Freezer Burns, favorites and fans

Freezer Burns, favorites and fans

June 12, 2022

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by Trey Nosrac

I showed Freezer Burns a replay of my horse trotting to a sixth-place finish. He asked, “Who decided who drove your horse in that race?”

Freezer is one of the brightest bulbs in my cadre of dimwits, a slim guy who sports green work shirts and spiky hair that looks like it never met a comb. He also has a left arm that is purple with tattoos. However, his left arm is the only place on his body he has tattoos, as if, somewhere in his mind, he knew getting inked up was a bad idea, so he faithfully limited the spread.

His driver’s license reads Dylan Burns. But his reprobate pals refer to him as Freezer because he is self-employed in the HVC game. He drives around town in a pink van with the words Call for a COOL Dude painted on the sides in big black letters. In the winter, he repaints the word COOL to HOT.

I dutifully attempted to explain to Freezer the driver selection process in a harness horse race: “The owner or trainer sends in the name of who they want to drive the racehorse. Then we hope the driver selects our horse. Sometimes we send in a second choice, even a third. The top drivers want to make money. They may or may not choose your horse.”

Freezer interrupted and looked for clarification, “So, you tell me that the best drivers will sit behind the best horses in most races?”

“Yes.”

He replied with a barrage of observations, “Well, that’s very stupid. That makes a horse race more predictable. That process may be fine for people like you, who are up to your arse in the sport, but it is not entertaining for potential customers like me who would want a more competitive race.”

I sputtered, “Well, er, there is more involved, top trainers get favoritism sometimes, personal friendships are involved, there is a code of drivers courtesy on the track, it’s complicated.”

He kept whining, “And to me, that is discriminatory to some drivers. Unknown drivers get the shaft. It’s cronyism.”

“Hey, the top divers earned their spurs and owners, and trainers want the top driver available. Even gamblers always want the best driver on their horse.”

“You know who wants the best driver on their horse?”

“Who?”

“Everybody, including the guy who has the worst horse and normal people, and anyone who wants a more exciting product.”

“Freezer, you just don’t understand our sport.”

“True, except when you drag it out in front of me and babble on about last quarters and second over. But if you look at the picture with open eyes, anyone can see that the goal should be to make the sport more fun, a race more unpredictable, more competitive, and offer bigger payoffs.”

“How?” I whimpered.

“The last time you showed me one of your horses in a race, you said you are toast when you draw an outside post. You complain the sport has become stale. Why don’t they do something about it?”

“Who should do what?”

He thought for a few moments, scratched his purple arm, then said, “Take this driver BS you are trying to explain. Here is an idea. Don’t assign drivers or postpositions until after the wagering is locked in. Each race has a pool of drivers, and I suggest a female or two, maybe an amateur or two, for a race. Everyone is clueless about what driver the horses will be assigned until wagering is complete. At the last instance, bang, via random drawing, all will be revealed. More drama.”

I clapped my hands on my forehead at this blasphemy, “You don’t know our sport. Existing owners, trainers, and drivers will be furious to exhaustion. Traditionalists will get the vapors.”

“Good. Shake things up. Who cares? Look, your horse just finished out of the money. Did you have the top-rated driver?”

“He’s okay.”

“From what you tell me, I’m guessing a top driver was steering the winning horse?”

I looked at the results. “Yes.”

“Simple question: If that top driver had been behind your horse, do you think you would have gotten some money, maybe finished fifth?”

“Maybe, possibly.”

“Do you think that race might have been better if your driver and the winning driver had switched?”

“Conceivably.”

“Think about this. If your sport had a driver drawing just before the race, the drawing for post position might be as dramatic and crucial as the actual harness race, and this would make higher payoffs and more competitive racing. This last-minute scramble would also add a new level of entertainment, and the late selection would introduce some random selection into a wager.”

Freezer Burns is no dummy. He had some excellent points.

I began to get on board, “As losing bettors, we rarely feel we picked the wrong horse. We blame everything from Feng Shui to global warming and anyone from the Dalai Lama to the driver. Especially the driver.”

I chuckled and continued, “When humans physically attended races, it was hilarious to hear bellowing from fellows with losing tickets about bad trips and how the damn driver stiffed them. Complaints about driving from people who could barely navigate their Buick through the empty parking lot were experts about guiding a rampaging trotter through close and dangerous quarters.”

Freezer, a cool dude, smiled and said, “That kind of conflict is good. It is gold. Come on, open your eyes. Open your mind. Let the last-minute drawing for post positions and drivers begin.”

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