Commentary

Homers

Updated: January 6, 2014, 3:59 PM ET
By Jay Cronley | Special to ESPN.com

Why go?

That's a question sports fans everywhere seem to be asking themselves as NFL teams strain to fill early-round playoff seats, as Nebraska and Georgia play a bowl game in a stadium that appeared half empty, and as horse players pass on trips to scenic spa meets to bet at home, or at a simulcast joint with all the ambiance of a convenience store.

Why go and pay a small fortune for travel, for a ticket, and for the opportunity to sit next to a drunk? Drunks love to go to concerts and sporting events. Why? Who knows. Drunks can't remember all that much. I attract drunks. If you're sitting somewhere and up stumbles a drunk, don't worry, the drunk is sitting first next to me, then perhaps on my lap. At the last concert I attended, a drunk woman threw up on my shoes. The situation is so out of control at major events, there should be drinking sections where drunks can go to fight and to throw up on each other.

Why go and sit in the stratosphere in an upper corner, or under the basket, when you can watch on a 100-inch screen TV in your living room? Have you noticed how people with food stamps sticking out of their pockets drive up in clunkers and leave with the latest in-home and shack entertainment centers? Few are entertainment poor anymore.

If staying home costs less, and is cleaner, and is safer, and is less depressing after a loss, and affords a better view, why go?

This is a question I have applied to horse racing as I review my year-end notebook. In my horse race journals, suitable for personal and IRS review, I try to list all wagers, along with a brief thought process behind some bets, the point being, some thinking is blatantly foul: increasing bet sizes to catch up, for example. Through a survey of these notes so far, I have clearly seen that getting robbed is destructive beyond the event itself. What I should do after being exposed to a rotten ride or a dopey steward is usually the opposite of what I have done, which is get mad and bet more. I seldom if ever make money after being blindsided. I should go home, go away, I should stop betting, as rotten moods make for bad handicapping.

One pleasant trend that stands out in the review of the 2013 notes is an expanded use of the "All" button. Some dont think playing the "All" tab is sound handicapping technique. Well, if horse race handicapping was easier, I wouldn't use "All" so much either. But I have become more convinced than ever in 2013 that if you're right about a horse, you have to get paid, either through a win bet on a long shot, or with an "All" touch on an exacta. What's worse than being right about a 25-1 horse and not collecting? Being mugged in the parking lot after a big win would be worse. I'm the first to admit that I couldn't pick second place if most races were frozen for a moment at the top of the swing for home.

So welcome one and "All."

Why go to a live horse race?

According to my notes, here's why: I won money more often last year at the live races, or lost less, than with the races on a screen.

True, sometimes even at the live races you watch on a screen.

But being there is worth the effort.

Heres why.

Company is positive. What characters that remain out of rehab are at the horse races. Drunks last as long as their money lasts, which isn't long. Bad pickers abound at the live races. A sense of the brotherhood exists: us against them. They are track management and the crooks. Sure, online wagering sites will give you cash money if you'll bet with them. But when you hit a 20-1 shot on the home wagering screen, there's nobody but the dog to celebrate with. The horse races are not for hermits. Public displays of joy reinforce the ego and are important parts of horse racing.

You can see things live that you can't see on a screen. Handicapping connections at the paddock is important. You want to bet a slob? And whereas horse body language is subjective, all you usually get on a screen is a backside trotting away. Some horse body language means something. Like a limp. Also, I have found that horses shaking their heads as if to say "No thanks," repeatedly shaking their heads side-to-side, mean thanks anyhow, but I dont think Ill be running fast today.

Being at the live races slows you down.

One focus beats betting three tracks simultaneously.

And here's an important universal notes theme about the live races.

Being there is fun.

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