02/08/2016 12:16PM

Bergman: Laser focus needed for harness racing to gain traction

Meadowlands operator Jeff Gural responds to Jay Bergman's column from last week by saying, "no one cares".

The medium is the message.

Marshall McLuhan went into great depth to describe the power of the medium in conveying messages in 1964.

Today in our world one message and only one message is drilled into the medium for maximum effect.

When Marco Rubio was castigated for his wont to repeat the same phrases over and over again whether in interview or debates, it should have come to no surprise to all media and political experts.

Rubio understands the value of talking points in today’s society and how to build on repetition.

The reality in today’s culture is that no matter what message you are sending out, repeat it as often as possible and you will win followers. To some it may be repetitive but to others it could be a signal that you are a strong individual with authentic core principles. Essentially repeating the same words gives off an impression that you are focused, even if that’s a misrepresentation of reality.

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Having participated in last Friday’s Pick-5 carryover at The Meadowlands and witnessed one individual’s 50-cent wager turning into nearly $110,000, I saw the message.

If we are in the betting business we must focus on what the betting public appreciates the most and attempt to repeat the notion that it is more than possible to win a large amount of money by wagering a very nominal amount. This may be a sport that revolves around horses racing in circles, but by no means should we continue to spin our wheels with other wild fantasies. The salvation of harness racing as a sport is more in line with gaining mass wagering than it is with any of the factors that lead up to the actual event.

The public is not concerned with what goes on behind the scenes unless it will give them an edge towards collecting. The public is concerned about outcomes and when selecting five correct numbers can turn into six-figure and maybe seven-figure returns, it should garner attention.

That the Meadowlands offered but a $50,000 guarantee and attracted over $125,000 in new money to the wager this past Friday is more indicative of time passing than an actual guarantee. With six days between the two wagers, there was plenty of time to put together groups as well as handicap five separate races. In my mind the time between the carryover and the actual races is as significant as the carryover itself. Logically, $18,000 in free money should not be able to yield this amount of additional wagering.

In essence the time to get the message out proved the difference in impressive results.

To focus on one item is a means of building credibility in the world. To stick to a single focus should be our mission.

Sure we can talk about purses and we can talk about breeding and we can talk about the future of casino gambling. Those items matter to many individuals in this business, but to those non-insiders they have little impact on their daily lives. To those looking to have fun, make some money, or combine those two, what matters most is what we’re selling and hopefully what they are buying.

The value of media and social media comes with repetition and focus. If we can’t come up with a singular point, and to me that would be how exciting it is to wager on races with the hope of winning big, we are essentially only talking to and about ourselves.

JAYWALKING: Jeff Gural had different views regarding last week’s column. What follows is part of his response:

“As far as announcing the results of Bresnahan’s horse testing positive publically, I totally disagree.  The reality is no one cares and the Racing Commissions do not have the resources to catch these guys.  If I am going to spend my money doing the out of competition testing, people have to know that we are able to catch the use of EPO and that we are going to embarrass them publically.  Even more important, I think the fact that I am not going to let the owner of the horses that Bresnahan was training race at the Meadowlands for 60 days may scare a few owners, although once Pennsylvania opens they probably don’t care.   Just so you know, no race track owner in the area or Commission member has ever contacted me to ask why someone is not allowed to race at our racetracks.  You probably saw the press release from Yonkers extoling the virtues of Rene Allard, who is the leading trainer and who is someone we caught drugging horses multiple times.  The reality is no one really cares; neither the thoroughbred people nor the harness people, otherwise all of the track owners would have joined forces with me to set up our own security system.  The NFL and Major League Baseball do not rely on the Government to test their players they do it themselves and we have to do the same thing.”

On the last point Gural may in fact be correct that a combination of racetracks agreeing on a means of protecting integrity may be the only way to curb the problems that exist. At the same time, Gural’s outspoken nature puts him in line with maverick owners from the other sports and not necessarily in line with the mainstream. Unlike the other sports, we do not have a commissioner that can bring all track owners to the table to come up with solutions that work collectively for the industry.

Then again, we should understand that harness racing doesn’t have many parallels with the other two sports unless you consider trauma from banging our heads on the wall for so long and not being able to think clearly as we age.