The 131st running of the Kentucky Derby on May 7, 2005 was a race to remember. It was extraordinarily contested and exciting. The race was won by a 50-to-1 long shot! A 30-to-1 long shot came in second (place). Here are the results by post-position and horse name:
If a bettor played ALL 20 horses to win, the cost would have been: $2 x 20 = $40; the payout: $102.60; net profit: $62.60. The return-to-cost ratio would have been 256.5%.
Total exactas (straight) for 20 horses is 20 x 19 = 380. Playing all exactas straight @ $2 apiece would have cost $760; net profit: $9,054.80. The return to cost ratio would have been 1,291%.
Total trifectas (straight) for 20 horses is 20 x 19 x 18 = 6840. Playing all trifectas straight @ $2 apiece would have cost $13,680; net profit: $119,454.80. The return to cost ratio would have been 973%.
Total superfectas (straight) for 20 horses is 20 x 19 x 18 x 17 = 116,280. Playing all superfectas straight @ $2 apiece would have cost $232,560; net profit: $1,495,947. The return to cost ratio would have been 743%.
That's how you play it: according to Randomness Almighty. No, I did not play a single cent. I stay away from horse racing since May of 2004. I made the big mistake to tell to too many bettors about randomness, playing the horses as numbers, looking for long-shot trifectas, exactas, or even superfectas. Soon after that, beginning May 2004, the payouts for trifectas at regular horse races declined abruptly. I said forget about it! Now I have to look for something else at horse racing. Read about my regretful stupidity here: Generosity and stupidity: strategy, systems, gambling, lottery, lotto.
Reminded me of another huge sporting event that consumed earlier this spring. Men's college basketball is really huge on US television. The month of March is called March Madness because it is the time when college basketball crowns its champion. I love that time of year. This spring, the mother of one head coach of an elite college basketball team (Illinois) died. She passed away just before the conference finals. The TV announcers would mention the event a dozen times, even thirteen times, every hour of the telecast. They even interviewed the head coach specifically on the tragic event. “How do you feel?” they would ask him with mourn in their voices. “Isn't it unbearably painful for you to be on the court? How can you still coach? You know, you are my hero!”
Very few people know what I've known beginning summer of 2004. Only high-ranking TV executives, including famous announcers and game analysts, know what I am gonna tell you in a moment. Highly secretive and trained professionals in the shadowy world also know the “facts”. It all happened more like by chance. (Is Lady Chance following me, but only in the shadow?) To make it short: One gambler claimed to be a mobster. He was sitting next to me at a blackjack table in Atlantic City. I have no idea how he found out the time I would be inside that particular casino. He didn't care at all, so it seems, that other people around the BJ table heard his confession! I had never thought one would go publicly with the announcement: “Hey, fellas, I'm a mobster! But don't run away!”
I made an excuse… that it was my time to eat and drink. He followed me to the restaurant. He approached me in French — perhaps to keep it more secret! He asked for permission to treat me with the best red wine in that establishment. I was kind of perplexed. He wanted to thank me for my gambling ideas that inspired him. He even assured me that he became better than myself in related fields. After a few glasses of Cabernet Sauvignon he dropped the real bomb.
"Doesn't it strike you that all those dramatic stories during sporting telecasts are…scripted?” he suddenly asked me. I was surprised to hear that someone else had noticed the same intriguing fact. “They are... 'cuz I am one of the scriptwriters. Well, I am retired now. I only hit… as in blackjack!"
I am a man driven by curiosity. Curiosity is one major source of inspiration for this human who appears to be aloof. I wanted to know more, but I also wanted some sort of a safety net. “That's very interesting what you are telling me. I'm sure you have a lot more to tell me. But if you gonna tell me you'd have to kill me, right?” He liked the joke. He said he would allow me to develop that idea first. I didn't know what idea was that. But he said it was something that it was an idea I was the only one I would come up with. He, too, probably was joking.
He continued, even more engaged. "Have you ever watched a major sporting event without serious drama taking place in parallel? Players and coaches have family members who die just before that crucial game. Family members fell seriously ill the other day. There are those heartwarming stories of extraordinary recoveries before this very game. Next week, we learn that the recovery was only temporary. The loved one fell seriously ill again just after one week; fights now with death in the hospital bed!"
We remembered also the football player whose mother went to church on the Sunday of the game. Just hours before the big game, she passed away inside the church. “How do you feel?” the announcer asked the mourning player after the game.
“We won big, baby,” the player burst in tears. “Mom watched upon me from up there,” pointed he the right index finger towards heaven.
I was puzzled still. How can be such stories… scripted? “I thought all those dramatic, even tragic stories were true!”
"They are true alright!" he assured me. "They are genuine because the TV money guys pay big moneys to make the tragic events happen! They made XRating International one of the richest companies in the world!"
"Who?" I asked ignorantly. Then I learned that X-Rating International is the front-end trademark for an operation that makes you shiver. The scriptwriters are those who make tragic events happen. Usually it's the big TV operations that are the biggest customers of XRating International.
Sport is probably the most popular television event. No question about it. At least 20 of the Top 25 TV shows in America are football games during the NFL season. Sport triggers the most intense competitive instincts in humans. Well, frankly, sport violently awakens the beast in us all. We love to spend our inner aggressive energy by imaginary participation in sports or games.
TV makes huge money from broadcasting sporting events. The operation is costly, however. The ratings ought to be huge as well. Adding human drama, indeed tragedy to sporting events increases the ratings by a huge margin. People can't wait to see or hear the next drama. They are glued to the TV screen waiting for the next tragedy, or crash, or wreck, or fall, or...you know...
