Commentary

Cheering on the inside

Updated: November 6, 2009, 9:19 PM ET
By Jay Cronley | Special to ESPN.com

Yesterday I had a nice win on the female Classic and got cheery about it in the process.

Winning should be as much fun as losing is clouded.

I like to cheer home winners. Silent victories seem appropriate for people who expect to lose what they just got lucky enough to win.

There's both art and etiquette to cheering at a horse race. You don't want to announce that you're all over something that has no chance to win: "Come on, baby, you're only nineteen lengths out!" The decision to cheer is best made at the moment of contention, when nothing is obvious, except that you have a chance with a horse at a double-figure price, a horse moving on the turn, a horse switching lanes and gears down the stretch. You can't cheer for a profit of $4.20. Cheering for a fat price that could win or lose by two lengths is good sport.

High-fives and hugs and other shared physical signs of spectator happiness are most appropriate for making money, not for expressing team spirit. And who knows, maybe yelling in a positive sense creates a wavelength that could reach the horse and rider.

So when Life Is Sweet broke last, there was no cheering. There was the quiet collecting of one's belongings so as not to become depressed and leave valuables on the table. As the rocket-speed began flaming out (take note Zensational), there was moderate urging: Come on, hang in there, they're all too close to the front. Then as we swung wide at 7-1, I began cheering in all sincerity. What had been wishful thinking became a possible celebration, come on, the two of you, everybody inside is quitting like the Dodgers! As we caught and began passing them all, the cheers became a victory parade, thank-you bouquets cast to the highly competent connections.

The payoff was $18.20 on the win.

"You could have said something," a person at my table said.

Others nodded; yeah, thanks for nothing.

"Throw money you need at a long shot" is not something I enjoy saying to strangers. But I tried it anyhow.

"I love some 30-1 horses Saturday," I said.

The table fell silent as a SoCal autumn afternoon.

Cheer at your own risk.

Write to Jay at jaycronley@yahoo.com.