The SPORTS PHILOSOPHER says: ‘Never pass up a sales opportunity!’ by Brad Eastland

June 25, 2012
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       Just got back from an 8-day driving vacation with my boy.   Epic stuff.   Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, and back to Minnesota in less than 8 days.   Yes, it was great.   Yes, we had many exciting, thrill-packed adventures.   Yes, it was totally heartwarming.   How heartwarming?   Like this being the first time I ever let my boy drive a car.   In a deserted church parking lot in Luxemburg, Minnesota, of all places.   Anyway, he drove the car.   (My son is driving?….egad!)

     And yes, one of Life’s genuine bonuses, there was plenty of humor to be found in the simple daily study of the “Human Condition”, as I like to call it.    Like the time in Park Rapids, Minnesota, when this girl counter-clerk at a “Kum & Go” market (yes, I’m not kidding and yes, the Midwest has dozens of them and yes, that’s really how they spell it) told us that in the town of Nevis, six miles away, there was the biggest fish in the whole United States.   I pressed her for details, where was it caught, how long ago, is it stuffed and mounted etc., but all she would say is, “You’ll see.   Just head right up the main street, can’t miss it.   It’s totally worth the drive.   It’s the biggest fish in America!   Just go there and see it!”   So on her say-so I drove the six miles.   Well, it was a big fish all right….but not a real fish.   It was merely a 20-foot-long cement statue of a fish.   Alongside the road.   A cement fish.    Painted yellow.

The Twins

The Twins

     I wanted to go back to that Park Rapids Kum & Go and ring the girl’s neck, but my level-headed son restrained me.

     And then there was the time in Eagan, Minnesota, at a Kentucky Fried Chicken store, when the clerk let our food sit there on the counter to get cold and stale—ten feet away from our waiting mouths—while he looked all over the store for some plastic forks and a clean tray.   There were no clean trays so he washed one.   Slowly.   Then he went into the back of the store to perform some other nebulous, time-consuming errand.   Well, we finally got our “food”.   But this time it was me restraining my son.   (You don’t get between a growing boy and his daily grub, people.)

     But the funniest one (or maybe it’s so sad it’s not so funny, I go back and forth on it) occurred in Excelsior, Minnesota, my own late mother’s home town.   We were sitting in the Excelsior Grill, having just ordered a breakfast sandwich (for Rob) and pancakes and bacon (for me).   It took me a long time to get our waitress to understand what we wanted.   That should have been my first warning clue.   I had to tell her large orange juice not small orange juice three times.

     Anyway, ten minutes go by, and no sign of food.   Finally she half toddles and half waddles over (her rear carriage was as broad as a wide-screen TV), and she smiles and says, “Have you decided?”

     “Decided what?” I rejoin.

     “I mean can I take your order now?” she re-queries.

     Rob looks at me, I look at Rob, we both look at her.

     “You already took my order,” I say.

     I did?” she says.

     I thought Rob was going to explode, but the lad controlled himself.   Even more amazingly, so did I.

     So she ran back to her station, found the order slip (she still could not remember, apparently, the large vs. small orange juice fiasco), and was so apologetic and embarrassed that later I gave her a jumbo-sized tip.   Poor girl.

     I’m not going to say all Midwesterners are dumb or anything like that.   Being a born and bred Midwesterner myself, that would condemn me by association.   But please allow me, for a moment, to just metaphorically shake my head in wonder.   I’m sure you’re doing the same.

     Anyway, regarding Sports (this of course being a half sports, half philosophy column), I had thought that the signature sports moment of the trip would come in Fargo, North Dakota, at the Roger Maris Museum honoring Fargo’s favorite son.   And the Maris Museum was good, though not spectacular.   For one thing, it’s not a museum.   It’s just a bunch of jerseys and trophies pertaining to the old Yankee home run king on display in a large picture window in the middle of a Fargo shopping mall.   That’s it.   Oh, plus a delightful little theater the size of a bathroom, where they play this continuous loop of Roger’s life every 20 minutes all day long.   I did tear up, choke up, and break down a little bit when they showed Rog returning to Yankee Stadium at the end of his life, to the unrestrained cheers he never got when he had the audacity to break Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record.   I get so emotional in my old age….

     But no.   The Maris Museum was not the sports highlight of the trip.   That came at Target Field in Minneapolis.   I had pre-ordered tickets to a Minnesota Twins/Milwaukee Brewers game, which now makes eight baseball stadiums around the country I have taken my boy to over the years.   And a beautiful stadium it was.   Complete with terrific bronze statues of all-time greats like Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, and Kirby Puckett.   And great seats!   Right behind the dugout, with crisp vendor service, fresh food, and thickly padded chairs.   Padded.    Like resting one’s arse upon great tuffets of marshmallow.   I hope some pimply-faced Dodger Stadium exec is reading this….

     It was a decent game.   The National League’s best player, Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun, was nice enough to pound out two home runs and a double for us, thus making the game memorable forever for my boy.   But what made it special for the Sports Philosopher is what happened in the stands, as in where we were sitting.

     These three post-college fellas were sitting right next to me.   Mid-twenties guys.    Minnesota natives all.   We got to talking early on, and it was obvious they knew their baseball, so there was no need for me to instruct them in the finer points of the game.   Rather I let them instruct me on the current state of Twins baseball in this new millennium of ours, with yours truly only contributing something if and when it fit in with their three-way lecture.   These were smart, rugged, boisterous young men, and they were a pleasure to talk to and listen to.

