Let go, tune out, be happy!
Over the years we’ve talked about so many particular aspects of happiness. We’ve talked about how worry assaults our happiness. We’ve talked about removing difficult people from our lives, we’ve addressed not being afraid. And many, many more things that impact our happiness. We’ve looked at the philosophy of Deng Ming-dao, of the Dalai Lama. I’ve even posted touching stories, Like Remember the Sweet Things, that go to the very core and nature of appreciation and happiness. All of this is great information and can be helpful, but we do have to make sure we also don’t over think things. Sometimes you just have to let go, tune out of your normal life and do something that makes you happy. Keep it simple.
That’s what this past weekend was for me. You see this past week/weekend included a synergy of two of my favorite events in sports. The NFL draft, and the Kentucky Derby. I’m a big Pittsburgh Steeler fan, I’ve attended training camp, flown to Pittsburgh for a Thursday Night Football Steeler game versus their biggest rival, the Baltimore Ravens. During NFL season, those close to me know not to bother me during the time the Steelers are playing unless it’s an emergency.
Horse Racing has been something I’ve been interested in since 1973. As a nine year old my grandmother and her boyfriend took me to the Harness Races at Saratoga Raceway. It was a top shelf kind of night, we were up in the clubhouse with the good food and the lovely indoor seats. And my grandmother told me that I could make $20 worth of bets over the evening. So in the first race of the night there’s a horse running called CC Byrd. It was a 8-1 shot and I decided to bet all $20 to win. Now my grandmother and boyfriend tried really hard to talk me out of it but I was an arrogant little shit and said since they said it was my money and my bets I could do what I want. So they decided, and told me that it was a mistake and would be a good lesson for me to learn how to be more careful with my money. You can probably see where this is going, CC Byrd came screaming home for the win and I got a $180 payout. Now for a nine year-old in 1973 I was rich and horse racing was forever in my blood.
I’m not an adrenaline junkie in the sense of needing to drive fast or do dangerous things. I know some people think that the adventures I go on are nuts and explain them away as me being just that. However, as I’ve talked about, my adventures are always thoroughly researched and I’m always really well prepared for them. It doesn’t mean that there isn’t some danger at times, but I’m usually taking a much smaller risk than people realize. But without a doubt, that small adrenaline/dopamine blast you get from gambling is something I like very much. But I’ve never been someone who enjoys just random chance. For instance, most slot machines seem ridiculous to me, I like games where I have some choice, some input, some way to increase my chances of being successful. So with slot machines what I like is Video Poker, I have some impact in the particular game with the best odds. The same with craps, I can choose to bet in the best way to maximize my chances of winning. Of course, there’s still random chance involved and that’s what brings that little blast of brain chemicals. When you’ve done the prep-work, made the right decision, and then bam, win money, it’s an absolute thrill for me.
Horse racing works on this level for me better than anything else. And I will mention here that yes, I know, some people are very against horse racing. I do acknowledge that there are some problems in the industry that need, and are being addressed. If those problems can’t be resolved than maybe horse racing needs to go away and I would support that, but until that’s resolved I will continue to enjoy watching and betting horse races. For me, working the information, handicapping a race and especially when you see something that really makes a longer shot look like a possibility, and that horse comes in to win, it’s absolutely thrilling.
So this past week as of Thursday night I basically was shut down for the weekend except for the working hours I had to put in on Friday. I ordered a pizza and had my first coke in a month and sat back and thoroughly enjoyed the first round of the NFL draft. My team took a controversial pick that I liked, it was all great fun. On Friday, at the end of the work day, the Kentucky Oaks was running at Churchill Downs, it’s the big precursor race to the Derby on Saturday. The race was pretty easy to handicap and Malathaat was a pretty easy favorite to back. I’d played this horse earlier this spring at Keeneland, it’s a magnificently talented horse and was spectacular at Keeneland. It ran an equally fabulous race in the Kentucky Oaks. There is a bet that happens, a double where you pick the winner of the Oaks and the Derby. Malathaat was the easy bet, the Derby this year was a pretty even race and a tougher bet.
About a month ago I was really high on a Bab Baffert horse, Medina Spirit. But after watching it run at Keeneland I was really disappointed in the effort and came off it in favor of chasing a long shot in the Derby. But I had bet Medina Spirit in a futures bet a month ago, and covered the horse to win at the Derby just in case. As you probably know, Medina Spirit got the right trip for that horse and won. I also had included Medina Spirit in the Oaks/Derby Double. So I won about $90 on the derby which covered the wide range of bets I had made and left me with about a $20 profit. On the Derby, I always go big, because catching the right bet at the Derby can mean literally winning thousands of dollars if a long shot comes in. So I got Medina Spirit to win, but missed on the much higher paying exotic bets.
On Derby weekend I typically go to whatever racetrack I’m closest to for the day. It’s a huge day at every track and lots of inexperienced betters all day means that payouts are better and I usually do pretty well on those days. Of course COVID impacted that this year so I had to play online, but it meant, like horse betting in a casino, I got to play multiple tracks all day, I was playing seven different tracks and bet over 50 races for the day, it was a blast. By time I got to the last race of the night I had broken even, which is always the goal, to have a lot of fun and not lose any money, if you win that’s just icing on the cake. I got to the last race of the night even but I had the four horses in the final leg of a big three I was still alive in. They all paid enough to allow me to cover the other horses in the race and still be ahead, which guaranteed it would be a winning day. But sitting back is not really my way, and so I played the race beyond covering the non-related pick three bets. As the race finished, two horses were in a photo finish for third and fourth. The photo revealed that by a nostril it came out the way I needed it to which meant a huge hit on the final race of the day. In all on the race I pulled down over $700 in profit! It was an amazing end to a really great day.
The point of all of this is not that I won some money this weekend. It’s that I thoroughly disconnected from all of the stressors in my life and did something that is just plain fun for me. Along with the draft and the races, I ate pizza, I made homemade nachos, I made a big batch of zucchini fritters and had a really good piece of red velvet cake. I took a couple of great walks in the sun and worked out one night. I slept in late and generally just relaxed. And that’s the point, from time to time we have to find the space to do this. We need this for our own mental well-being but this is also a really important part of life. It’s the old Ferris Bueller line, “life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you might just miss it.” It’s also the old cliche we all know, quote and pretty much ignore, “from time to time you have to stop and smell the roses,” or play the ponies. Whatever it is you do, it’s really important to have a happy day my friends. ~ Rev Kane