I am not a fan of car racing, although I am a huge fan of horse racing. I heard car-racing fans talking mostly about the crashes and wrecks that took place in the last race. That's one form how our Fear-Survival essential system works. Seeing others suffer makes us deal more easily with our inherent tension. Basically, our FearSurvival feels good when saying: “I'm glad I'm alive and kicking! Look at those misfortunate creatures!” Television exploits that essential human trait better than any other medium. TV news programs are full of bloody scenes. Talk shows are dominated by persons suffering from intense dysfunctional behavior (and bipolar disorder). The reality shows are filled by humans who love to starve and bicker one another (to win one million, while TV gains one hundred million)… and on and on and on… Television learnt this philosophical lesson. TV perfected this rule: “Show how some people suffer, and an overwhelming majority of humans will feel good 'cuz they feel fortunate. That way, the fortunate ones will turn into an audience; an addicted audience, if possible. That way, the audience will, hopefully, lead to huge TV ratings.”
X-Rating International operates in all races as well. They make sure a few cars will "catch a cold”, as they put it metaphorically. There are a lot more car racing crashes and wrecks these days. Horses, too, have accidents. One had a foot broken before a Triple Crown race. Another horse lost an eye. Another horse had to be castrated. I heard of a jockey who thought he was drinking coffee (unsweetened, as it were). The coffee contained some eye drops that cause severe diarrhea. Needless to say, the jockey was unable to ride in a big-money televised race. Again, long shots came in front for huge payouts. The ratings were out-of-this-world, thanks in part to the jockey drama.
"X in X-Rating means a living human becomes an eX... as in ex-living human, if the ratings require. You gotta be careful, wiseguy”, he warned me. “I heard they want to televise you at a casino table. They would love to show you dying on live TV, with a blackjack in your hand. The casinos and television would get outlandish advertising and ratings! You better watch what you drink. You better look for scorpions in your bed..."
I left the place somehow in a shock. I refused any offers to have spectators while I was gambling. I was very suspicious for days. The XRating concept was troubling me. To be honest with you, I hid in my place for days after returning from the casinos.
It was just before the Summer Olympic Games in Athens, 2004. A few days or so... Athens, you know, was the hometown of a really wise guy, Socrates. He didn't appear to have been a huge fan of the Olympiads. Did the Ancient Greeks too employed dirty “scripts” to attract huge audiences? Only Zeus knows. Unfortunately, He is dead… don't bother to ask!
The telecast of the Summer Olympic Games 2004 had plenty of dramatic, even tragic stories. Not even gold medalists were spared. The fathers were dying in hospitals while the sons or daughters were on the podium. Mothers, brothers, or sisters of Olympic medalists were fighting terminal diseases. I couldn't watch an Olympic event without listening to tearful stories. The young athlete received a piece of gold; the old father or mother received a bed in the emergency room.
I couldn't control myself. Wisely or not, I watched a lot of Olympic coverage on television. On one hand, I went to bed crying. On the other hand, I grew more and more frightened by the XRating concept and operation.
I don't know what to tell you. I'm kind of bias towards avoiding all sporting events on TV. Honestly, all that drama and tragedy is hard to bear. My eyes are always tearful. My heart palpitates. It makes me think that human life is a terrible phenomenon. They, the athletes give 110% in the arena. For what? For causing so much suffering to their loved ones?! Does that have to be the price of glory?!
Yet, I can't wait to see the Preakness Stakes horse race, two weeks from today. (Perhaps 75% of my TV watching is vacated by sports.) I can already hear the Shakespearean lament by some trainer or jockey: "A horse! A horse! My life for a horse!" They'd better be careful, especially regarding their loved ones...
Afleet Alex won the next two Triple Crown races in an electrifying, dominant manner: Preakness Stakes, May 21 and Belmont Stakes, June 11, 2005.
The television coverage made a dramatic change, however. The Belmont Stakes did start with the Alex story. The lacrimation part of the story was largely eliminated, nevertheless. Bitser (the diminutive I reward every Bob with), the TV host, would go directly to an Alex stand selling lemonade. The young girl Alex had started a lemonade-selling stand to raise money for research in pediatric cancer. A foundation was also founded on her behalf. The Alex stand was approved for free in every USA horse track on June 11, 2005, the day of the Belmont Stakes. Of course, the television coverage must have helped the Alex Foundation a whole lot. Hosting was all for free, not to mention millions of TV viewers. Way to go, Bitser! Bravo, crocodilule axiomatic!
I call that fairness. Television makes big money by exploiting all those dramatic, even tragic, stories. But the real humans behind the stories did NOT seem to benefit from the TV coverage. Fairness is in discussion, on one hand. There is also the legal issue of copyright protection. Why give television free stories that help big TV guys make big bucks? The TV coverage of the Belmont Stakes 2005 righted a wrong.
The NBA Finals 2005 on TV made also a change. No more mortuary stories. Instead, they showed an inspiring story of a basketball player participant in the finals. He was the son of two parents who were drug and alcohol addicts. The abandoned boy was brought up by a surrogate family in his poor neighborhood.
The player is rich now. He does show his gratitude to all those humans who cared for him. None of the persons is blood related to the professional basketball player. As of his biological parents — the player honestly said that he keeps them at arm's length. "They probably want to exploit the biological link now that I am rich." An extraordinary story, with profound philosophical connotations. Some of the money related to the TV story will go, hopefully, to the surrogate family and all the friends in the poor neighborhood…
Afleet Alex didn't need human suffering to win the 2005 Belmont Stakes by a huge margin:
Barbaro broke America's heart at the 2006 Kentucky Derby (highly exploited by American TV thereafter, till Barbaro's death):
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