Working Tuesdays in the high school and university summers as a kid was fun. Tuesday was mine tour day and instead of a 12 hour shift of bad things, I'd be getting paid hardhat wages to be a junior guide. My main job during the tours - according to the salty underground mine vet leading them - was pretty simple:
"Make sure no one wanders off."
The 3,200 foot level was older, wider and fairly nice (as far as gold mines go) for tour goers, but there were a couple red flags. At one point there was a hole in the drift wall with only a few four by eights blocking it. On the other side was a 1,300 drop to the 4,500 level. Later, there was a down drift that I'm pretty sure led to China. My job was to follow the group and "make sure no one wanders off". That was probably sound advice.
Of late we've seen horse racing more and more under the microscope and it's been big news; especially big for a sport so dependent on the public and governments for its funding. And I don't think I'm telling tales out of school to note that the responses have not been optimal. Whether on social media, through press conferences, or with media contacts, it feels like the sport is flying around in a hundred directions. Everyone is wandering off.
This issue is a microcosm in a sport with disparate factions. There are a vast number of fiefdoms, and some of these factions see crisis as a Rahm Emanuelesque opportunity (lasix anyone?). Horsepeople and others have their own issue of the day when something happens.
It's left to track management to steer the ship through the waters, and not only are they different from place to place, how are they supposed to handle something like this well?
Michael Beychok noted, not long after the Santa Anita story broke, that his firm - a crisis management joint - was available to help. He was confused by much of the strategy.
I saw seasoned observers like Jessica Chapel speak of the unfocused (and sometimes unavailable) social media response during the same period, and she made some good points.
Michael and Jessica were both right, in my view.
If a crisis situation happens in Louisiana, or New York, or California or Kentucky, the sport needs a playbook; it needs to ensure nobody is wandering off. I believe the sport needs someone who knows crisis management to craft this strategy before its needed, not after. It must follow a social media response playbook, so an employee stops wondering if he or she should ever hit send.
I don't know who'd pay for it, or run it, or what umbrella it'd fall under; I certainly don't want this to be yet another "we need a central office" thing. But there's clearly a better way than what we've been witnessing. Someone out there should be able to make it happen. I'm sure Mike and Jessica are easy to find.
Have a nice Tuesday everyone.
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