Move over, Michael Phelps and Chad le Clos… the best Olympic feud so far has been between a Deadspin blogger and the equestrian community.
Most of you might have seen this on facebook. In one day something like 8 of my friends shared it in some version, all basically flipping Patrick the blogger a big middle finger. Basically he said that equestrian sports were dumb, the horse does all the work, it’s abusive to animals, super aristocratic, etc etc. The same things we’ve all heard a million times by now. When I first read it, I had the same reaction that most people did. What an ignorant ass, I said, huffing and puffing and muttering all kinds of profanities as I slammed my way around the kitchen, making dinner. But once my defensiveness and pride settled down (and I burned the shit out of my finger), I starting thinking about it. And thinking about it. And thinking about it. Then I found myself replying to Patrick’s follow-up post. I know, shocking…
This might be one of the dumbest “feuds” I’ve seen, and I spend a lot of time on the internet, so that’s saying a lot. If you don’t like a sport, don’t watch it. Pretty simple. Change the channel. Click on a different live feed. Perhaps table tennis or golf would be more up your alley? Writing an entire blog post bashing one particular sport in such spectacularly inelegant fashion is an obvious attempt for attention, and congratulations, it worked.
To the horse people (of which I am one): I understand the knee jerk reaction to this guy. His original blog post was full of a lot of ignorance and came off quite rude. I get it, riding is my passion too, and it’s natural to want to defend something that you love so much. But once you get all those expletives out of your system (and they’re therapeutic, I know), we owe it to ourselves and our sport to step back and look at what this guy is really saying. It’s not really about whether he’s right or wrong (obviously he’s wrong).
Peel back a few layers of pure prickishness, dumbassery, pompousness, and blatant ignorance, and his opinion is not that different from the public majority. It’s a fact that our sport is always one of the lowest rated, and it’s no secret that the IOC is considering dropping the Equestrian events altogether. They’re expensive to put on, they garner a lot of criticism, and they don’t bring much back to the table. So what our new friend Patrick has to say, infuriating as it may be, is actually REALLY IMPORTANT if we as a community want to keep our sport in the Olympics.
Our sport is very intricate – it’s one of skill, not one of brawn. It’s easy for anyone to turn on swimming or running or gymnastics and be entertained by it. It takes zero brain power or education to understand it. Their events are pretty short and the objective is obvious. Ours isn’t that obvious at all to the layman (except for maybe showjumping), and really the only people that are going to understand what the hell is going on are fellow equestrians.
When equestrian events were originally included in the modern Olympic games it was by way of polo, “grand prix jumping”, high jump, and long jump. Almost like a horse version of track and field. Dressage came in a little bit later (originally the dressage horses had to jump a few fences, too!), along with eventing (long format, anyone?), and a more recognizable version of showjumping. Almost everything then was military-based, which made sense in those days and fit in with the overall vision of the games. It was truly a sporting competition. But now the Olympics has morphed into a ratings show; an advertising push painted with a stroke of patriotism. The IOC doesn’t care all that much about the sports themselves, their big job is to increase ratings and sponsorship.
So if we really want to stay in the Games, instead of getting pissed at Patrick we should listen to what he has to say and ask ourselves: what can we do – presentation wise, broadcasting wise, scheduling wise, education wise, etc – to make our sport easier for the layman to understand (because obviously most of them are clueless as hell, just like him) and more interesting to watch? Or, if we actually care more about the bigger issues of the sport itself (rider safety, horse welfare, etc) rather than the ratings war that the Olympics has become, why do we want to stay in anyway? Are the Olympic Games really the pinnacle of our sport anymore? Do we want the desires of the IOC to dictate the choices we make and the direction that our sport takes? Maybe so… but maybe not. Either way, Patrick’s incredibly ignorant blog post provides plenty of food for thought.