Staggered – Devo Rides (Part 2)

by Trey Nosrac

Part 1 here

The oracle from Silicon Valley slid into my backseat, I asked, “How was your visit to the old homestead?”

He waved through the window glass toward his mother on the porch as he spoke pensively, “Let’s call it an adjustment. It was my first extended visit since I left for college, 34 years ago, coming home felt like detox.”

I gave a few quick honks of my horn. Gravel crunched as I pulled down the driveway and said, “Makes you wonder how life existed before cell towers.”

“It was great to be with mom, but I felt like an alien who wandered away from the mothership. Cold turkey was too rough, I cheated a bit and worked on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for a couple of hours.”

“Will you make return voyages?”

“No choice, mom is having a hip replaced, then a heart valve. I will be here more and more and you know what, that’s a good thing.”

“Wife? Kids?”

“An ex, my daughter’s 25.”


“I’m 52; my work is flexible, mostly thinking. I can work from anywhere. I enjoy my work, sort of taking things a day at a time.”

“Age 52 in Silicon Valley must be like 400 in human years.”

“Time flies, changes happen. Speaking of changes, after our discussion on the drive out here, I set up a two-hour incubator session last week to kick some tires on harness racing.”

“Are you serious?”

“Don’t look so shocked. Much sooner than you imagine, sports and sports betting will be part of major telecommunications companies and data companies. We will gobble up sports gambling platforms. We already hold patents, and our research is ongoing. That’s common knowledge”

“Not common to me, I missed the memo.”

“I just tapped a few brains for a little session. Horseracing was not new territory, but harness racing was a little off their radar.”

“I never got my e-invitation for the e-chat.”

“You’re blind my friend, blinded by love. Your emotional attachment makes you myopic. A few people in my incubator pod had never seen a harness race. They look at gambling markets, crunch numbers, spot trends, dive into psychology, follow legislation, and accumulate data.”

“So what did the masters of the universe see?”

“For your game, horse racing, one sport with two gambling systems seems the way to go. One gambling system for those who want to compete, solve puzzles, who want to think, the purist segment. One system for those who just want a recreational gambling diversion, they just want to have fun, give them a place to play.”

“Good luck matching that couple, that’s as likely as a Trump and Pocahontas wedding.”

“That’s another reason that you weren’t invited, pessimism is frowned on.”

“I’m a realist. That harness diagram you sent me, with horses all over the track, players would never go for a staggered start. Sure, it would be exciting to have the horses finish neck and neck. I get that. Sure, we could put on a more thrilling show in plenty of ways. I get that. But I have raced horses and the idea of my horse starting 10 lengths behind is outrageous. It’s no longer real racing.”

“See, you’re a traditionalist, you’re blinded. You are a purist. However, the audience of purists is very limited.”

We were approaching the interstate and he said, “Pull into McDonald’s, I want to show you something.”

I did. He showed me his iPad, and then said, “The top diagram is the one that I sent you. Obviously, you’re correct. The start of this race is scientifically staggered using complex algorithms. Six horses finishing in a dead heat is the goal. The purpose is an improved product with wider markets.”

I looked at it again.

“Okay Trey, look at the photo finish of this race and tell me who won.


“No, blue was third, here is the order of finish.”

1st 1:52.1

2nd 1:52. 4

3rd 1:53.1

I looked at both diagrams and compared them to the finish order, but did not speak.

He did, and then he spoke like a Ted Talk. “All of your life, the horse that got his nose across the line first was the winner. That scenario is all you know. In this model, the horse that raced the fastest mile in this race was the yellow horse. Our math people gave me six different measurement formulas and it was not even close.”

“That’s just too bizarre.”

“Bizarre is spending a great deal of money to get a horse to a stakes race and then getting stuck in the eight hole. Bizarre is having an automobile in front of horses. Bizarre is having horses fall into a single file line. Bizarre is the need to go a ridiculously fast first quarter. Bizarre is little movement in a race, and the most bizarre part of your sport is presenting a stagnant product that cannot be simultaneously used by the majority of the gambling public who do not want to think.”

“How can you start a staggered race?”

“Open your mind. We have cracked the genetic code, we know what you prefer for breakfast, we can let you pay your bills with face recognition software and we make three-D printers that can build just about anything. Do you really believe that strategically and scientifically positioning six moving trotters at the start of a horse race is a gigantic assignment?”

“But, how?”

“My friend, we never ask how. We ask if we should.”

“You info-tech people may be ahead of the curve, but having a horse win a race without crossing the line first is insane.”

“We could make an argument for purists that a staggered system would make the race a truer test. Races would have safer starts, be more visually accessible, and more competitive. If the data proves the audience desperately craves that the winner cross the line first, we can deal with it in several ways, like splitting purses for the fastest mile and for the first across the line.”

I put the car in gear and left the golden arches in my rearview mirror. For one of the few times in my life, I was speechless. It only lasted ten seconds, “That’s all theoretical BS. You will never change minds.”

“You underestimate the ability of people to change.”

“You overestimate the ability of this fractured sport to change.”

“No we don’t. When the economics are in place, when we control the pipelines of information, your sport will change or wither. If the data supports your gamer, we will use our talents and our oceans of information to take your horses and, pardon the pun, run with them.”

“Is that possible?”

“Anything is possible. In the meantime, I just sent you another prompt.”