03/24/2014 11:25AM

Jay Bergman: Let's stick to the facts on social media

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Geri Schwarz
Yannick Gingras, an active participant on Twitter, gives out plenty of driving strategy for his horses, but sometimes he is forced to call an audible when the race begins.

As we’ve seen over the last week, social media has its benefits and has its drawbacks. What is spoken or written in today’s society can’t be removed by using white out. We have to live with what is said and more often than not, time tends to reduce the impact of even the most profound misdeeds.

Driver strategy would always seem important going into a particular race. It doesn’t seem that long ago when judges were fining drivers for the act of speaking to one another on the racetrack. The prevailing thought back then was even the impression that competitors would be engaged in conversation would spur the public to imply collusion of a sort.

“What are they talking about?” was frequently asked when players witnessed drivers becoming a bit too chummy on the racetrack. “Aren’t they supposed to be on opposing sides?”

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That bodes the question of today’s latest racetrack-provoked trend for drivers to engage the betting public before each race and give them something to chew on. Thusly, the Twitter universe has been allowed to get a closer look at the participants in the race and perhaps a greater understanding of what is about to happen before it takes place.

Perhaps what’s different about our tweets as compared to other sporting events is the propensity to engage in the discussion of actual driving strategy behind a particular horse. It’s doubtful that coaches will tweet their game plans in advance of a football or basketball game. It’s doubtful if players recognize weaknesses in the other team that they will reveal them as opposed to exploiting them.

With that in mind, one has to question if there is indeed need, demand or reason why drivers should offer up such privileged information to the betting public. Wouldn’t it be sufficient to suggest that they like their chances or don’t like their chances?

When one driver tweeted a couple of weeks back that he was “blasting” from an outside post to get the lead, I wondered why he would tell everyone what his plans were? Was it for intimidation? Was it because it was obvious anyway?

“I don’t read anybody else’s tweets,” said Yannick Gingras, a driver with a large following.

Gingras has been one of the most informative drivers when it comes to social media and we’d have to say he’s doing his part to help promote the sport as best as possible.

That isn’t to say there haven’t been bumps on his road. Gingras revealed that he’s been criticized, perhaps unfairly, for not doing what his tweets suggest he will.

“I go into a race with three or four strategies,” Gingras said, “Just because I said something before the race doesn’t mean that things don’t change once the race begins.”

No one can blame a driver for changing his mind before or during a race when it comes to making moves. It’s clear that strategy is just a plan and that plans within combat can be altered, not just by the actions of your horse, but by the actions of the other drivers and horses. Reacting to change and having additional strategy is what allows the top drivers to excel.

“There’s a big difference between the top 20 drivers and then next 20 drivers,” said Gingras, referring to the instinct required to react correctly to the evolving definition of a race and come out on top.

But what about the guys you told one thing before the race and then they see something different when the race unfolds?

“I don’t think I’m saying anything that other drivers can’t figure out by looking at the program,” said Gingras.

As has been stated at the Meadowlands and elsewhere, we are in a new field and mistakes will be made. What’s difficult to determine is whether the public should have to decide what is opinion and what is fact?

Are those who criticize Gingras for failing to act out his strategy in a strict fashion unreasonable? Or are they expecting the information they receive and react on to be a hundred percent accurate?

As news mediums have changed, so too have the definition of news. In today’s society, more often than not people receive their news in the form of opinions. Talk shows feature people giving their opinion of the news and not the hard facts of what happened.

In racing, the program contains factual information about the horse. The breeding, ownership and listed driver are facts, not opinions. The past performance lines are actual representations of the event with electronically timed fractions and final times.

When short comments were added to the program, it represented opinion, but at the same time bettors would eventually conclude those opinions as fact-based in making their decisions.

Now the question becomes, are we giving away too much opinion and is the public taking too much of it as fact?

It’s easy to concur that Joe Bongiorno could have explained himself in a better way before being taken off of two drives at the Meadowlands. Clearly the pressure of actually having to say something, whether it is in front of a camera or via twitter, makes millions of people say things they wish they hadn’t said.

The basic problems we have when opinions are discussed in an open forum before a betting race is that if something is not 100 percent believable, is there potential for it to be misleading?

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What Joe Bongiorno mistakenly revealed to the betting public was something privately the connections of those horses could have used to their advantage. It’s not long ago that the sport went through a period of favorites going dead in triple and superfecta races and informed bettors walking out with small fortunes.

Is it a danger we are approaching again? When we allow opinions to lead or mislead the public, integrity will always be questioned.

Maybe we should go back to just stating the facts and let those going to the windows offer the opinions?