What do you do – Devo Rides (Part 7)

April 22, 2018

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by Trey Nosrac

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

When my Prius crunched down the gravel driveway to his family farm on a sunny May afternoon, I noticed that my fare was not alone. Joining him of the front porch was a short woman with her grey hair in two long braids, wearing sweatpants and an Ohio State Buckeyes sweatshirt. She sat on the fold-down seat of a shiny red walker. My friend from Silicon Valley waved for me to join them. I did.

As I approached, I saw the woman’s kind smile and the gleam in her blue eyes. She beat me to the punch and extended her hand. When I gently grabbed her long fingers, she tilted her head slightly and said, “You must be my son’s chauffeur, he’s told me about you. I’m Anna.”

She gave my hand a good squeeze. I replied, “I’m Trey, how’s the new hip?”

She held onto my hand and said, “Remarkably well, thank you for asking.”

I nodded at the walker, “My guess is you won’t need that contraption much longer. You probably didn’t really need it at all, but they sell them as part of the hip replacement package to gouge your insurance company.”

She nodded and said, “That’s exactly what I think.” Then, in a stage whisper so her son could hear she pulled my hand forward and added, “While you’re driving my son around, please see if you can find him a nice lady friend and convince him to come home to live in Ohio.”

I winced theatrically, “Anna, advice from me on careers and women will send him to eternal bachelorhood. Your son will end up in a double-wide trailer watching reruns of Law and Order, eating cold pizza.”

She released my hand and chuckled, “My son said you were quirky.”

“I like the word quirky, sort of like calling someone an idiot without hurting their feelings.”

Fifteen minutes later, her son and I were in my car rolling down Interstate 71. Our destination was an organic grocery store, No Salt or Battery Foods, about 20 miles south.

I asked him, “What the hell is a DevOps Engineer? Is it a real job?”

He paused before answering, “For many years the tech world was really two worlds. One world was where people built stuff, did the coding, and created the software. This is where I spent my first 20 years. This was my camp, my side of the wall.”

“And you got rich.”

“Rich is relative. Anyway, the other camp is development and operations. That is selling, marketing, and psychology — the business side of the wall.”

“I got it, builders and sellers.”

“Yes, a DevOps engineer goes over the wall. We combine the skills of the business analyst with the technical chops to look at the big picture of the entire company. DevOps try to look into the future five or ten years.”

“Put harness racing into that picture.”

“Well, to be of any interest to us we would combine your favorite sport with other forms of horse racing; alone you are too small. On the builders side would be some of the items we have been talking about; new kinds of races, new kinds of wagering, new methods of starting races, new ways of watching races, apps, peripheral, gaming patents, algorithms, many things that accompany a new product.”

“The powers that be would never go along.”

“Trey, if we are interested, we would not ask, we would tell.”

“Whoa, you sound like Marlon Brando in the Godfather.”

“If we feel you are a product with market potential, and unfettered online gambling could be very helpful, we go to work on the other side of the wall where people look at market shares, market trends, distribution, and delivery. I’ll tell you Trey, six, seven years ago, I began looking at this side of the wall and it has been fascinating. We can sell stuff, we can move minds, and we can target customers to a degree that is frightening.”

“So go over the wall, do some recon on the marketing side for harness racing. Give me an example of your deep state.”

Clearly, my rider had anticipated this question. He was ready, “Name the top five trotting horses stepping onto the racetracks this week?”

To stall, I cleared an imaginary frog from my throat and then said, “I can’t.”

“Not many can, maybe just a handful of owners and diehards. Okay, now answer this, who are your top five favorite drivers?”

This time I had a clue, “Umm, Gingras, David Miller, Walter Case, Zeron, and Sears for number five.”

He nodded.

“This is a problem in horse racing that needs a solution. Horses are great, people love them, people admire horses, but they are not worth a damn when it comes to selling the sport. You cannot promote horses. People follow people. Good, bad, ugly, beautiful, stupid, zany, embarrassing and any other adjective – this is not right, this is not good – but it is what it is. We are all guilty, if you show us a person and a backstory, attention must be paid.”

I scoffed, “Fans like a good horse race.”

“Less than you think.”

“Gamblers like to win money.”

“Again, less than you think. Today, gamblers do not receive a tactile experience of reward dollars in their hands nor do they receive feedback from a crowd. Plus, gamblers don’t enjoy losing money, which happens far too often in your sport.”

“That’s true. When I gamble money online, even when I win a race, I’m in my house and nothing changes but a few numbers on my account. It’s like when a tree falls in the forest.”

“DevOps engineers think about concepts like isolation, what motivates people, and how to monetize. For example, last week people did not sit up and pay attention to watch a golf ball, or a golf tournament, they showed up on many fronts to watch players. Last week you said you bet $50 on a golfer, what was his name?

“Louie Oosthuizen. He played good, finished 12th.”

“Why him? Why did you bet Louie?”

“Half hunch, half hope, half logic. Well, the whole bet was kind of half-assed.”

“Your bet wasn’t a deeply rational, highly studied investment was it?”

“No.”

So again, why did you make your bet?

“I like action. I like Louie O. He has a gap in his front teeth like Alfred E. Newman from Mad Magazine and he’s always smiling. You gotta admire a man who has made a pile of money but doesn’t do cosmetic dentistry. Louie is short, but he has a gorgeous swing. He’s really good, I always root for him, and I once read that he is a guy with humble roots from South Africa.”

My friendly Devo man nodded, “That’s an excellent example of how huge amounts of sports betting will take place in the future. In developing an audience for horse racing, this lack of human connection is a problem.”

“Plus we don’t have home teams to scream for and bet money on.”

He nodded, “Or rival teams to scream against, a strong motivator.”

“Alright, I get the idea; horse racing is not a chip shot to promote. Climb back over the wall and fix it. Make racing relatable so a firm like yours might take the reins.”

We slipped into a parking spot at a converted gas station, which was the home of No Salt or Battery Foods.

It was his turn to sigh before answering, “That’s a tall order. I’ll give you some ideas after I pick up mom’s broccoli and kale. You need any fruit or veggies?”

“Need ‘em, but don’t want ‘em.”

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