     Finally, near the end of the game, ‘long about the 8th inning I believe, they got the idea from our talk that I was an L.A. father currently engaged in driving his 15-year-old son around the upper Midwest, looking for fun and educational things to do.   They rattled off the usual Minnesota staples, i.e. all the Paul Bunyan statues, the Mississippi River headwaters, various parks, fishing, camping etc.   And then, one of the lads suddenly pipes up with gusto, “I know what you can do.   We’ve got a really good track here.   You should go.”

     “A, uh, track you say?” says I, curiously and haltingly.

     “Yeah, a racetrack!” he volleys back.   “Horses!   It’s called Canterbury Downs, right down the road, one of the best tracks in the country.   Take your kid there tomorrow!”

     Not wanting to tell this eager chap that Canterbury Downs is little more than a milk-run bullring course compared to storied local tracks like our own Santa Anita and Hollywood Park, I play dumb and let them have their moment, despite my whimsical kid jabbing me in the ribs to tell them what I know.   But I hold off.   Because it’s just too perfect.  “I’ll be darned,” is all I say, and quite theatrically I imagine.

     And then comes the moment I was waiting for:

     “Sir, have you ever even been to a racetrack???” one of the lads inquires with great urgency.

     And now Rob looks at me and I look at him, he starts to smile, his face twists up with the same impish glee as when our Excelsior Grill waitress had her Alzheimer’s moment, but I “shhh” him, and then I turn back to the three twenty-somethings and re-query, “Do you boys enjoy reading fiction?”

     I have found, over time, that this is a question almost no adult will ever answer “no” to out loud.   Out of both embarrassment and pride.   But it is also a question that most people—say, under either threat of torture or the influence of truth serum—would truthfully answer “no” to as if they were being asked do you like Hitler.   But with no truth serum available, naturally they all nodded their heads yes.   Three fine young men of letters.   Three confirmed fiction readers.   Sure.

     So I called their collective bluff.   I stood, pulled free my wallet, and pulled out three business cards.   And my business card, as it so happens, is simply and solely an information card on how to go about ordering my novel, which deals (in part) with life at the racetrack.   It’s called WHERE GODS GAMBLE.   I passed out the three cards.   And these cards, to even further crystallize the moment, even feature an illustration of two racehorses and their jockeys battling to the wire.   It was perfect.

     “There you go, boys,” I said.   “Since you’re so knowledgeable about the track and since you love reading fiction so much, this novel should be a natural for you.”

     Their mouths fell open.

     When they recovered their senses they started asking me questions.   Lots of questions.   Soon they had been informed that I had already been to literally dozens of different racecourses on this continent and three others, that I had been to the track literally hundreds and hundreds of times, that I had relentlessly pursued this lifelong hobby at racecourses from L.A. to Melbourne to Nairobi, to Paris, to Baden-Baden, to all over England, Scotland, and Ireland, as well as Toronto, New York, West Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky, Chicago, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Oakland, San Diego, Tijuana, and back to L.A. again.   And that most of these visits to the track occurred before any of them were born.   To say the lads were stunned is to state only the obvious.   Rob did a good job of not giggling.   (But later on he gushed forth his laughter: “Dad, it was all I could do to not to burst out laughing when that guy asked you if you’d ever been to a racetrack!” he said.   “Me too,” I said back to him.)

     When the Twins finally made the last out of their 6-2 defeat to the hated Brew Crew we all stood, shook hands, and wished each other well.

     “Enjoy the book, fellas,” I said, as they all had vigorously promised (remember, no truth serum) to buy the damn thing.

     To which one of the lads replied, “I can’t believe we actually asked you if you’d ever gone to the track and here you’d written a whole book about it!   What are the odds of that?”

     “Yes, life can be very amusing,” I agreed.

     On the way back to the hotel, Rob asked me: “Dad, do you think those guys will really buy your book?”

     A fair question.   “Probably not, son,” I said honestly.   “But stranger things have happened.   Maybe.   Let’s just decide to pretend that they will.”

     To which he rejoined, “So what are we doing for dinner?”

     As many of you know, I usually like to end these parables and life-lessons with some kind of axiom the dedicated reader can take with him (or her) into the future.   Or at least provide, hopefully, some crumb of genuine Enlightenment for those with a genuine thirst for knowledge.

     This time it’s easy.

     Here it is: Everyone should have a copy of WHERE GODS GAMBLE on his or her living room bookshelf.   The world would be a better place.   Certainly no worse.

     Ordering information is provided below.   Enjoy.

~ TSP ~

meet….The Sports Philosopher!image0022

Brad Eastland is an author, an historian, a film buff, undiscovered literary savant, and a lover of huge Paul Bunyan statues.   Brad’s other recent columns for La Verne Online can be found in the Sports Section under ‘The Sports Philosopher’ and also in Viewpoint under ‘Brad Eastland’s View’.   His columns on very old and very underappreciated movies can be found by clicking Arts & Entertainment, then clicking ’Upon Further Review’.   Brad has also written 4 fine novels* and over 20 short-stories.   

*To pick up a copy of his recently published novel of life at the racetrack (and of triumph  and utter despair) entitled WHERE GODS GAMBLE, a tale of American mythology, simply search for that title in both hardback and paperback on,, or   And then order it.   And then READ it.   And then tell everyone about it.   And then read it again.   And then post your praise on Facebook.   For all this he thanks you…..










2 Responses to “The SPORTS PHILOSOPHER says: ‘Never pass up a sales opportunity!’ by Brad Eastland”

  1. What wonderful stories from your trip, Brad. I love them all, especially the one about the fellas in the stands at Target Field. I would love to have been a mouse……and seen their faces. They’ll remember that trip to the ole ball park, for sure.

    You just get better and better at your craft, Brad.

    A HUGE fan.

  2. thanks Suze 🙂

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