After 20 years of trying to wade through Bill Finley's stuff, I
managed to do something I considered impossible. By writing that European
star Rock Of Gibraltar was a more deserving Horse of the Year candidate than
the brilliant filly Azeri, I actually inspired my colleague to write an
I try to be selective about what I read and have a low threshold of
boredom, so I skip most of Bill's long-winded pieces. How amusing that they
often appear under the heading "Today's Best." He specializes in "human
interest" features about obscure jockeys and trainers nobody else cares
about. He often produces these sagas during the Triple Crown season, when
other scribes tend to focus on the top 3-year-olds and their connections. I
probably should do more stories about the leading 16-year-old female
apprentice at Apache Downs who overcame a broken home, a speech impediment
and 371 broken bones, and this spring, maybe I will.
I read his latest effort though, because like anybody else, I'm
intrigued when a Web site runs a rant that questions my sanity and holds me
up to ridicule on the world stage. The fact that it was posted on Christmas
Eve was a nice touch. Even Ebenezer Scrooge wouldn't have been that mean. Of
course, when I consider the source, I just laugh and shake it off.
If you ever saw Bill mumbling to himself while discarding tickets
after races, you'd understand why he feels the need to lash out at others.
In Psychology 101, it's defined as projection. So many times I've seen him
bet wads of dough big enough to choke a horse, then end up with enough
worthless paper to fill one of those blue recycling bins. If I could book
Finley's action for a year, I'd never have to work again. If you play his
picks every weekend, you know I'm not making this up.
Bill also said I voted for Chris Harn, mastermind of the Fix Six, as
the person who did the most for racing in 2002. Well, I wish I had. At least
Harn and his buddies brought badly needed attention to our neglected sport.
And I guarantee if Bill had been in on the Breeders' Cup scam, he would have
convinced Harn, Glen DaSilva and Derrick Davis not to hit the "all" button
for the Classic. Bill would have used every horse on the ticket except
I liked Bill's image of me being "last seen wandering around
Aqueduct in his underwear having an imaginary conversation with Buckpasser."
Actually, I was in my pajamas and talking with the late Easy Goer, with whom
Bill was hopelessly in love in 1988 and 1989. Like many in the Eastern
media, Bill was crushed when Sunday Silence won 3 of 4 from his chestnut god
in their epic rivalry. I once read a book that mentioned a New York writer
who had tears in his eyes after Easy Goer finished second in the '89
Kentucky Derby. I never had the heart to ask Bill, but I always assumed he
was the crybaby.
Bill takes this stuff very personally, and it's only business. Racing
is fun to write about, but it's basically just betting on brown horses that
run in circles and jotting down quotes of practiced liars. You ought to hear
him raise his voice and get emotional about what some trainer said about
what some jockey said. The boy is wound too tight, but what would you expect
from a Red Sox fan? If you identify with a team that will never win anything
in your lifetime, inevitably you vent your fury at others.
So I understand why Bill snapped with self-righteous anger and told
the world that Crazy Eddie was brain-damaged for suggesting that Azeri was
not a no-brainer for Horse of the Year. I didn't expect many Americans (a
very provincial bunch) to agree, and I really don't care, but boy, did Bill
get awfully huffy about it. He's taking all this way too seriously, because
for most people, racing is what they do for recreation on Saturdays. Then
again, Bill went to Harvard, the finishing school for the best and the
brightest, so I guess he feels entitled to look down upon the rest of the
world and make weighty pronouncements. It's not his fault; he's just a
product of his environment.
Give me a break and be kind if my "logic" isn't linear. My pedigree
is 75 percent Irish, and Sigmund Freud said the children of Erin are the
only people that psychoanalysis couldn't help. We Irish don't just think
outside the box; we wonder if there really is a box. I think I've done
pretty well for myself considering my genetic shortcomings. It's a good
thing my mother isn't around to see her only son being skewered by someone
from the privileged class to which she always aspired.
Ah, but Eleanor always taught me to hate the sin, not the sinner, so
I forgive Bill for getting bent out of shape at me. When not becoming
impassioned about issues that make me shrug, he's good company, and I envy
his hairline, nice smile and boyish good looks. Once I was lucid and cute,
too, but that was a long time ago, before I went insane.