Rick's Space: Walking the line

Something In The Air




Belmont Race Track opened Tuesday. I dropped 40 bucks and was proud to do so.

I mean it. I come from a family of horse players. We aren’t degenerates. My father ran a hospital. He supported his family. He “made donations” to Belmont and the Big A, kind of like the envelope he gave to Father Dave at Saint Francis of Assisi every Sunday.

Men who gamble are easy targets. Being one, I know I have a bull’s eye on my back. I’m pretty good at it though, and I’m pretty lucky, and I get paid a ton of dough to do this, so I don’t begrudge myself.

The reason I am in such a good mood, despite that fact that Miss Euphoria spit the bit in the fifth yesterday with half my winnings on her back, is because the track was open for the first time since you-know-what came over from Wuhan.

No, there are no spectators at Belmont, at least not in the stands. But the nags were there, and the jocks, and I don’t need to be standing at the rail (my usual spot) to wave goodbye to my money. I did it right here from home, and without a mask on.

My dad used to love to go down to the rail and watch these great animals thunder around the turn and straighten out for home. Usually, it was a coveted spot and you had to get there early to secure a place. I saw the great Secretariat come rolling around that bend, and John Henry, and my favorite, Forego.

The first time I went to a dog track, I noticed the rail was empty, and I sauntered down there to watch the greyhounds come around the track. It was exhilarating until they passed me and I noticed, too late, a great wall of phlegm flying through the air coming off the turn. It drenched me. And that’s why no one else was standing there.

I’ve always noted during the post parade that the horses passing in single file walk directly into the steaming piles of poop the ones in front of them leave on the track. How dumb am I to trust my money on these lemmings?

Soon, there will be golf. Can I bet on golf? Of course. I can bet on anything. It’s all about the action, folks. Apparently, we’ll start off without spectators but the matches will be played. That will leave the players plenty of room if they want to go to the bathroom, but I digress.

There will be basketball, and then baseball, and sooner or later, we will be allowed back into the arenas and stadiums.

Sports are not a cure-all; in fact, there are those who argue we as a society would be better off without the emphasis on violence, the reinvention of the American male as a “roid”-raged animal, and the portrayal of the average family man as a beer drinking lout who would abandon his kids every Sunday for a good tailgating with brats and brewskis. That’s too much a generalization.

It’s our love of competitiveness being rekindled; our inner hormones churning like they did in the fifth grade during the first day of Little League football practice.

This is us, folks: We don’t want certificates of participation. We don’t want all the kids to play the same amount of time. The best players play.

All I ever wanted, really, was a level playing field. When you’re a little schmuck you’re going to get hammered on the playing field, but you know that going in. You make the call. It’s the love of competition. When you get hit enough, you hit back, and that’s the essence of life.

It’s when they take that away that we have a problem.

rmurphy@indyeastend.com