10/23/2017 10:44AM

Macedonio: Making a case against Walter Case Jr returning to the bike

Michael Newman
Walter Case Jr won his second start back this weekend at Scarborough Downs.

Walter Case Jr . . . now there’s a person that will always be polarizing. He’s our “Pete Rose should be in the Hall Of Fame” or “college athletes shouldn’t be paid” topic. Whenever there is a slow news day, we could always fire up the ole Walter Case nostalgia engine and boom, instant content! At least that’s what I thought.

Case drove this weekend winning 4 of 19 races at Scarborough Downs in Maine. Let me get this out of the way, Case has the right to work, make money, pay his bills and all of that jazz that is afforded to him as an American. He’s an American who happens to be a convicted felon, but one who has not violated his probation.

There are plenty of people in Case’s shoes who find jobs and rehab themselves into great people after hitting rock bottom. I’m not opposed to supporting him off the track in charities and volunteer work. If Case asserted himself as a dedicated member of society, raising money and awareness for domestic abuse, I’d be standing right beside him, but that’s where my support of Walter Case ends.

Some people say that philanthropy is the new wave of advertising. A lot of corporations have adopted this idea of “having their cake and eating it too” where they get to donate to charity, volunteer, create an awareness event, etc. while promoting the hell out of it in a way that’s almost fake. Seemingly the only reason that they are doing the charity work is to simply promote while using the good deed as a facade. Regardless of the intent, in the end the charity work is getting done and way more good comes out of it than negative. You can’t criticize an organization for doing charity work even if it’s solely for good, positive promotion!

Some people hate to bring attention to themselves while they volunteer and that’s perfectly fine as well. From my perspective, Case cannot take this secondary approach to charity/volunteer work. He has to get his name out there and promote that he is trying to become a great citizen to overcome the shame he has caused himself, his family and the industry of harness racing. He should hire a Public Relations Manager and photographer and then go sit in on a domestic abuse meeting and simply listen to the stories that come out of those meetings. He should dedicate his time to become a bridge of emotions to the men who could possibly find themselves in his position, and try to aid others in dealing with their emotions before they lose control. After all of that, wrap it up in a nice little package and start spreading the word through pictures and video with a message that anyone can make it to the other side.

After six months of meetings, outings and events, Case would most certainly have the support of that group . . . and don’t you think that if a group like that showed their support for Case in front of whatever Gaming Commission and USTA committee, it should be very easy to get his license? Why? Because it would be a great positive story that we all could promote! It’s Marketing and Promotions 101. Why do you think Michael Vick is so well liked now? He’s still spending time with charities, raising money and educating people. As far as I’m aware, Case has done nothing off the racetrack to promote harness racing and become an outstanding member of society. If he has been volunteering, why isn’t he screaming it from the rooftops?

Moving on to Walter Case on the racetrack . . . 

I’ll say this as frankly as possible. Anyone who uses Walter Case Jr as a driver or trainer is not helping Harness Racing, and in fact, I think you’re being detrimental to the future growth of our industry. He will do absolutely nothing for positive promotion of our sport and we all know that we need more of it.

With Case now able to drive, the press surrounding him will be shouting, “Walter Case is back driving in Maine!” How many will tune in to watch? Will you be watching every single one of his drives, analyzing his moves and detecting for the rust factor? Probably not.

Considering the USTA’s stance on Case, they likely won’t ever feature an article highlighting his comeback. Any article that Scarborough or Bangor sends them will automatically get funneled down the line into their abyss of news headlines. Is that something that Maine needs to happen to them? Absolutely not! They need all the publicity help that they can get! There are great stories that can be fished out of Maine! I spent three weeks up there meeting people for the first time and I can honestly say that they are a great harness racing community. All of the support they have shown has been tremendous. One of the reasons I went up there was because any video or interview that featured a person from Maine was wildly successful. They get behind their people in a way that’s unlike other states. So when I visited Windsor and Fryeburg, my goal was to talk and listen to as many people as possible and then introduce them to an international audience on my TrotCast site.

