“[A] good race can chart multiple arcs: the frontrunner, the disappointment, the underdog. Who holds its stride when a competitor is on its heels? Who gets in whom’s head and falls apart? Who finds out its extra gear has an extra gear? No matter who you are, there’s a horse for you.” – Seerat Sohi, Yahoo Sports
It’s rare these days that a racing article can still make me angry. But last week, Yahoo Sports published a piece by Seerat Sohi, (mostly) an NBA writer, that did just that and more. Its title: “Why horse racing can appeal to a younger crowd and overcome its ugly past.” Yes, it is as horrible as it sounds – at once, tone-deaf, ignorant, and obtuse.
(Note: I held off writing in the hope of reaching the author; I did not succeed.)
Sohi opens by explaining how, sports-starved during the pandemic, she turned to racing, albeit with low expectations: “Let’s be clear. I wasn’t planning on liking horse racing. Even though I thought it would be tedious…I was ready to play the ponies.” But then, “a dozen beautiful horses leaped from the gates, and I was entranced. I was shocked by how entranced I was.” From there, it was waxing (poetic) time:
“Watching my first race was like grazing the edges of an ancient stone, feeling its power, its ancestry, that sense of entering into an ancient lineage. … The sight of a horse on the run is life-giving, inspiring. It sets off something carnal. The way they tried to best each other, stride by stride, made me want to run.”
She then laments that, despite being “tailor-made for a generation that needs a break to check its phone every 90 seconds,” Racing is not drawing the young. And though she cites “attitudes toward animal cruelty” as a factor – the last of seven mentioned, one of which was “Netflix” (?) – it’s quickly dismissed: “I’m not sure how much that applies to an audience that tunes in every Sunday to watch men mash their heads against each other.” Not the same at all, of course, something the kids surely know. Still, she says, “It isn’t a failure of the product itself. The races are invigorating.”
Of the gambling component, she asks: “But does horse racing even need to hitch itself to gambling?” It’s not, after all, like poker, “because horse racing is a real sport. There’s intrinsic pleasure in watching it. Gambling lubricates the experience, but isn’t dependent on it.” Did I not promise obtuse?
And then, because it seems everything nowadays must be reduced to this, race:
“But the more I read about the mainstream narrative of horse racing, the more disconnected I felt from the races, and it occurred to me why…it took a pandemic and a white boyfriend for this 26-year-old Canadian woman of Indian descent to finally tune in: modern horse racing isn’t designed to appeal to me. The heroes in American horse racing culture are almost always white. That’s on purpose. … Young equestrians are now questioning the horse racing world’s lack of response to George Floyd’s homicide…challenging the sport they love to tackle diversity problems and its deep-seated white privilege.”
So, horseracing is racist. Not speciesist (she probably doesn’t even know what that word means), but racist. Precious.
She closes thus: “If you’ve never watched horse racing…there are races everywhere, all the time. Check one out. Watch the way the horses move. It’s for you.”
Vile – from start to finish.
Of the charges leveled above, however, the most unforgivable is ignorant. Ms. Sohi is a paid journalist. It’s her job to know her subject. And no, providing Wikipedia-like snippets of racing history or citing the number of black jockeys in the 1875 Kentucky Derby doesn’t cut it. Had she done a modicum of research, she would have found that contemporary racing is in the news because of on-track kills, slaughter, whips, drug scandals, and federal indictments – none of which she mentions. At all. (And no, she doesn’t get credit for the “ugly past,” as article titles typically come from editors.)
But perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps it’s not ignorance at all. Perhaps Ms. Sohi is very much aware that over 2,000 horses die, horrifically, on American tracks each year; that 10,000-15,000 more are violently bled-out and butchered at horseracing’s singular retirement facility, the slaughterhouse; that racehorses are kept locked – alone – in tiny 12×12 stalls for over 23 hours a day; that they are bought, sold, traded, and dumped like common Amazon products; that 90-95% of them have ulcers; that – well, you know the drill. Perhaps Ms. Sohi knows all this – and just doesn’t care. But either way, gross incompetence or simple heartlessness (she does refer to the horses as “its” throughout), for shame, Seerat Sohi (and, of course, Yahoo Sports). For shame.
(full Yahoo article here)