It’s called the most exciting two minutes in sports. The Kentucky Derby, an event I watch every year even though thoroughbred racing is far from an area of expertise for me. I’ve always wanted to understand the sport of kings well enough to be able to have some idea as to who I’m putting my money on come Derby day. Unfortunately, I’m as capable of handicapping a horse race as I am to perform open heart surgery. I usually just bet on the horse whose name I like the best.
So, seeking a bit of an education, I headed to the local OTB hoping to gain some insight into this year’s run for the roses.
Luckily for me, ( I think), I ran into three veteran horse players more than willing to share their extensive knowledge with me but not as forthcoming when asked for their names, choosing instead to identify themselves only as Johnny Gaga, Oakie and Philly Wrinkles. Undeterred, I explained to them that most of the gambling I had done on the horses had been limited to five dollar pools at work or family parties and that I needed a little advice if I was to place an intelligent wager on this year’s race.
The first thing I learned was that you’d better have a little time on your hands when you ask guys like this for their opinions. They’re a little passionate about the subject. They began by recalling numerous wins and losses caused by a variety of criteria involving jockeys, horses, trainers and track surfaces. They indoctrinated me as to the meaning of some slang terms such as Juice (Lasix), Five Pound Bug (A weight adjustment based on the size of the jockey), Weeds (Grass surface), Blinks (Blinders), Changing leads (Something about the horse’s front foot; I thought he had two) and the downside of being “Caught on the wood behind a dead piece” ( Being trapped inside the field near the rail behind a slow moving horse.)
Finally, after detailing at least one reason to like just about every horse in the race, they got down to their picks. Wrinkles liked the filly, Eight Belles; a choice I quickly discounted as he seemed to be the type of guy that liked anything to do with females and I questioned his objectivity. Gaga and Oakie were the logical two of the three and therefore more persuasive with their pick, Colonel John. So, after all of this research, who am I putting my money on? Court Vision. I like his name the best.
* * * *
Last year, the Patriots and their affable, fun loving coach, Bill Bellichick, were caught red handed taping the defensive signals of the New York Jets during the season opener for both teams. After a lengthy investigation, Commissioner Roger Goodell levied sizable fines against the organization and Bellichick, himself. It was further decided that they would forfeit their first round pick in this year’s draft; the 31st overall. While the Pats also owned the 49’ers pick, which turned out to be the seventh overall, Goodell decreed that he was only allowed to strip New England of its own pick, not the better one. So, since the Patriots traded the seventh pick to New Orleans for the tenth pick as well an additional selection in the third round, could someone explain to me how they were actually penalized?
* * * *
The key number for the Jets in this year’s draft may very well turn out to be 37. That is the total number of times that first round pick and new multi millionaire, Vernon Ghoulston, was able to bench press 225 pounds during the NFL scouting combine; sending the Jets into a “we have to have him” frenzy. It is also the total number of tackles that Ghoulston made during thirteen games in his senior season at Ohio State. A starting defensive end with 14 sacks who managed just 23 more tackles in an entire season. Hard to believe, but Gang Green has been seduced by workout demons in the past, most recently trading two first round picks in 2003 to move up and select defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson in the fourth overall slot. Despite the fact that Robertson was only voted 2nd team all-Conference in the SEC, the Jets decided he was the fourth best player in the nation and paid dearly for that evaluation. Last week, after five highly forgettable seasons, Robertson was traded to the Broncos for an undisclosed draft pick. Smart money says it won’t be the fourth pick overall.
* * * *
Much has been written over the last decade about the practice of professional sports teams abandoning their standard colors for black alternate uniforms. By now we all know that this is done strictly for purposes of merchandising and with no regard for their ridiculous appearance. It is silly that the Kansas City Royals would wear any color other than royal blue and the black and gray clad Blue Jays actually have their color in their name. One team, however, wears its black hat in violation of more than just good taste or common sense. The Mets, who now sport an alternate helmet that features not even a hint of their standard orange anywhere in the logo, have thumbed their noses at their own tradition and heritage. While multiple changes of official colors by teams like the Rays, Padres, Astros and Diamondbacks are a simple matter of preference by ownership, the Mets’ original colors actually have a deeper meaning, one that is a tribute to the baseball history of New York City. The uniform of the original Mets was designed to pay tribute to the three teams that came before them. It incorporated the blue of the Dodgers, the orange logo of the baseball Giants and the pinstripes of the Yankees. A fact lost on many of today’s younger fans; depriving them of a chance to baseball’s past in the Big Apple.