So here I have found all of these great people with fantastic relatable stories that can connect with fans, but the story will go to Walter Case? Maybe not for the USTA, but perhaps with Standardbred Canada, DRF, HRU and HarnessLink. But should that be the story?

McGwire Sowers, a 17-year-old driving phenom, had a driving triple at the Fryeburg Fair in one day. Now that’s a story that could be promoted by news outlets. If we don’t make a big deal out of our young talent, why would we expect our fans to care? Even a little story can be propped up to seem like huge endeavor so that fans can look and say, “Wow that’s pretty cool”. Back to Case . . . you’ll wait to see a press release on how he did and how many races he won, then maybe you’ll search out the replay. Good luck with that because Scarborough has limited their video and replay feed, although you’ll be able to watch Bangor Raceway just fine. How many people will wager? Sure, maybe some will throw down a few bucks and there will be a small burst of handle, but that won’t sustain over a long period of time. Walter Case isn’t the product, and he shouldn’t be the focus of your product.

Here’s another question: How many of us have a connection or even the slightest idea about Walter Case? Anyone under the age of 35 probably has no idea. He set his wins record 20 years ago! I’m pretty sure that there were few if any kids running around with a Case bobblehead and/or jersey. Remember, 20 years ago when I was a teenager, there wasn’t the ease of access to news, replays, and stories of harness racing, so none of us outside of the track that Case was racing at even knew who Walter Case was. So he’s had 20 years of essentially being a ghost while the new wave of young marketable drivers came along for us to idolize like superheroes. He’s 56 years old now and hasn’t raced since 2008 at Plainridge, so he has zero readability to any new fan! He’s not young, hip and attractive like Doug McNair, Louis-Philippe Roy, Joe Bongiorno, and Scott Zeron. On the small amount of exposure that we can get to young women, whose face do you want trying to lure them in? How can we expect any children to use Case as a role model? If their parents do their job, they’ll steer them away from him very quickly, instead shoving a John Campbell or Ronnie Wrenn bobblehead in front of them. Isn’t our goal for Harness Racing to recruit more fans, specifically NEW YOUNG fans to the sport? So how will someone past his prime, who doesn’t use social media, be able to connect with anyone under 35? If you can answer that, you should be hired as the next VP of Marketing for Google.

Do you really think that Case will dominate like he once did? Even if he does come back to win six races each night, if you are a top trainer, do you need Case to drive your horse? No matter where you fit in that equation, wouldn’t it suit the sport of harness racing to use your position as a trainer and owner to wrap your arms around one of the young drivers and trainers eager to assert themselves as the next generation of great horsemen that have come out of Maine? The talent pool is overflowing! If you have some power, you don’t need Case. If your horse is the 5th best in the race, Case isn’t going to drive it anyway.

Aaron Hall, Ryan Hall, Matt Athearn, McGwire Sowers, Mitch Cushing, McKenzie Sower, Andy Harrington, Eric Davis, Chris Nye, Nick Graffam, Zack Gray, and the list goes on, but all of them are hungry and ready to make their mark. If I were them, I would stand up against Case because they are the present and the future. Case will only take away the focus and opportunities from them. 

Face it Maine, Case is likely only using you as a stepping stone to try and get his license somewhere else. I hope I am wrong, but do you really think that he is going to help anyone? Do you think he’ll have sit-down sessions with some of the trainers and drivers to go over their mistakes? I know that you can call up the other guys I listed earlier and they’ll do just that, just like many other drivers.

It frustrates me at my core when I see others being passed over simply because of their age. It’s something I fight with everyday. There is always someone out there questioning my ability and I have to scratch and claw to change their opinions. This young group from Maine should band together and do the same thing. Understand that Case will do nothing for your career, short or long term. He will not help you win races, he will not teach you anything and will be actively trying to take your spot. Look around you and see who has come out of Maine. This is your opportunity to decide which path you can take. My advice . . . become the Jason Bartlett or James Doherty of Maine, not the Walter Case Jr.