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by Jeff Wilkin

Type A To Z

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Features reporter Jeff Wilkin on pop culture
 

Compassion

By Jeff Wilkin
Monday, June 10, 2013

I was screwing around with my computer Saturday morning. Checked out some clips on YouTube that featured the Baseball Furies, Turnbull ACs, Gramercy Riffs and the Lizzies.

Nah, they’re not rock bands — they were street gangs in one of my favorite movies from the late 1970s, “The Warriors.” Everything’s on the Internet these days.

Stumbled on another clip. In Russia, many automobiles are equipped with dashboard cameras for insurance fraud purposes. Short scenes of compassion are part of this five-minute film — like drivers stopping their cars to help elderly folks cross a busy street, jumping into traffic to brush snow from a car’s rear lights, helping a guy on crutches who has fallen in the middle of the street.

It reminded me a little bit about Liberty Mutual’s recent line of television commercials that showed people in Samaritan moods. And it’s nice to know good people are in the world, not just the slugs, crumbs, irritants and idiots that so often make the headlines. In the end, I guess it’s all about timing — in order to do a good deed for someone, you have to be in the right place at the right time.

I was in that “right place” Saturday afternoon. At first, I was against betting the Belmont Stakes, because I had suffered financial routs and near ruin during the first two legs of the Triple Crown, the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.

I have a relative who covers racing for a Truly Unique newspaper in Albany, and I noticed he had picked Overanalyze — a long shot — for the big race. Brother Tim failed to help me win any dough in the first two races ... but I figured if I didn’t bet, Overanalyze was going to come flying down the track, win by 10 lengths and pay $30 for a $2 bet.

I figured I couldn’t take the chance — the chance of my brother showing up at the house this week and saying, “So, did’ja bet my pick and win a fortune?”

I kind of liked Revolutionary anyway, and figured mixing Revo, Overanalyze and the big favorite, Orb, in an exacta gimmick might pay off. Drove to my neighborhood Off Track Betting joint at the Star Plaza in Guilderland to invest $12.

A guy in shorts, baseball cap and light beard entered the place just before I did — holding the hand of a kid who might have been 4 or 5 years old. I noticed a sign on the door, a big sign, that told horse players that anyone under the age of 18 could not enter the building.

We both got into line to make our wagers. In the back of my mind, I was wondering if this strict rule against minors might become a problem for the family man. Then again, it was Belmont day, a big day for OTB, and any business is good business. Would they throw $$$ out the window? I didn’t think so.

But sure enough, the lone woman working the parimutuel ticket machine left her post and came into the lobby, and told the poor guy he had to leave. Kids just were not allowed inside such a den of iniquity.

“But I’m just making a quick bet,” the guy said, pleading his case and still holding onto the kid’s hand. “I’ll be gone in just a few minutes.”

It didn’t work. Perry Mason himself couldn’t have won this argument, and the racing fan and his son were resigned to their fates.

But first, the guy turned to me. “You could make the bets for me, couldn’t you?” he said, almost pleading.

It took no time at all to answer. “Sure,” I said, grabbing my red felt tip pen and preparing to take some quick notes. He wanted a $2 exacta box, 3-5-7 and a second $2 exacta box, 1-4-8. The guy gave me the numbers quick — he was persona non grata, after all.

“That will be $24,” he said, and gave me a $20 and four $1 bills. “I’ll be waiting just outside.”

I made his bets, making sure the tickets were punched “Race 11.” And I gave the clerk my 3-5-9 exacta box and a couple saver bets .... that eventually did not save the day.

The guy was waiting right where he said he’d be. He thanked me. “Geez, I only do this a couple times a year,” he said, smiling. “I feel like a criminal.”

As good deeds go, this was an easy one. I asked the guy to double check his numbers, and everything was right. We went our separate ways.

On the way home, I wondered if God had given me a subtle message. Maybe the Man Upstairs had sent down a couple of angels in disguise with a winning combination. The 3-5-7 equation was Overanalyze, Orb and Oxbow — and I didn’t think Oxbow was going to run the same race he did on May 18, when he won the Preakness. So God wasn’t doing me any favors here.

The second group of numbers was a stranger combination: the 1-4-8 trio of Frac Daddy, Giant Finish and Midnight Taboo were all 30-1 on the morning line. Two 30-1 long shots finishing one-two would be a bag full of cash.

Still, I didn’t buy it. Divine intervention, if it ever comes my way, is going to have to be crystal clear. I’d have had to seen 1-4-8 spelled out in the clouds.

As it was, the family man and I both lost. Palace Malice, of all horses, ruined the party for both of us.

The 1-4-8 gang of Giant Finish, Midnight Taboo and Frac Daddy finished 11th, 12th and 14th (last) in New York City’s signature race.

At least the father and son combination were in the running. Had two 30-1 shots made the exacta, it would have been a grim late Saturday afternoon indeed for a guy who had it all figured — but couldn’t make the wager.

But he did make his bets. And I’m glad I had the chance to help.

 
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