The Sports Fan Mentality
When a normal impulse can impact your bottom line
Level: Beginner
By Dana Byerly, Hello Race Fans Co-founder

As a culture, we love sports. We’re raised playing on teams and going to see our friends, family and neighbors compete in local or school leagues. Every media outlet imaginable is inundated with sports coverage. But when it comes to playing the ponies, it’s in your best interest to “unlearn” some of what I like to call the “sports fan mentality.”

What is the sports fan mentality? It’s “us vs. them,” “that other team blows,” “I would never root for the other team” and “I hope the other team loses.” Why should you unlearn some of these automatic responses to competition? Because the way you’ve always thought about sports will make it much easier for you to make bad wagering choices.

On the 2007 Kentucky Derby trail, both Adam and I were big Hard Spun fans (Adam WAY more so than I). This prompted both of us to immediately dislike Street Sense, Calvin Borel and Carl Nafzger. Why? Because that’s how you’re supposed to act with the competition. Mind you, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this response, but you should be wary when it intersects with your wagering decision-making process.

For the longest time I disliked Borel (his charming bliss-out antics are annoying when he rides the horse that beats yours), and admittedly, my dislike made it harder for me to factor horses he rode. It took the 2009 Derby for me to see the error of my ways, not only that he was the rider for the track but also that he’s a good jock, period, and I should get over it.

Time and time again I hear people say that either they won’t play a horse or don’t like a horse because they “don’t like the connections.” This is some of the most egregious sports fan mentality that a player can indulge in. Then again, I shouldn’t throw stones because I’m a touch susceptible to it myself. For example, I’m not particularly a fan of trainer Nick Zito. It always feels to me like he’s just entering whomever he’s got vs. pointing specific horses to specific spots. That’s just my opinion, and because of that opinion (and my belief that closers were having a hard time on Derby day), I left Ice Box off my Derby day tickets even though my handicapping suggested that I shouldn’t. Since I had both Super Saver and Paddy O’Prado in the mix, I would have had the exacta ($152.40) AND trifecta ($2,337.40) if I’d included Ice Box. $2,489.80 later I have only my stupid point of view to thank for not cashing those tickets.

Conversely, it’s just as easy to always a bet a trainer, jock, horse that you do like, regardless of what your handicapping uncovers. The bottom line: Have your opinions, keep your likes and dislikes, but don’t let a personal opinion keep you from correctly factoring a horse.

You Might Also Like


  • I dislike Garrett Gomez like you used to dislike Borel and it has cost me. And my love for Gio Ponti may cost me on Saturday!

  • Nice to see Gio Ponti get a relatively easy win! I’m not a fan of Gomez either, particularly on front runners, but this brings up something I could have or should have addressed in the post… the fine line between factoring a strength/weakness vs. the “sports fan mentality”, the line can get pretty blurry!

Questions? Comments? We're here to help!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *