Now I Get It

The First Essential Scary Truth


Gambling was an accepted form of communication in the Zola home.  If the Old Man said something that was response provoking, say Mondale won’t carry a state in 1984, and one of the families thought otherwise, it was accepted practice to throw $1 or $10 or $20 on the kitchen table and announce you were sure of a differing result.  The proper response was to announce ‘ok, I’ll take that action.’  And thus, the bet was booked, the battle joined and money was about to be lost by someone.


It was a concept that permeated all of our lives.  Even with Dad in intensive care, when the doctors first told us there was no hope, Mother openly wondered which of Aronchick’s sisters would be the next to die.  Scot, Joel and I each took one of our aunt’s as the next to go and threw a few bucks on the brown conference table; each of us taking the other’s action with Mother acting as the book.  The two doctors and social worker from the hospital who were there to break the news to the family looked on in utter disbelief.  ‘Could this really be grief,’ they must have wondered.  Yes, the way the Old Man would have wanted it, with odds involved.


However, for all the arrogant bluster of, there was one thing Dad never bet on and never wanted us betting on: sporting events.  Cards games and other games of chance, absolutely.  Elections?  Well, someone has to win and someone has to lose and in America, it was a 50/50 shot.  Other various events, like which cousin would divorce his schiktzah first, that just made the time go by faster.  Sporting events were taboo.  “There are too many things that can go wrong.  Never, ever bet on a game.  Ever,” he’d say, looking at you out of the side of his eye for added seriousness.  “You never know when Vegas will want a different outcome than what should happen.”


Outside of the occasional boxing match, like Hagler v. Leonard in 1987 where the Old Man called me to book action for me – as long as I bet on Leonard, Aron Zola was true to his word.  I always thought it was an odd preoccupation he had with sports books but I chalked it up to control.  If the Old Man had any semblance of control of any small part of an event, then it was wager worthy. 


A friend told me a story of woe yesterday, about someone he knew, a degenerate gambler named Steve.  It seems Steve lost the same bet twice on the same game to a Vegas Sports Book.  Impossible you say?  I thought so as well.  However, it seems as though Vegas has once again found away to keep their hands in the bettor’s pockets: playing by the rule book. 


As the entire planet now knows, game 5 of the World Series was suspended in the bottom of the fifth inning by Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig due to foul weather.  At that point, the Philadelphia Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays were tied 2-2.  The game was re-started at the same point it was suspended two days later with the Phillies finally winning the game and World Series 4 games to 1.  According to the rules of baseball, when a game is called due to inclement weather or other reasons and it has gone through four full innings, the team that is in the lead will be declared the winner.


With the teams in a statistical tie and no winner declared at the cessation of the game, Vegas declared neither team the winner and Steve lost his bet on the Rays to win Game 5.  When game resumed, Steve once again had bet, with the same bookie, on the Rays, who turned around and lost. 


I’d feel worse for Steve except I finally got what the Old Man was getting at.  The action with sports books will always be skewed to the house, no matter how they have to do it.


I’m shocked how much the Old Man has learned in the six years he’s been in the ground.

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