Jason Beem's Thursday Column for Dec. 14, 2023

December 14th, 2023

A good Thursday morning to you all! I was watching a video on YouTube yesterday featuring “The Hockey Guy” who is a hockey fan who now makes his living making hockey videos on YouTube. One of the great things about the internet and content is that there are so many people who have turned their love of something into a career through making content about it.

Sports, music, art, any hobby really, people are creating content and making a living from it. It’s something I’ve been able to do for almost eight years now working for TwinSpires, and it’s never lost on me how lucky I am to do something I enjoy.

On this particular video, “The Hockey Guy” was talking about why he’s the “hockey guy” and not the “hockey expert.” He starts out by defining expert as “a person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or a skill in a particular area.” I’ve always personally disliked the word expert. It’s something that has been thrust upon me at points in my career and in areas that I would never claim to be an expert.

I used to do picks and analysis in the front page of the Portland Meadows program and it was always labeled as “Expert Selections.” Now, I suppose I had a comprehensive knowledge of racing at Portland Meadows, but I never thought of myself as an expert by any means. We had people there who had way more insights and good opinions at the races there than I did. Whenever I would go on local Portland media appearances, I was labeled as a “horse racing expert.”

I think a lot of time the word expert gets thrown around pretty loosely in a lot of different arenas. I get the appeal of anointing someone an expert, and I suppose really anyone who is at the upper echelons of a given field are in some way experts. 

Within racing, I’m sure there are people who are experts at their area of racing. I think public handicappers are probably the ones who would most have their expertise questioned as they are in the role that most of our customers are in, horseplayers and handicappers. I’m always more impressed by ROI than “winners” and if someone consistently shows a high ROI for years in a row at their circuit, I’d be fine with calling them an expert. But calling someone an expert just because they give out picks and they aren’t tracked or judged based on price, to me, seems silly at best and misleading at worst.

Part of why I never liked being referred to as an expert was because I was never a good handicapper or horseplayer. I was just paid to do it as a side job behind my actual job of calling races. Tracks do that all the time, they hire someone as an announcer or analyst and tell them to give out tickets even though they have no proof of success. I wonder if any analyst in horse racing has ever had to show their wagering ledger and prove success or at least a really high level of competency to be anointed to a position of expert? I’d guess if there have been people who had to, the list is extremely short. I mean when I apply for a race-calling job, I’m required to submit proof of me calling races to show my level of talent at my craft.

I’m not saying all this to pick on public or track handicappers. I think there are a lot of them who do a good job of giving picks and educating the more novice public who might be entering racing. I just think they have a job where you can have tangible long-term proof of expertise, but it’s rarely shown. I always appreciate when public 'cappers put their info and results out there — I think that’s an important thing for them to do.

Last thing I’ll say about being an expert is I think it’s a word and title that others have to give you. It would feel very strange for someone to label themself as an expert, even if they are. I’d be curious to hear who some of you think is an “expert” in some area of horse racing?