Play Things

Play Things

April 21, 2019

The Real Life Ventures and Adventures of Trey and Batman

by Trey Nosrac

This is how I ended up standing in the gilded lobby of the Palace Theater, in the Cleveland Playhouse District, wearing blue jeans and a borrowed green sweater, during intermission of the production of Les Misérables.

Plan A was for me to chauffer Batman to his sister Patricia’s mansion. We would fetch Patricia, drive downtown and I would drop them in front of the theater at 7:30 where they would join Sara and Richard Waterford in the lobby for the 8:00 performance. After depositing the playgoers beneath the neon marquee on Euclid Avenue, I would park my Prius in the theater lot, hike five blocks to a tavern called Flog the Frog and spend two hours using my mini iPad to bet on harness racing.

Plan A collapsed.

Batman’s phone chirped five miles from his sister’s mansion with the breaking news that Sara Waterford had an attack of vertigo and the Waterford’s would be no-shows.

Plan B was giving me one of the tickets.

Patricia grabbed a sweater from the closet of her 35-year-old live-in son, Lucas, to cover my Grateful Dead T-shirt. Lucas was away in Thailand “finding himself.” A free ticket looked like a good deal. Saving a hundred dollars earmarked for gambling on horses was obviously a prudent non-investment.

At intermission, Patricia left us to mingle.

I nodded in the direction of the beautiful lobby and said to my friend, “You know, I’ve been here before. Once upon a time, I dated Movie Maureen, a woman who was easy on the eyes, sort of like Jane Fonda in her Barbarella days. In a festive mood, I made the mistake of asking Maureen what she wanted for Christmas. She replied that she would like tickets to see Cats. I thought, great, no shopping, no wrapping, no gift card, and a few hours sitting in the dark without her talking.”

“How did it go?”

“Not good. The damn tickets, especially good seats around Christmas, cost more than some yearlings. Seriously, I could have gambled on horses for a year for the price of two Cat seats.

“Enjoy Cats?”

“Not as much as horses.”

“And the lovely Maureen?

“Long story, she was sort of bipolar before they invented meds. One week she was like Julie Andrews in Sound of Music, a week later she was Cruella Deville. She was a different woman every week; she was exhausting.”

“Maureen is out of the picture?”

I scrunched my face, “Oh yeah, years ago. Even the lawsuit she filed during her Glenn Close, Fatal Attraction week.”

He chuckled and shifted gears, “I was thinking about your idea, the one you had where you would act as a middleman for a segment of the harness racing marketplace, where you would assist a segment of gamblers who may want to wager on horse races but who do not want to invest the work of real handicapping.”

I replied, “Yeah, the scheme where I would be sort of a professional Internet harness horse racing tipster.”

He chuckled, “You’d need a rather large business card.”

“Good idea, bad idea?” I asked.

He sighed, and gave a so-so hand wave, “The money aspect bothers me. I don’t like the idea of a professional handicapper or tipster holding the funds. This might not even be legal.”

“Yeah, my ideas often come with a few flies in the ointment, but I have a feeling that will only encourage you to preach.”

“Trey, I want you to imagine you are going to set up this peripheral business. You are going to host a podcast to entertain and guide viewers through a few harness horse races. Maybe we can find a way for you to get paid differently.”

“Go for it.”

He began with questions, “Do you want the responsibility of maintaining money for being a horse racing wagering intermediary?”

“Not really. Responsibility is my Kryptonite.”

“But you are in business and you need revenue.”

“Revenue is my Kryptonite.”

He poked my green sweatered chest and said, “What if I suggest that your payment for hosting and organizing the racing podcast would be voluntary?”

“What if I suggest you’re crazier than Movie Maureen?”

He smiled, “Perhaps, but let’s place you in the seat of the person listening to your podcast.”

“Okay, but that means I’m talking AND listening to myself, which doesn’t sound good.”

He smiled and went into professorial mode, “You log in for the delightful Trotting Trey Hour. At this point, he dropped into the dramatic impression of a radio announcer, “Uninterrupted, unencumbered, non-commercial fun, gambling advice, trivia, and humor. Your weekly podcast that uses harness racing as the nexus and where YOU can make money.”

I gave him a mini-clap and said. “Nice, I’m listening.”

He dropped the announcer imitation and said, “You put on this little podcast that breaks through the massive wall of competition for attention. A few others find this tiny niche of fun and advice. Trey’s hipster tipster format and the ‘real-time’ bonanza of gambling is a lure to audience members willing to gamble on the races.”

“I am very alluring.”

“You better be, there are thousands of podcasts.”

“Okay, enough role-playing. I understand the concept, but show me the money.”

“Seeing money is up to you. You are a fledgling business. You need to earn your keep. Let’s say you hustle up a regular audience of 36 people, maybe half of them are friends and relatives. That number seems possible since 3.6 billion people have internet access.”

“So, I start this little harness racing gambling cult, what do I do with them?”

“Cultivate them, educate them on horse racing, entertain them, and help them wager. Your task is to create and nurture an exclusive subgroup. You need to make them emotionally invested. Create an audience – an exclusive cyber club.”

“Still not seeing revenue.”

“Time, effort, ingenuity, persistence, and trust building are needed to give value. At some point, you subtly suggest voluntary contributions.”

“Which is where they flip me the bird and log off.”

“Maybe, maybe not. Maybe your average donation is $10. Maybe someone has deep pockets and becomes a backer. Trey, who knows? The idea is simple — you use the sport you love to try something innovative. You create a small business using harness racing. The cool thing is you could try this WITH ZERO INVESTMENT. You could approach this as a hobby or as a real business or anything in between.”

“Batman, you are one strange dude.”

He points to the theater lobby filled with people and says, “One day, a person sat down and created characters out of thin air, placed actors in costumes, placed the actors in settings and wrote words for them to say and songs to sing about the French Revolution. How far away did making money seem when that person sat down to try this?”

I nodded, “Moneywise, a play is an unbelievable longshot.”

The lights flicked on an off three times as he said, “But here we are, Les Misérables is on stage and your harness idea could be another longshot that pays off.”

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