A Terrible Day for the Races

Editor’s note: Jim’s column on gambling, The Nervous Light, which comes from the chapter title “The Nervous Light of Sunday” in Frederick Exley’s masterpiece of obsessive fandom, A Fan’s Notes, runs once a month.

On Saturday, June 11th, I found myself in Northeast Los Angeles with a few hours to kill and made my way to Santa Anita to catch a simulcast of the Belmont Stakes, the Triple Crown’s third and longest leg, and the hardest to handicap.

I put down a $50 exacta box on the 7-horse and the 11-horse.

Two bets: 7-11. 11-7.

11 was the favorite. The 7-horse was a long shot. I think its name was Soul Seeker. I don’t remember and I don’t give a shit. My daughter was born on 7/7 so I always play the 7. I don’t always win, but when I do, it’s worth it, but isn’t it always?

Always. Usually. Sometimes.

I’ll spare you the drama: we didn’t win. The 11-horse finished out of the money and my horse came in second to last. You lose some and you lose some.

But the best part of the day was the 25 minutes or so I stood in the soft drizzling rain drinking a Diet Coke, texting my brother, and shooting the shit with people with a ticket that could be worth thousands of dollars in my pocket.

Three guys in camp chairs studied the racing form, comparing bets, teasing the guy who kept getting his numbers confused. When the horses were at the gate they all stood.

“Let’s get lucky, gentlemen!”

That feeling.

That feeling is the best.

That feeling doesn’t last, but what does?

It turns out my dad had bet the race and hit the trifecta. Don’t get excited. He’d boxed half the field, which was something like 366 bets. So when he won, the investment took a big chunk out of his payout.

You can watch the race here.


Rolando McClain, a player who quit on the sport but convinced the Cowboys to pay him to come play and ended up being their most productive player on defense last year, decided to skip OTAs, which seems like a bad business decision in light of his recent 10-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs. That makes Rolando the third Cowboys defensive starter who will start the season on the sidelines because of suspension.

The Cowboys open the season at home against the Giants and are somehow 4-point favorites.

Do you know any other team that could lose three starters on defense and still be favored against a division opponent?

Prediction: Eli is going to put up video game numbers on the Boys.

But, yes, training camp hasn’t even started yet, so I’m not advocating jumping on that line. Yet. We’ve got time. But when the time comes, you better believe I’m going to hit that number like Odell Beckham Jr. tattering a softball at a charity event.



In my previous column, I talked about how my high-roller fantasy baseball team wasn’t performing very well. That is no longer the case. I’m not going to jinx myself by revealing our precise position because it’s still very much fluid (case in point: from the time I started this section in the column in the morning and finished it at night we dropped two spots) but we’ve gone from being a bottom five team to a top five team in a pretty short period of time.

And there’s room to improve.

While we are very strong in home runs, ERA and WHIP, the rest of our pitching numbers are middle of the road and many of our batting stats are poor. Overall we’re pretty balanced while some of our competitors have lopsided stats. Either they’re very good in pitching and bad at hitting or vice versa. This can create a situation where a team is so far ahead in some categories and behind in others that there few opportunities to add points. Then, when disaster strikes, like Clayton Kershaw going on the DL for an unspecified period of time, a team can go into free fall.

But it doesn’t even have to be that dramatic. You can have two or three of your pitchers shit the bed on the same day and down the rankings you’ll go.

What this really means, for yours truly, is that I’m spending an ungodly amount of time staring at the live scoring feed and refreshing the standings, which is really, really dumb, especially when my pitchers are pitching.

For every high five I give myself when something good happens (feel free to take a moment to unpack the pathos of that statement), I spend quadruple the energy figuratively tearing my heart out when something “bad” happens, like when John Lamb decides to give up 8 earned runs in 4.1 innings and Cole Hamels allows 5 in 4.1 on the same day. Dagger city.

When you’re rooting for your hitters you’re cheering for good things to happen. A hit is good but a hit and an RBI is even better. A hit, an RBI and a run scored is a ball stoker. And all three at once with the bases loaded, i.e. a grand slam? Nothing better.

But when you’re cheering for your pitchers it’s the exact opposite because you’re hoping for bad shit not to happen. Every hit, every walk, every earned run has a negative impact on your player’s numbers. So when the wheels fall off, things can go downhill in a hurry. That’s the thing about wheels: when they fall off, they fall all the way off. See: Lamb, John. See: Hamels, Cole. See: Me, fuck.


Speaking of sad, the Cavaliers thrilling theft of the NBA Finals ended Cleveland’s 56-year run without a championship by a professional sports franchise.

Cleveland happily traded the distinction of America’s Saddest Sports City for a Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy, which was the Walter A. Brown Trophy until 1984. O’Brien was a former NBA commissioner who was a shrewd political who had worked on the presidential campaigns of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson and was head of the Democratic National Committee at the time of the Watergate Scandal. Indeed, he had his office broken into by Nixon’s goons.

At any rate, thanks to LeBron and company, another city has been crowned America’s Saddest Sports City and, according to ESPN, that distinction goes to…

San Diego.

That’s right, America’s Finest City is now the capital of sports sads, earning the distinction due to a championship drought of 53 years. With just two moribund professional sports teams, the Chargers and the Padres, that streak isn’t going to end anytime soon.

Unlike the moniker, America’s Finest City, which Pete Wilson embraced when he was the mayor of San Diego back in 1982, it will be interesting to see if the nickname sticks.

Part of what made Cleveland’s sports sadness so palpable was the sadness of Cleveland itself. It was a place people like Art Modell and LeBron James had to leave to find fame and fortune. Until, of course, Cleveland’s favorite son came back and removed the curse from Cleveland forever.

No one is coming to save San Diego.




Check the scores on my

phone and it’s a fucking blood

bath. Fuck! My daughter


asks me what’s wrong and

the sun is shining and the

waves are crashing and


the only answer I

can muster is me, I’m what’s

wrong with this picture.


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Jim Ruland is a fan of the New York Giants, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and his daughter’s soccer team. He is the author of the novel Forest of Fortune, inspired by his experience working at an Indian casino in Southern California.