Jason Beem's Thursday Column for Feb. 9, 2023
Last year’s two-year-old filly champ Wonder Wheel will make her seasonal debut against Demoiselle (G2) winner Julia Shining and seven other rivals in the Suncoast. The Suncoast produced Nest last year, and it should be a heck of a showdown on Saturday.
The Sam F. Davis drew a field of 12, and Remsen (G2) winner Dubyuhnell figures to be the favorite. My normal pattern for a week like this is to be excited most of the week, then Friday I have a knot in my stomach all day, then Saturday I just try to relax and call them as they run.
I wanted to write this week about authenticity in relation to racing and racing content. I had the good fortune of having Rasi Harper on my show on Wednesday, and we talked about the fantastic content he’s been doing the last couple of years on his channel, The Real Players Inside the Backstretch. If you haven’t checked them out on YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter, they do interviews with racing personalities from the backstretch, including trainers, agents, grooms, assistant trainers, jockeys, and more. It’s an extremely basic concept, but it’s executed so well that it’s always great.
Since I work in the field of content creation, I’m always fascinated to watch what content works and what doesn’t in terms of grabbing an audience and retaining them. It’s not an easy thing to do. There’s so much content out there in every industry, and racing is no exception.
And content can be different things too. It can be entertainment, information, something to provoke thought, and other things as well. But time and time again, I think the stuff that really can draw in an audience and maintain them is the stuff that’s the most authentic. Whether it be the content itself or the host or person who is presenting it, I think audiences can pick up authenticity from the material or presenter.
I produce four podcasts and two columns a week, and there have absolutely been times over the years where I put out something that I wasn’t fully behind. For one reason or another, it was not something I was passionate or authentic about. I might have just gone through the motions, not jelled with a guest, but it happens. And those shows stink when I’m not being my full, true self. I obviously try for that not to ever happen, but on occasion it has. I think the audience can pick up on that as well, and it probably stinks for them too.
What makes The Real Players content so good is that it’s someone who’s genuinely interested in interviewing the subjects they’re talking to. Rasi is not on camera, and he does a great job of letting the person he is interviewing do the talking and tell their story. People love to tell their stories and when they trust the person they’re telling it to, I think the guard can come down and the best and most honest stuff can come out.
I watch a lot of hockey content, and so many of the player interviews are just terribly boring. This is true in a lot of sports, by the way. They spit every cliche in the book to reporters, who ask bad questions, and it’s not captivating in the least bit. But then I’ll hear some of these hockey players go on a podcast with good hosts and an open and honest atmosphere, and their true personality comes out and the conversations are riveting. Same person being interviewed, but the circumstances and situations are so much different.
We hear all the time about how much people like and digest short-form content, yet some of the most popular podcasts in the country go on for hours an episode. Our top two performing shows that I’ve ever done are both over an hour and feature a professional horseplayer talking about math and behavior and betting. Certainly not fast or flashy material.
I love that there are so many people who want to produce horse racing content. Like any sport or industry, some of it is going to be good, some is going to be OK, and some is going to be awful. But hopefully as more people dive into the content game, more good stuff will make it through the cracks and will be not only enjoyed by people already in the game, but by people who are just discovering it.