Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Confessions of Error from the Land of the Would-Be Lucky

Fantasy Springs Casino, Cabazon, California—

So here I am in this casino just showing you I’m not the guy some of you might wish I was.

If I were a famous trial lawyer used to making my opponents cower in fear, I’d probably be swaggering from table to table throwing down bets so big and so reckless that onlookers would reel in shock and awe.

But that’s not the guy you got here, dear reader. Instead, I’m upstairs on a balcony overlooking the main floor blogging for you. I’m on a nice leather couch where I can see the flashing lights and hear the happy music and watch the people go by, but I’m not in the fray of the game. It’s probably because I’m not really built for the lust for the play and the main chance that you find in people who are really dedicated to trying to win at every aspect of life. And I’ve never enjoyed gambling at pure games of chance like slots and craps—if I was going to wager, I’d probably go for poker or horseracing, where you can at least think that you can apply some learning and/or research.

(So why I am in a casino, you ask? Well, my mother and I were in the neighborhood, and she thinks gambling’s fun, so….)

Anyway, it seems appropriate in a place where people go for the gusto but often end up with pangs of regret that I point out that I’ve made a couple of booboos recently.

In reverse chronological order:

1. On May 1, I told you that Mark Allen and the other owner of Mine That Bird “will collect a $2 million purse for their horse’s triumph” in the Kentucky Derby.

Wrong. The purse of the Kentucky Derby—that is, the total amount paid out to the owners of horses who finish “in the money”—was a little north of $2 million. The winner’s share of that purse was about $1.4 million. I was misled by a newspaper account that suggested that Mark Allen and his co-owner would receive the entire purse.

2. On April 1, I wrote that baseball slugger Barry Bonds “passed Babe Ruth’s legendary all-time record” for hitting home runs.

Wrong again, and this time I have no excuse at all. It was Hank Aaron who broke Babe Ruth’s record, as commenter “Aapa” pointed out on the Alaska Dispatch website when my post was republished there. Barry Bonds broke Hank Aaron’s record.

I have been a baseball fan for almost five decades, and this was not a mistake I should have made. The explanations for this slip range from the romantic to the vaguely scary. Maybe it was because Ruth’s record was canonical while I was a boy, and early memories stuck with me even though I have seen footage repeatedly over the years of Aaron rounding the bases after his record-shattering shot. Or maybe it’s the relative lack of controversy associated with Aaron’s life that makes him less memorable. By all accounts Hank Aaron is a more admirable person than either Ruth or Bonds, but maybe that same rectitude makes him stand out less in the memory. In any case, apologies.

Speaking of more admirable people, tomorrow I plan to be blogging from a school instead of a casino. I’m here in California because my son is graduating from boarding school about an hour's drive away. Here’s a shoutout to all the graduates this season, and congratulations as well to all those who helped them through. You're all winners in my book.


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