Long ago now, my father played hockey. He was a pretty good hockey player as a kid, and was drafted in the first OHL draft into the Boston Bruins organization. Back then all the junior teams were "owned" by the big six NHL squads and that was the way it worked.
He played junior for a couple of years, and was not quite good enough for the Bruins at 20, so he was going to continue his career in the AHL.
He didn't end up doing that. He came home. When I asked why he didn't to try and realize a dream that only 120 kids had (six teams with 20 on a roster back then) he told me a story.
One day his team was playing the Galt Black Hawks, which were Chicago's junior team. There was a brawl on the ice and one of his teammates was really getting into it with a Galt defenseman. My dad's line was on the bench and he watched his teammate get free from the bigger player, grab his stick and swing it like a baseball bat, right across the Galt players forehead. The defenseman fell unconscious, while my father's teammate began laughing and taunting.
My dad was a tough guy, who didn't shy away from a fight in hockey with scars to prove it, and came from a tough-as-nails hard rock miner, but that was too much for him. He said he felt sick about the incident and realized that hockey was not really for him. There were other reasons too, but he always used to say, "I'm not crazy enough for it".
He ventured home and worked underground in a gold mine, just as his father did. He played hockey at night in a semi-pro league to make a few extra dollars for a young family and later on coached. Fortunately, he wanted to do better for his family so he took courses at night and later on moved to the surface in the accounting department. That move probably helped send three kids to university, in a family that never had done that before, so I selfishly think it was the right move. (I was one of them).
During the past month or so in horse racing I have spoken to a dozens or more insiders about many things. We spoke about rules and commissions, signal fees, the situation in Ontario and much more. I've generally heard the same thing. "We can't do anything, it's the horsemen and they have too much power" or "the state is messing us up" or "people are in charge who know nothing about betting" or "as long as they have slots not much will change."
I've had people say about Pennsylvania or Illinois or New York regarding the fight over internet betting "they know handle will fall and they will have fewer customers, they just want more money."
I've had harness heavy hitters tell me without fail "of course kicking looks bad and alters the race finishes and is against the rules, but there are too many people in racing that think kicking is okay and they don't want to upset their driver friends". I've had them say "not much you can do. There are 20 commissions and getting them on board is impossible."
I had a call last night with an insider that would make any rational person's head spin on most of the above.
I've worked quite a bit for horse racing, for free over the last decade or so. I attended conferences, wrote papers, and offer to help out virtually anyone in the sport when they ask for it. I ain't looking for a pat on the back, but it has not been a small amount of time or effort.
But that has to change. Sometimes you get that moment - the stick in the face - where you wonder why you even bother. The last month or so has been exactly that.
I think I've finally realized, that like my father long ago, I'm just not crazy enough for it.
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