June 19, 2009
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From left, Fred MacMurray and Edward G. Robinson, age 50, in Double Indemnity.

From left, Fred MacMurray and Edward G. Robinson, age 50, in Double Indemnity.

by Brad Eastland, the Sports Philosopher….  







      A wise man once said (okay, it was only me) that one of the toughest things in Life is determining—while they are actually happening—what are truly the most significant moments in one’s Life.   And then determining what to do about it.




      I brushed up against four such moments during the last week or so.   Two of them actually happened to me, the other two didn’t happen to me as much as they got me to think about me.   All were significant in their own way.   The question is how significant, and why.

      Let’s review.

      First of all, as you all know by now, our beloved Lakers wrapped up their 15th NBA championship.   Well done.   What I mean is, well done Mr. Sports Philosopher, for accurately predicting not only who would win, but also why, and in how many games.   In case you missed my column before the finals began, here it is.  http://www.laverneonline.com/2009/06/04/hey-lamar-cant-we-still-be-friends/    Check it out.  It’s a hoot.

      Fun stuff?   Sure.   Significant?   Not very.   Except, of course, to the degree that it might solidify my reputation as a shrewd and canny analyst of the sporting world.   (Hmm.   Maybe it’s more significant than I thought.  :>)

      A few days ago, significant event #2 occurred.   This one hurt.

      I was at the racetrack (perhaps inspired by my own racing-oriented column from last week, http://www.laverneonline.com/2009/06/11/riding-a-horse-buying-a-car-patience-is-a-virtue/ ), trying to pick up a little extra cash.   I bet a “pick three”, which, without going into a lot of boring statistical detail, is where you pick a few horses in three consecutive races, and you have to have nailed the winner in each race in order to collect.  It’s usually a losing proposition, but if it hits it’s usually for a fat profit.   A few hundred dollars, anyway.  

      Anyway, I guess it was literally too good to be true.   First, my horse in the 1st leg wins at 24-to-1.   So right away I’m nervous.   Then, in the 2nd leg, another of my heroic longshots comes romping home, this one also at healthy as hell odds, 8-to-1.   I’m usually pretty calm at the track, but by this time I’m sweating, sort of shaking, even a little lightheaded.   I want my mother.   I gulp a glazed donut to settle my stomach.   The good news is that I’ve got five horses running in the 3rd and final leg.   Five chances out of ten of winning it all!   Better than that, because of course I got to pick which five horses.   And I was 99% sure I had picked the five best horses.

      I hadn’t.   Yes, one of my armada of nags was in front by over two lengths with only a sixteenth of a mile to go….but one of the horses I hadn’t picked was gaining.   This can’t be happening, I remember thinking.   Y’see, good people, I had already calculated my approximate payoff, should that horse of mine who was way ahead simply hold on; about $11,000.   That’s right, I said ELEVEN THOUSAND.   And I only paid $135 for the ticket.   This was a bonanza.   I was only a sixteenth of a mile from the Mother Lode.   Hold on, baby, hold on, hang on, just hang on, just….just….

      No point in drawing this out.   The horse I hadn’t included on my ticket got up and won, in a photo finish in the final jump.   Ten feet from the wire I was $11,000 richer.   But at the wire I was broke.   By far the biggest photo finish I have ever lost.   It would have been by far my biggest winning day, ever.   Significance?   Hell, I don’t know.   I mean I can’t answer that right now.   Gimme a few weeks, I’m still in a fog.   I do know one thing: It’s like I said in my column about Greg Norman a couple months back (http://www.laverneonline.com/2009/04/11/live-masters-update-suffering-through-life-with-greg-norman/ ); there are decidedly lucky people and lucky teams, and there are decidedly unlucky people and unlucky teams.   You can stick Greg Norman, the Chicago Cubs, and me into the latter category.

      Moving on.   A couple days ago I was watching an old movie on TV.   Double Indemnity”, with Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck.   A classic.   One of my favorite black-and-white crime dramas from the 40s.    (They did a remake of this film 35 years later, it was called “Body Heat”.   Naturally it was in color, with a little gratuitous nudity to be sure, but it was still not as good an overall product as “Double Indemnity”.   Food for thought….)   

