Handicapping is a potent science and art. There are times it displays its prowess on the human spirit.
Recently I bumped into a simulcast colleague who I have not seen in ages. My most recent encounter with him was beneath a bank of television monitors, when I learned he was recuperating from a heart attack. That was some time ago. After than he disappeared.
So I was strolling to the Penn National Racecourse apron through rows of slot machines when he saw me and stopped me (as usual, to protect his privacy, we will call him Delaney). We shook hands and I told him he looked well.
“I’m doing my best to come back,” he said.
I learned that Delaney recovered from the heart attack I knew about, only to have another. Then, he said, while recovering from the second attack, he was stricken into a diabetic coma. He was lost in comatose for a week, came to, and began another road to recovery.
“I’m feeling fine,” Delaney said, “but I lost some things.”
“Lost? Things?” I said.
He told me that once he got home after the coma he noticed that there were skills he had all of his life that were escaping him. He had done much manual labor up until his retirement, which led to his first heart attack at 62. His faculties were fine through both heart attacks but after the coma he had problems.
“I forgot how to do things I have done all my life,” Delaney said. “One day I went to hitch my truck and I forgot how to do it. That was just one thing I used to do without thinking. I had so many skills with my hands and even though my hands work fine, I don’t remember how to use them to do things I did a million times. I just forgot.”
I told him how sorry I was that he suffered the memory loss but also that I was happy to see him alive and looking well, which was no lie; he looked terrific. Then I said, “Do you still play the horses?”
“Hell yeah,” he said. “Funny thing, but I look at the racing program and it all comes back to me. None of it looks strange. My brain works fine when it comes to handicapping.”
Delaney smiled widely when he said that.
I thought, what a cogent skill to learn, no less to be able to retain entirely through a physical shutdown. There truly is a regnant quality to comprehending the words, numbers and figures that allow us to evaluate horse races.
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