Like a Stick to the Face

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.


Anonymous said...

Helping an industry to get more customers while they simultaneously enact policies that chase them away can be very maddening.

Anonymous said...

Yo Pocket - like i posted fifty times, harness racing is built for the 10th century. I cant fathom for a second why you stick up for a sport that doesnt call kicking horse fines. I'd say you should focus on my sport but two states just asked 1000's of customers to close down their online accounts. Like we have too many customers.


Anonymous said...

HANA has to go after these horseman groups that accept slot money but doesn't give back to their customers. Wake up HANA!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm with you PTP and I've actually done something about it.
After a decade or two of heavy betting (about $100K a year) I have, for the last 3 years, completely stopped betting and abandoned harness. Will not return until 2 things happen 1) the fair start pole is moved to 1 or 2 lengths of the start line and 2) WPS takeout is reduced to no more than 15%. I understand WEG has reduced W betting to 15% but not PS betting. At any rate thorobreds are now getting my action.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious-could part of the problem be that you refer to yourself as an Insider?

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure where you read that in the article.

Anonymous said...

You and I like boxing too. We're nuts.

Phil said...

...... yep, this blog is very status-quo establishment......

Anonymous said... do it cause it's in your blood

......and it's in your blood cause your Father put it there

........and for that reason alone'll continue the good fight

.............churchill said it best

................"the best thing for the inside of a man-- the outside of a horse" keep doing what your doing's important work

regards, benny beam

That Blog Guy said...

I know your frustration. There have been times I wonder why I do it and then I realize someone has to do it. As long as I think there is a chance to change things I will be a PIA. It's when I realize there is no hope, then I will be done.

Indulto said...

With apologies to Robert Diggs, Clifford Smith, and Jason Hunter:

Mr. Pocket
Don’t pull the plug
You’re as inspiring
As Allen and Shug
Give us more quips
From Cub Reporta’
Keep pressure on to do things
Like they oughtta

Mr. Pocket
Continue to bug
Or they’ll sweep offenses
Right under the rug
So please keep on your watchdog beam
Mr. Pocket, uncover a scheme

Mr. Pocket
Don’t give up hope
Without you racing
Might listen to Fred Pope
Your presence gives
To would-be advocates
The necessary encouragement
To become activists

Mr. Pocket
Say it aint so
You’d leave a void
Too vast if you go
So please keep on your watchdog beam
Mr. Pocket, keep alive the dream

Dave said...

This ^


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