Islands in the Boring Sea

Islands in the Boring Sea

December 13, 2020

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by Trey Nosrac

“A window of opportunity has opened. I proved this yesterday.”

“How so?” David asked from the passenger seat.

“I locked in my wager on Ohio State football. Chicken wings were on order from Grub Hub. Even without fans, I was happy.”

“Nothing new there.”

“They canceled the game.”

“COVID?”

I nodded. “This was a very depressing development. A tear tricked down my cheek. Profanity flowed. Suddenly, there was a four-hour hole in my schedule that found me scrolling and surfing for a sporting fix. I stumbled on, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, Frisbee Golf.”

He chuckled.

“This was a REPEAT of a Frisbee match because the participants or spectators were not wearing masks. I watched people throw Frisbees against chains on sticks for almost an hour until I channel surfed to a televised poker game that I had already watched twice.”

“My friend, that is pathetic.”

I agreed. “However, at that point, I had an epiphany. Leaping from my futon, spilling a Miller Lite on my orange shag carpeting, I screamed, ‘Trey, you are better than this.’ I set off in search of a more valuable waste of time.”

“You read a book?”

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

“You went outside for a run in the fresh air?”

“Come on. I’m serious. I transferred fifty bucks from my checking account into my Xpressbet wagering account. The fifty-dollar deposit raised my FUNDS AVAILABLE display to fifty dollars and thirty cents.”

“That’s no epiphany. Over the years, you’ve told me enough about your wagering misfortunes to fill the pages of a tragic novel.”

“Neigh, neigh, my good man. These tales all had a timestamp. I never, ever, wager on harness racing from November through April fool’s day.Every year I go on a harness racing hiatus during the winter months. As much as I enjoy the sport, for me, winter racing has always felt like a boring slog.”

“Ah, now I see where you’re heading. In these difficult sporting times, winter racing looked much better.”

“After Frisbee golf and poker reruns, gambling on winter harness racing looked like a Las Vegas floor show. My afternoon turned into a festival of handicapping and races.”

He asked, “How did you make out on the wagering front?’

“Well, let me put it this way, my FUNDS AVAILABLE is currently showing 60 cents, so, in my mind, I finished ahead.”

“Interesting math. Interesting mind.”

“Interesting afternoon, where I accidentally proved a point.”

“Which is?”

“If EVER harness racing should be sending out a good product, the next several months should be pedal to the medal. No holds barred, no stones unturned, no experiment off the table, no…”

“Okay, I get it.”

“Compared to the sporting dreck available, harness racing can rise. If we stay open and pep things up, there are possibilities. I’m a perfect example. The void of sports found me breaking one of my golden rules of sports gambling.”

He sighed, “Good in theory, but what does pep things up mean?”

“Two ideas come to mind, one concrete, the other squishy.”

“Pour the concrete first,” he said.

“Coordinate the post times. Start racing at ten in the morning and go till midnight. Try to have a race going off somewhere every ten minutes. I know the different tracks are like badgers in a bag, but for once, for one wicked winter, hire a scheduler and be flexible.”

“Well, for you, that’s remarkably logical and concrete. However, I’m sure that’s not a new idea. Give me your squishy.”

“Okay. Until the virus came visiting, every first Tuesday of each month, I gathered with a group of creative people, actors, screenwriters, directors, stagehands, singers, poets, and who knows what. We met at the foot of a bare stage, to watch various projects performed and tested.”

“How did you wind up in that crowd?”

“Dropped in at random. I liked it, met a few folks there. Everywhere there are islands of talented people whose artistic hops will never see the light of day.”

“How many people are at these meetings?”

“Usually, about 20 or 30, it’s an organic thing. There is a money jar to cover expenses, visitors get beverages and watch some cool stuff.” I paused, then added, “These pandemic days are hard times for the performing arts gang. Heck, we haven’t met face to face since March of 2020.”

“What’s this got to do with racing in a pandemic?” he asked.

“Our sport has daily live streams filled with dead air sent out to human beings every day. Fifteen out of 20 minutes remain an empty screen. Why can’t these creative people, who know nothing about harness racing, and who are sitting around wondering if they will truly become starving artists, take on the assignment of spicing up the time between races? Individual racetracks should grab a coordinator. Have the coordinator arrange artists to put on scenes of a play, give a comedian or storyteller five-minute gigs, sing a song. Give them a little time slot and pay them a pittance.”

“Yikes, that’s more than squishy, that’s bizarre.”

“I know. But what’s the downside? Who gets hurt? You log in to see the races and get a little entertainment. Or you log in to watch your friend sing a song or perform a scene and stay for the horse races.”

He scratched his head while digesting my madness. When he finally spoke, I heard a little excitement in his voice, “Sort of a random variety show. Hardcore handicappers have a mute button. They could skip the show. Real-time viewing would be more dynamic, but during COVID, segments on Jpeg files would work. Traffic monitored, data analyzed, revolutionary, and it asks nothing of the sport except a platform.”

He came back down to earth and mused, “The big question for racing is who will try to put on a show, who would fill the roles, and what’s their motivation.”

I smiled, “My Tuesday friends ask those questions every month.”

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