      Maybe the best thing about “Double Indemnity” was the performance of the great character actor, Edward G. Robinson, as the wily insurance investigator Barton Keyes.   I hope I don’t have to educate too many of you as to who Edward G. Robinson was; he’s a national treasure who on screen is always believable, always compelling and a joy to watch, the lynchpin of such all-time memorable films as “Key Largo”,  The Cincinnati Kid” and “Soylent Green.”   Real name?   Emanuel Goldenberg.   Jewish guy, born in Romania.   We even share the same birthday, December 12th.   Anyway, as I was watching wily Barton Keyes slowly come to the conclusion that Fred and Barbara were murderers—finding familiarity and comfort in Ed’s trademark features, the short squat body, the ponderous gut, receding hairline, and the fat, ugly, utterly recognizable and thoroughly bulldoglike face—I got to asking myself….how old was Robinson when he made this movie….65?   62?   Maybe even as young as 60?   Maybe.   People did look older back then, especially on screen.

      So I ‘googled’ him up, did the math, and discovered to my horror that Robinson was only 50 years old when “Double Indemnity” came out.   caution!   senior moment!   red alert!   What horrified me wasn’t that Ed was so much younger than he looked, but rather the realization that when this movie came out in 1944 he was three years younger than I am now.   LVO readers, I ask you.   Look at the pictures.   I don’t look as old as the circa 1944 Barton Keyes version of Edward G. Robinson, do I?   Huh?   My god!   Talk about coming face-to-face with one’s own mortality.   Ah, the pitiless encroachment of age….

      (I realize that me watching “Double Indemnity” on TV has virtually nothing to do with Sports, but it should help strengthen my image as a “crossover” columnist….)

      Finally, crossing back over into Sports, we come to significant event #4.   The sad story of one Ken Green.   Ken Green is a professional golfer.   Or at least he was.   A winner five times on the PGA Tour, the 50-year-old Green had recently joined professional golf’s Champions Tour, which is for players 50 and over.   Green had already faced down plenty of tragedy in his life; he’d had to quit the regular tour a few years ago when he couldn’t concentrate because he was hearing strange children’s voices in his head.   That’s bad enough.   But last week Green’s world came crashing down, when his RV blew a tire, veered off the road, and plunged into a ditch.   Green’s brother, girlfriend, and dog were all killed instantly.   He even lost his home; he had been living in that RV, which was totally destroyed.   And to top it all off, just the other day they had to amputate Green’s mangled right leg at the knee.   Which means he can no longer make a living at his life’s work and chosen profession.

      I’ve been thinking a lot about Ken Green lately.   I’ve also got a brother, and a girlfriend, and a dog.   Losing any one of them would be devastating.   Much less all three at once.   I’ve also got two good legs.   And it’s not like I’m a stranger to the possibility of being affected by a highway tragedy; my other brother was killed by a drunk driver just five short years ago.   Anyway, I’ve been thinking.

      I’ve been thinking that as much as I do bemoan having 11,000 bucks yanked right out of my pocket, by a stupid horse no less, and as much as I did genuinely agonize over suddenly being older than the fine old actor pictured here, there’s really not much doubt as to what was the most significant event in question during these last couple weeks.   At least not for me.   The question is what to do about it.

      Well, I think what we should all do is endeavor to live a little while we’re still alive.   We can sleep when we’re dead.   Don’t postpone where you want to go or what you want to do until fill-in-the-blank!   In other words, what the hell are we all waiting for, anyway???

      I think I’ll start next week.   Go on a little impromptu vacation.   Put the top down on my beautiful bronze Chrysler convertible, feel the wind in my hair; more hair than the circa 1944 Edward G. Robinson had, that’s for sure.    Maybe I’ll go to Hearst Castle, haven’t been there since Nixon was president.   Maybe check out a couple of cozy bed-and-breakfasts.   Eat some food, drink some wine.    Maybe I’ll invite my girlfriend to go with me (My brother is in Virginia, and my dog doesn’t travel well.).  

      And I’ll probably play some golf somewhere along the Central California Coast, maybe up around Morro Bay.   On the first tee, as I gaze with wonder out over the Pacific’s murky blue, I’ll be thinking about a fabulous—if decidedly unlucky—former golfer, who lost more in a week than any five people should have to endure losing in a lifetime.   Whatever lousy score I post, it’ll be in his honor.

Robinson was one of the greatest. Does he look 50 to you?

Robinson was one of the greatest. Does he look 50 to you?

Brad Eastland, T.S.P, age 53

Brad Eastland, T.S.P, age 53


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