Dad and I were this latter kind, though we liked to bet a little, too. I won enough to buy all my own school clothes. Strange that I struggled so in math but I could easily understand and analyze the fractions in a racing form.
At the tracks, I saw alcoholics and druggies and whores and gambling addicts. Classy people and trashy people. I learned all the different methods people used to pick winners. Some of them always bet on a certain successful jockey; others stuck with a certain stable or trainer. Some were numerologists and divined their choices through pole position. Some picked the prettiest horse or the horse that looked the most sedate, or by contrast, the horse that looked most eager. Or they bought tip sheets from a tout. Naturally, most of them lost over time because that’s the nature of gambling.
When we moved back to Indiana, it was impossible to be a passionate thoroughbred racing fan. The closest tracks were in Illinois and Ohio. No newspaper covered racing results. No newsstand sold racing magazines. The Racing Form became too expensive to buy regularly. I lost interest except for watching the Triple Crown every year, the only races that were televised.
Eventually, I became a NASCAR fan. Instead of my weekends revolving around horses, they revolved around cars.
NASCAR has a completely different mindset about their champions. I think most fans this year are rooting for California Chrome to win the Triple Crown. Yes, they loved Man O’ War and Secretariat and Affirmed but that doesn’t mean they are jealous of their achievements.
Jimmie Johnson also has a chance to put his name in the NASCAR history books in 2014 by equaling the number of championships won by Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, icons of the sport. Instead of yearning to see history made, the majority of NASCAR fans are against ever seeing those old records broken. They want no new heroes.
Vicki Williams, a columnist for the Pharos-Tribune., can be reached through the newspaper at firstname.lastname@example.org.