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Monday, December 17, 2012
It all evens out

By Jay Cronley
Special to ESPN.com

All I want for Christmas and the holidays is a little luck.

That doesn't seem like too outrageous a request.

What's a little luck?

A little luck is defined as the year some of it evens out.

Victims of sports horrors -- like a short field goal bouncing off an upright, or an error on a simple grounder, or two missed free throws down one with 00:01 left on the clock, or losing a photo finish with a 30-1 horse, or somebody drunk hitting an inside straight -- are told that it all evens out. That fluke misfortune plays no favorites. Stay the game long enough and one of your iron shots will hit a tree and roll onto the green for a "gimmie." Keep the faith and maintain the sound handicapping strategy, and your long shot will inherit a huge payoff as a result of a disqualification. Somebody else's jockey will appear to have had a bad night.

Nasty losses seem to hurt more than great wins soar.

Big wins are accepted as a just and reasonable payoff to superior picking skills.

Rotten defeats can seem somehow personal, like punishment.

Here are three examples of horrific defeats that have carried over for a number of seasons without any evening-out influences.

Some four years ago I made a win-only bet on a 100-1 shot that ran a second so close that the CSI people almost had to come in and analyze the photo to see if it was a dead heat. Save the emails. I have heard and envisioned and dreamed all the should-haves. The horse was 1 for many dozens in a non-winners of two, something like 1-35. It was one of those typical family affairs, relations owned, trained and rode the horse. One thing that can be decent about an older 1-35 horse is that it is probably healthy enough. Running slowly doesn't cause much strain. The set-up was perfect. The track was muddy, puddles all over. The field was terrible, young, erratic animals taped up almost like mummies, sore to any eye-test. The race was cheap. Mine broke last as usual, circled all the wobblers, then began drifting, a sign of fatigue. It drifted and drifted and drifted some more. At one point, it was drifting so severely that it almost appeared to be moving away from the finish line. It finished nearer the rail near the grandstand and was, of course, beaten by the sorry favorite, who was so unsteady on its feet, it seemed to run half circles down the lane.

Here's another one that still needs some serious evening out: The only horse I didn't bet in a six-horse field beat me out of a pick four with a payout so fat that the recollection of this afternoon almost causes the walls to start moving again. What's worse that a horse that even the owner won't bet? Getting kicked by a horse is all I can think of. This one went off at a million to one, showed speed for the first time probably since a lightning storm, and raced around the oval unperturbed. The one that ran second was something like 5-1. I had it several times. The only positive to come from this impossible bad luck was the winner won by a mile, so the inexplicable finish was not as dramatic as might have been the case, it was just morbidly depressing.

And then there is this one that needs to be offset by luck equally as unexpected, the time the favorite inherited the rail and beat my two 10-1 shots in a three-horse photo. How many times a year do doggy favorites inherit the rail on the turn and waddle home to undeserved victories, a thousand? More? You can't handicap inheriting the rail. It happens when a couple or three better horses are all out for the lead and carry wide and let the 1-1 stroll on by, running 30 yards less than the others in the photo.

Maybe this is the year money will fly from the windows to me in the form of evening-out fortune.

And if something great doesn't offset a bad loss for me, it should happen to you.

It is slightly off-putting to note we're all due a pretty big one.

Write to Jay at jaycronley@yahoo.com.