03/27/2017 3:59PM

Bergman: "Beard” solution should come from within

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Is the listed trainer always the real face behind the horse?

Repeat something often enough on social media and it becomes truth.

Sadly, what once passed for traditional means of communicating news has been altered, jaded in so many ways as loud voices and “retweets” have amplified the level of statements. If you hear the same thing often enough you simply don’t question the source.

News releases have been part of the media for as long as I can remember and unfiltered they come with an implied bias. Most respected news agencies in the past would read through such releases and verify the contents before passing it along to viewers or readers. In today’s fast-paced society, there is little time to review information and more urgency to release it, unaltered to a public, that has a right to decide for itself whether the news is straightforward or tilted to one side.

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Journalists should always question the “source” of a story and the potential bias created by that source in reporting.

There are no requirements for those using social media to concern themselves with accuracy before passing it along to the next audience.

Though social media may not be the best place to decipher fact from fiction, it is often the best place to get a sense of what people are thinking. Opinions are worth noting. Though they may not be based on fact, they give a sense of how people react.

Last week I read a horseplayers opinion in regard to the current “Beard-outing” discussion. This person suggested that the sport would not see one extra fan regardless of whether the true trainer’s identity was revealed.

To me, this was the ideal statement of opinion that has caused almost all legitimate discourse to go off the rails. Simply make a point about the inevitable success or failure of something to work long term and none of the current details matter in the least.

It’s a “why bother?” philosophy that implies no change is possible and nothing anyone ever does will matter.

We’re doomed.

Too often it seems worthwhile conversation of well-intended people gets hijacked on social media by those looking to give less meaning to the discussion and more power to themselves.

It’s easy to be a cynic in these times but no more so than it was in the past.

Cynics have increased in number and a lack of action and change has led to more discontent nationwide.

As an industry divided on issues, harness racing has become stagnant, and necessary and urgent changes have not taken place. Not because there aren’t an enormous number of well-meaning people that want to see change, but because the conversation is often hijacked or kidnapped by those with a louder voice or a bigger pedestal.

While “Beards” have existed for a long time, it’s rather interesting that they have taken a more public persona in the last few weeks. The journalist in me asked the immediate question: Why now?

Why now did two of the most prominent heads of horsemen’s associations in the United States issues statements on the subject?

Motives are always hard to pin down and certainly one could ask the individuals directly and get a viewpoint.

My take is that the issue was raised in a major way and was getting traction. Thus, more and more people were spreading it around on social media and there was an inherent danger whether the use of “Beards” is real or imagined that eventually it would be viewed as real if it was repeated often enough.

The problem is “Beards” are not imagined. Picking them out is not nearly as difficult as has been suggested and catching them is far easier than any plan that has been suggested would imply.

If well-respected horsemen can read a program and easily tell the real trainer’s name that matches the “Beard,” it’s hard to imagine that we need racing commissions to add a boatload of work to their already busy schedules to reveal true identities.

Essentially Ray Schnittker did that in a very public forum and for some reason we are trying to invent methodology to allegedly “prove” his point.

This isn’t about fairness and it isn’t about opinions. This is about the reality of an industry and those with legitimate concerns hoping to get a voice at the table and make changes that will truly matter.

Adding complexity to the solution in this case will make it even more difficult to tackle, in my opinion.

In regard to that opinion, we referenced earlier about this change not putting one additional fan in the stands. It’s a grim outlook that just can ‘t be shared by anyone that has a hope this industry can galvanize and move forward.

If we have a product to sell, we must have an image that is as close to squeaky clean as possible. No marketing plan can gloss over a situation where the winning trainer can’t be interviewed after a race. No marketing plan can explain away why certain licensed trainers are not allowed to race in certain races at particular tracks but permitted to race in other races at the same track.

In today’s society, if you have something to hide it can easily become public in a major way.

A sincere and moving first step would be for all horsemen’s associations to work together, separate from racing commissions, to root out the “Beard” problem. Because essentially it is a horsemen’s problem that has been made public.

All that is really required are meetings with all horsemen having to look each other in the eye and let the truth reveal itself.

We don’t need a public inquisition and we seriously don’t want our racing commissions veering off their quest to keep unwanted substances from the bodies of our equine athletes.

It is easy to cast stones from afar under the cloak of anonymity. Horsemen should come together and face this problem directly with all in attendance and with all parties in plain sight.