Loyalties of sports fans are enduring. Most, if not all, root for the same team their entire lives.
My grandfather was always a Philadelphia Phillies fan. He grew up hating that the Athletics had the audacity to play in Philadelphia and would later rejoice when the team relocated to Kansas City in 1954. I fondly remember spending my childhood summers with him in the 1980’s. You didn’t dare change the channel while Harry, Richie, and Andy were calling a Phillies game or even suggest that you check the scores of other games on other channels during the commercials.
Some fans have gone to their deathbeds either in triumph or in despair over their team’s performance. Michael Sven Vedvik’s family went as far as to blame the Seattle Seahawks for his untimely demise after Super Bowl XLIX!
Studies have even shown that ravenous sports fans benefit from them identifying with a sports team.
Murray State Professor Daniel Wann has proven that there are social benefits from being a diehard fan, including higher self-esteem, feeling more positive and being part of a larger group or community. As horseplayers, we often feel that we are part of a community too. There are websites, forums, Facebook groups, and your friends that you see at the track or OTB.
Individual players on the teams are not held in the same light though. In today’s sports culture there is little loyalty between both players and management. The players that end up spending their entire career with the same team are far and few between. Having players like George Brett, Cal Ripken, or Mike Schmidt play their entire career for one team is no longer the norm. Players today are seen more as mercenaries who will follow the path that provides them the most money. Management makes a business decision to trade their stars or allow them to enter free agency without much of fight.
Chase Utley played his heart out for the Phillies from 2003 through 2015. My friend Scott had a serious man-crush on him until Aug. 19, 2015 when he was traded to the Dodgers. In a matter of hours he went from man-crush material to the scum of the earth.
In the world of sports, the horseplayer is a polygamist. Before you judge me, I’ve made worse comparisons in my career, including an unsuccessful essay comparing Virginia Woolf to a fish in my college freshman writing class.
But it’s true — horse racing fans are unique. While we all may root for a specific horse or jockey that has a place in our heart, if we have money on the race, sentiment is thrown out the window if we think they can be beaten. It is the nature of the game.
One of my favorite horses of all time, Tiznow, is a great example. I fell in love with this horse during the summer of 2000 and he solidified his place in my heart with that great stretch drive against Giant’s Causeway to capture the Breeders’ Cup Classic. However, as he entered his 2001 campaign, I successfully bet against him in the Strub and Woodward Stakes (where he finished second and third respectively), but was then elated when he nosed out Sakhee to take the 2001 Breeders’ Cup Classic.
As horseplayers, we are fans of the sport. Our team is the entire sport. We may like nine or ten different horses on a given day — and may never like them again. The team has interchangeable names and faces that we will both root for and root against… depending on how much we have riding on the last leg of that pick 4!