's insult them and then we can wonder where they went and why.
For sure not all the ideas presented by fans are great ideas. Do they understand everything about the inner workings of harness racing? Perhaps not. But you know what? Just maybe they are on to something. As a person who is intimately involved in this sport maybe you can only see things from your point of view. Did you ever consider the fan's opinion; how things look from the other side of the fence?
Harness racing is not only a sport, it is a business. The fans and gamblers are our customers. Whether you are an owner, driver, trainer, groom or teller you are a salesperson for harness racing. Can you imagine a customer at The Big Furniture Store making a suggestion or a comment and have the salesperson tell the customer he/she is an idiot? How long is the store going to stay open if their customers tell them they want to buy recliners and the store insists on stocking only fixed back chairs?
This goes far beyond what happens on any social network. What this exhibits is an attitude by some in this industry that the way things are done is fine and there is no need to change; we don't care what our customers think. There is a mistaken notion that the owners pay the bills. Quite the contrary, ultimately the people paying the bills are the dwindling number of people showing up in the grandstand or simulcast location as well as the people sitting in front of their computers betting through their ADWs. After all, if there is no purse money, how long do you think owners are going to buy race horses for trainers to train and drivers to drive? Where does this purse money come from? It comes from fans/gamblers (customers) wagering on the races. Oh, most of your purse account comes from VLTs or purse supplements? That can change and/or go away very quickly, especially if you have no customers. Rather than dismiss what racing's customers (and potential customers) are telling you; saying they don't matter, perhaps we better listen to what they have to say and see if we can incorporate what they are asking for if it makes sense.
If they tell you racing is too expensive, let's see if we can cut the takeout rate. Whipping bothers them? Let's see how we can cut back on the whipping without risking the lives of our participants. Not enough betting interests to make wagering worthwhile? Maybe it is time to have trailers in races. Racing has gotten boring? Let's add different distance races to stimulate excitement. Our customers' suggestions should not be dismissed because we don't like them; they should be dismissed only if it can't be made to work.
Harness racing is a business and our fans/gamblers are a customer. The general public is our potential customers. We are here to serve our customers, not the other way around. Perhaps we need to remember this.