LOS ANGELES, CA – Yes, I could be talking about my City of Angels; the most important city to the NFL that doesn’t actually have an NFL team. Without L.A., what plausible destination could other current teams threaten to bail to if they don’t get a new sweetheart stadium deal? Just this last week St. Louis became the latest to wave the keys to the moving van in front of its tax base, pointing towards Inglewood, which hasn’t had any sports teams since last century but does still have a “City of Champions” sign and a giant stadium sized parcel ready to go. Up until less than two years ago, that parcel was the Hollywood Park Racetrack. Fortunately, we still have Santa Anita.
That’s right, I’m talking about the ponies today. I can’t stand the teams left in football’s playoffs. I found myself actually pulling for Baltimore and Dallas this weekend, and as a Steeler fan that felt nauseating. So yesterday I packed up the car for a rainy day trip to Arcadia, the cheapest bit of family entertainment around, hoping to avoid any football. You might be wondering how a giant sports venue, full of television monitors and dedicated to gambling, where I could go in sweatpants and fit right in, would be a place to maintain radio silence on what’s happening during a Divisional round of the playoffs, but you might not know the track then. The people who come out on a rainy Sunday afternoon don’t have time to waste.
As Krusty once said when asked if he thinks about his father: “All the time. Except when I’m at the track, then it’s all business.”
Going to the track is in some ways like sex…judging from the people’s faces you wouldn’t think anybody’s having fun. Waiting around between post times, they’ve all got the same dead eyed look, staring back and forth between the Form and their programs, chewing on their pens, glancing over their glasses at the tote board to see if the smart money has come in heavy on a particular horse yet. If you’re losing, you look miserable. If you’re winning, you still look miserable. They yell for two reasons: Their horse is making a move down the stretch; or their kid has climbed over the rail and is making their way out onto the track.
I believe it was Shakespeare who once said: I like my track conditions like I like my women, Wet and Fast, which is what it was yesterday. The misty clouds revealed the backdrop San Gabriels at different green depths in the distance, and all the turf races were moved to the dirt, with more scratches than a pair of legs on Naked and Afraid. The fields were opened up, bettors rallied around favorites that felt easier to beat, and while I studied bloodlines for fathers who were mudders,
I pooh-poohed my kids’ suggestions based on favorite numbers, opting instead for the horse named Candy Anniversary, based only on it being the anniversary of the friends we were there with. It was the kids, however, who keyed on the fact that the number 8 horse kept winning, and at the end of the day that system worked best. A late exacta hit paid for our day.
So, no, I didn’t watch any football yesterday. I missed Dez Bryant’s catch hitting the ground like so many Golden Globe jokes last night. I missed Peyton Manning’s record setting playoff loss. These playoffs have been misery for me so far, but you know what they say about misery and company right? At the track, I’ve found my people!
Come back tomorrow for Grinding Ax Walter Hynes, who is always on the right track.