alliance n. 1.a. A close association of nations or other groups, formed to advance common interests or causes...
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004.
Well, that definition certainly captures one aspect of Ye Olde Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance. Whether we’re the vanguard of the racing nation or a group of oddballs is, of course, still up for debate.
What’s not in doubt is that a year has passed since the birth of the TBA. According to our initial press release:
(Oct 18, 2005) Today a group of seven thoroughbred racing bloggers announced the creation of the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance (TBA). From the US to Hong Kong -- and all points in between -- these dedicated racing fans have banded together to support the game of horse racing by using a tool somewhat foreign to the Sport of Kings -- the blog. With the formation of the TBA, the group also announced plans to award their first ever Horse of the Year Award (HOY). Unlike similar awards that are given each year based solely on subjective media and industry voting, the TBA's HOY award will be given to the horses with the most points earned in Graded Stakes....
The seven bloggers from across the globe have been posting opinions, selections, complaints, movie and book reviews, rants, raves, and personal diaries for the past two years but have only recently begun interacting on a weekly basis -- drawn together by the creation of a points system that determines racing's top horses and a true horse of the year. The system awards points based on where a horse finishes in Graded Stakes Races -- the industry's highest level of racing...
As I recall, we were actually drawn together by Patrick posting invites on our blog comments, but who’s quibbling? We’ve grown from the gang of seven to a modest mob of 25.
On the street, this bunch might not have too much in common: financial types and scientists, librarians and publicists, track employees and government swells. All that really connects us are these “Internet tubes” and an appreciation of the sport.
However, we may have more in common than that. In The Racing Tribe, anthropologist Kate Fox took a look at the behaviors of racing crowds in Britain, and while folks can be a bit dotty across the pond, it seems that much of her research is equally valid on this side of the Atlantic.
For example, Fox finds that racing crowds do not behave like people in other public settings. The racecourse is characterized by a highly unusual combination of “relaxed inhibitions and exceptional good manners.”
Surely that is the essence of the TBA.
According to the book’s webpage, Fox attributes the abnormal sociability, goodwill and good behaviour of racing crowd to a combination of factors:
* First, racing is unlike any other spectator sport in that all of the sporting 'action' takes place in just a few minutes, interspersed with half-hour intervals with no activity at all on the track, allowing far more opportunities for social interaction than any other spectator sport.
* Because of its ambiguous moral status in a somewhat puritanical culture, racing performs an important social function as an 'alternative reality' a separate world, defined as 'non-serious', offering an escape from the norms and restrictions of ordinary life.
* Like carnivals and festivals, the marginal world of the race-meeting is governed by what anthropologists call 'cultural remission' a conventionalised relaxation of normal social rules and constraints. This 'time-out' factor is combined with strict adherence to racing's own distinctive traditions and customs, resulting in a unique form of 'controlled disinhibition'.
* The exceptional sociability of racing crowds is also an effect of what social psychologists call 'behavioural contagion' a process by which emotions and behaviour patterns spread rapidly through a crowd, resulting in increased similarity in mood and conduct. Smiling is infectious.
So, go ahead, let the “time-out” factor take effect. Enjoy some “controlled disinihibition”. Smile. It’s our birthday!
For those who may have missed the beginning of the TBA global takeover, here’s a brief synopsis:
October 2005: The opinionated and enthusiastic Pulling Hair and Betting Horses, the analytical and moderately leftwing Left at the Gate, the ever excellent Railbird, the easy-going Average Horseplayer, the professional Athlone Associates, the sporadic Triple Crown Racing, and the rather bookish Turf Luck sites all start sporting the TBA standings. The group is concentrated in the East, with 2 New Yorkers, a Bostonian, and some crazy dude from NJ. And yeah, there’s an odd librarian from Pittsburgh.
Out in the real world, Newsday writer Paul Moran mentions the group in a story no longer on the web, and the TBA makes it “above the fold” on Equidaily.
November 2005: California earns some street cred when Brad Buys a Yearling and shares her progress with the world.
January 2006: The New Year brings in new blood with the annexation of the Post Parade out of some martini-swilling corner of Texas,followed by the addition of the Philly tabloid sensibilities of Not to the Swift.
Saint Liam, rest in peace is named 2005 TBA Horse of the Year. TBA donates
$300 dollars in his honor to Old Friends.
February 2006: TBA members begin offering the TBA standings to media outlets. The TBA website is launched.
March 2006: Kentucky at last finds TBA representation when Blinkers Off joins the mix, and Maryland comes into the fold with the addition of those Rosie-lovin’ Bug Boys. The Horseman’s Blog joins up – then never posts again. (What happened to you, Hank?)
Meanwhile, Katrina at Athlone Associates blogs live from Dubai, and TBA hosts a World Cup chat room during the races.
April 2006: Curb My Enthusiasm adds some Beltway blues to the mix with posts from DC. The eloquently written Lemon Drop Kid drops in from Delaware – then drops out, despite pleas for more after Lemons Forever wins the Kentucky Oaks.
May 2006: Our international membership doubles when Jen’s Thoroughblog from Woodbine joins the gang. Philadelphia supplies us with another blogger, the super Superfecta, whose profession, moniker, and template all eerily call to mind another librarian with a penchant for names based on wagers.
July 2006: Two Saratoga-focused blogs enter the clubhouse: Saratoga 2006 with the view from Oregon, and At the Spa,with a Connecticut perspective. Meanwhile, Alan from Left at the Gate launches yet another blog, Racing Saratoga, while living the dream of an entire season at the Spa.
August 2006: Another New Yorker breaks up the Saratoga lovefest with an homage to Aqueduct, Can’t Wait for the Inner Track. Up on the Roof comes on board from Cincinnati’s River Downs; months later we’ll read his post of being hired at Portland Meadows. The $2 Window joins the crowd with pics and picks from Ohio. And At the 8th Pole joins to bring us analysis of races from ‘round the globe.
Ray Pawlick of The Blood-Horse stops by a few blogs – and mild firestorms ensue. However, all involved quickly revert to that exceptional politeness common to the racing tribe.
September 2006: The addition of Warstone Farm brings the NY state industry perspective, while Hoof Care puts the horse (or at least its hooves) front and center. International membership increases by 50% with the addition of Striding Thoroughbreds in Japan.
October 2006: Sloppy Blog, by longtime commenter Jolene from OregonRacing.com joins the gang.
A diverse bunch, yes. Different opinions, sure. Different perspectives, you betcha. But when Movement or Highland Cat leave the gate – well, we’re an alliance.