Everyone I know has one of these stories. There’s the guy who goes to Vegas once a year and puts his NFL bets down. Sure enough, at the end of the year, when he loses everything he turn around and says something to the effect of, “You know, I was going to put money on Pittsburgh to win the whole thing, but at the last second I decided not to. I could have won a lot of money. I’m such a moron.”
It’s the same guy who complains that he should have asked his friend to put some money on the Tampa Bay Rays to win the American League a year ago, because he had a feeling about that team. It’s the guy who you roll your eyes at when he tells you these things, because you just don’t think he’s being serious. You think he’s lying through his teeth, and part of you wants to punch him in the mouth so that he would just shut up.
Then something happens to you like what happened to me this weekend, and it makes you think your Vegas buddy might have been telling the truth after all.
Let me set it up for you. It’s Saturday morning. My wife (who is a pretty big sports fan) is watching Sportscenter with me. The preview for the Belmont Stakes comes up, and she heads to the computer to see the horses and the odds.
You also have to understand, before I go any further, that I do not claim to be a horse racing expert. I watch three races a year – the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes. I don’t pay attention to The Breeders Cup. I don’t read The Daily Racing Form. I’m not a horse racing guy. I imagine there are a lot of you reading this who totally understand what I’m saying.
When I lived in New York (I actually used to work across the street from Belmont), I would put a couple of bucks down on the Kentucky Derby. I almost always went with the favorite. I didn’t pick exactas, trifectas, or anything like that. I also almost always never won.
So, I didn’t think much of it when my wife looked at the odds and said “You know, we should go and put fifty bucks on Summer Bird.” I didn’t take her seriously. I didn’t know a damn thing about that horse. I didn’t even know who the jockey was. I dismissed my wife out of hand, saying that we had better things – more important things – that we could spend our money on. I then asked why my wife was so high on this horse. Her response – “I just like the name.” That was enough for me to say no, we weren’t going to put money on any horse because of its name.
As I said no to my wife, part of me – a small part – flashed to all of those NCAA tournament pools that I participated in. The ones that I almost never won, or even wound up finishing in the money. I thought of all the administrative assistants that did win based on team nicknames and colors. Still it wasn’t enough for me to change my mind. I wasn’t putting fifty bucks on any horse, no matter how much my wife protested. The clincher for me was the fact that this horse was a long shot. Summer Bird was 11-1 by the time the race went off on Saturday afternoon. I thought for sure it would be fifty bucks flushed right down the toilet.
We went through the rest of our day doing errands, but got home in time to watch the race (as I said the Belmont is one of three races I sit down to watch every year). I was convinced that Mine That Bird with jockey Calvin Borel was going to win.
The race started, and the Derby winner did what he almost always does. Start slow. In fact, Borel had his horse in last at one point. Then came Mine That Bird’s patented move. Borel had his horse moving quickly, and in fact, in the lead. I thought for sure that it was over. I thought Mine That Bird had it in the bag. I thought Borel was going to get his personal triple crown (though that actually doesn’t mean a whole lot to me or most horse racing experts.
But fate dealt Mine That Bird and Borel a bad hand. It turned out that Borel made his move too soon. Mine That Bird didn’t have the stamina to hold off the rest of the field. The mile and a half test that Belmont provides might very well be the toughest test in the sport. A test that Mine That Bird was going to fail.
Here came Dunkirk, making a charge at Borel. But almost out of nowhere came Kent Desormeaux and Summer Bird. As I watched it unfold, I thought to myself, “Oh no. Please don’t let this happen.” Sure enough, Summer Bird caught Mine That Bird, and passed the Derby winner and Borel on his way to a stunning victory.
I looked over at my wife. She was silent. Then she just sat there and shook her head. I thought that I might not get hit with the ‘I told you so’ speech that was coming. I thought wrong.
“You idiot,” my wife said. We should have put fifty bucks on that horse. We could have won so much money. Why did I listen to you? I should have gone and placed the bet myself.”
You can imagine how the rest of the weekend went. She didn’t let me forget about it. I’m not sure she’s going to for a while. What can I say? The woman was right. I was wrong, and yes, I am a moron.
The moral of the story? Well, anyone who is married or has been in a long term relationship probably knows it by now. It’s something my old friend – James Brown of CBS Sports used to say all the time when I was part of the team that worked on his nationally syndicated radio show at Sporting News Radio.
“Listen to the lady. When Mama’s not happy, nobody’s happy.”