Jason Beem's Thursday Column for March 31, 2022
Today I want to talk about fun. Horse racing is meant to be fun. It’s meant to be a mental challenge, a financial risk/reward, and sometimes a stress-inducer. But I think all things considered, fun is one of the most important reasons we all partake in this great game.
Coming up this Monday, some friends and I here in Florida are going to do something fun. My fellow Floridian announcer buddies Peter Aiello and Gabe Prewitt are going to have a match race in the bikes at Pompano Park. It started off as a challenge from Pete to Gabe, and with Pompano Park closing its doors for good on April 17, Gabe finally gave it the go-ahead.
Both guys are raising money for aftercare charities, and I think it’s going to be a really fun event squeezed in between the regular races at Pompano Park on Monday April 4. And you can watch it all on the Pompano Park feed here on TwinSpires. I’ll be announcing the race, and I’m really excited about it, but most of all, just excited to see my friends and have a great night at the races.
This past week you may have seen a big Hollywood award show that had a very controversial thing happen on stage as a result of a reaction to a joke. I don’t want to discuss that because it’s been discussed ad nauseam on social media ever since. But I do want to use it as a jumping-off point about jokes and having fun within the scope of horse racing. I’ve often lamented that I think horse racing sometimes can take itself a bit too seriously. I think sometimes we fail to see the humor and/or ridiculousness of things that can happen in various parts of the game. And I think that’s a shame.
In 2016, when I started doing my daily podcast, we incorporated a lot of comedy bits and song parodies into the show. It was partly an attempt to do something different than what was already out there in the racing content space, but also I personally find writing and executing comedic stuff to be very enjoyable and rewarding.
Initially, it was all very well-received. We had a few song parodies right away get good traction on social media and YouTube, and it was a blast. Until I upset someone. Within a couple months of starting that job I got cease-and-desist letters from not one, but two major people/groups in racing to pull down the videos we made. I was legitimately shocked because I thought, and still think, they were extremely harmless.
My boss initially refused to take them down because there was no reason to, but I asked that we take them down because truly I never wanted to upset anyone. I just wanted to make people laugh and have some fun with racing.
Those early battles over the videos taught me a lot about who can take a joke and who can’t in racing. The next few years when I would do my annual Beemie Awards show, I removed or edited so many jokes and tweets just because I thought someone might pitch a fit about them, even though I didn’t think any of them were harmful.
It was frustrating to leave things on the cutting room floor just because of worrying about offending someone. Who gets to judge if a joke is harmful or offensive? Well, I suppose that’s part of the debate that’s going on with that awards show thing from this week.
I don’t mean for this to come off whiny about not being able to tell jokes. I was the one who gauged the room and took out what I thought might upset someone. And I think I did a fairly good job because other than a couple minor instances, nobody ever really got worked up. In fact, I think overall my content has been very well-received and almost never complained about. Other than those cease-and-desists from 2016.
I still do some comedy material here and there online. My “How I Root" video from 2020 is easily the most views and traction I’ve ever gotten with something I made. I’d love to do a lot more of that type of content because I think there is a place for it, and the results and feedback when I’ve done them have been tremendous. But the creative process is a little bit tough when you’re trying not to step on anyone’s toes, but you also want to put out a good punchline. I suppose that’s a struggle anyone doing creative work has to deal with, though. It’s not restricted to just comedy. There’s a push and pull of the audience and reaction. Sometimes it’s all good, sometimes it’s all bad, sometimes it’s mixed.
We’re a very insular sport, and I think we’re often very sensitive because of outside pressures. However, I really think we’d be better served and appear more inviting if we did take more time to laugh at ourselves and have more fun. Just a thought. Have a great weekend, everyone!