Twitter is playing its part in galvanizing fans from around the country to talk the talk and walk the talk; specifically, this weekend saw a group of “tweeps”—Team Blame, as they’ve come to be known, with their custom-made Blame t-shirts—gather from around the country at Belmont to cheer on their Horse of the Year contender in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, all of it catalyzed through the social medium that has taken “tweeting” in isolation to the next level of interaction, the “tweetup.”
Chris came the farthest, from California. A student in his mid-20’s, he’s known on Twitter as @tencentcielo, and he put this trip together with the help of Connie, aka @MsVFab, who had connections with an airline, and Derek, @NJDerek, a racing fan living in New Jersey who acted as chauffeur to the track. Connie and Chris, who’d just met on this trip, actually shared a hotel room together, harmoniously and platonically. Connie, by the way, was “officially” a part of Team Blame, yes, but her heart belonged to Fly Down. She’d fallen in love with the horse earlier this year and had a racing plate of his as well as vanity plates bearing his name. Needless to say, she was heartbroken he’d been sold to a Saudi owner and was fearful he’d be leaving the country to probably race in the King’s Cup at Riyadh next year.
Meanwhile, other members of Team Blame included the 21-year-old Dylan, @DylanTWM, from Boston, and Steve, @STMunday, from Virginia. Dylan was the first person from Twitter I’d actually met in person, on a trip to Suffolk Downs this summer (along with Suffolk’s super sharp Jessica, @JMPaquette), and like most of the others this was his first trip to Belmont.
At Belmont, they met some of the locals, including the NYRA favorite Teresa, @Bklynbckstretch, and Kevin, @ColinsGhost, both notable bloggers. At some point or another they’d hung with Daily Racing Form’s Marc, @MarcatDRF, a foodie, and the star tweeter Chris, @o_crunk, who’d been riding a high with a recent editorial in Thoroughbred Times (page 3) and notable mention in this video of Larry and Sarah.
Meanwhile, I was at Belmont alone, but met the group when @o_crunk, who is also the Hello Race Fans guy at the track, @HRFattheTrack, fired the following tweet to me: “@sidfernando in paddock grandstand side with a while slew tweeps, bleow the toteboard! Where y’at?” [Yes, spelling, unless you are @francesjkaron or @ThePaperTyger, doesn’t usually count on Twitter; therefore, “while”=”whole”; “bleow”=”below”].
So I walked over and met the group, and it was an easy meet as we’d all tweeted online with each other at one time or another. Later on, the racing fan and wedding photographer Ian, @IanLozada, who splits time between Long Island and Lexington, joined the group, and after the races—including staying to watch Zenyatta after the live program finished—Ian took some of us to Grimaldi’s, a terrific pizzeria near Belmont spun off from the famous original in Brooklyn. There, he took these pictures of Derek, Chris from Cali, Connie, and me. And I took the shot of Ian, posing alone and with Chris, with his camera.
What a fun day! And for those of you not hip to Twitter yet, it ain’t too late.