Well, I’d been away from racing for about 20 years, though I don’t believe that you’re ever really away. Life shifts you here and there, but as long as you are above ground, you’re not truly away. Here in California a lot of ink had been printed on the impending closure of Bay Meadows. I remembered a similar obituary for a place called Longacres up in Seattle. Beautiful track in a nice city. Of course, that wasn’t enough in itself to save it. Never is.
The plight of Bay Meadows naturally piqued my interest on how racing had progressed in my absence. So I googled. I discovered the term “Racino.” Thought it was some kind of reality TV show, maybe hosted by Robert DeNiro, or maybe a new Bond movie. Had that cheap allure to it. Then came ADW’s, which I immediately confused with WMD’s. I don’t know about you, but that sent me on an acronym hunt for at least an hour. I thought maybe it was “Almost a Weapon of Mass Destruction,” or “Already Mass Destroyed.” You know how things get messed up when you go from Arabic to English in a hurry, especially if you’re fooling around with something like a bomb. Plus, it’s doubly difficult for me since I’m dyslexic. That’s why when I learned that Magna Entertainment had lost $600 million, I figured it was no big deal. The federal government had just given away $3 trillion and seemed pretty happy about it. When you have dyslexia, all those little zeros just look like happy rabbits jumping down a hole.
Next I looked into Betting Exchanges. My first thought was that it might be a place where you could say, trade two 5-2 shots for maybe a 20-1 that was due to figure out how his legs worked. That was of course, incorrect. But you could place a bet on something that wouldn’t happen. Now that interested me. I hadn’t picked a winner in 22 years so this had real possibilities. I started doing the math…then I remembered I don’t do math because of the ‘d’ thing. However, I could probably make a buck or two by just resorting to something like random physics or chaos theory. Maryland is settling the slots issue in the same fashion. Kentucky gave them the idea. If you don’t do anything, nothing happens and if you’re in England, you win money! Who said you couldn’t save racing? Sorry, that was a Stronachian slip.
In spite of the fact that the world seems to be collapsing at our feet, people in this business still seem to find time to laugh, argue, debate the pros – condemn the cons, search, seek and try to make sense of things they can’t hope to control. They say a racing man or woman, can never die while he or she has a good two-year old prospect in the barn. That’s the optimist in us. God, we have to be. We stake our livelihood on an 1100lb animal that sometimes behaves like something out of the cat family.
When they tore Longacres down I felt that thing in my gut like a dozen lug nuts rolling around. Kind of anger and powerlessness wrapped up in some intense form of sadness that goes beyond the destruction of bricks and glass, into some deeper place in you that’s rarely visited on purpose. It was personal. It’s why ghosts haunt old buildings. It wasn’t our time to leave.
It still isn’t.
I have a love of history. It’s kind of what I do, though I really don’t know why. More often it is kind of a forensic examination of human motivations under various forms of stress and absurdity. I merely connected the dots between 1910, 1975 and now. Each period seemed to hold a wake for the industry, but could never quite get the body in the ground. That indicates resilience that perhaps we’ve lost touch with lately. Maybe if we tossed out the shovels and worked our pencils a little harder, one solution could be found for our 38 common problems. Oh, I’m sticking with Dunkirk. If ever there was a hunch bet for just such circumstances, this is it.
And yes, I am dyslexic.