How to read a Racing Form // Belmont Stakes value picks

Every time I’m in Las Vegas I pass through the sports book and pick up a few racing sheets. I’ve never been able to make much out of them, but the life of the full-time degenerate who’s eating a hot dog and watching the 3rd at Gulfstream or Louisiana Downs is somehow attractive.   Why is that?  What is it about this that’s appealing?  The songs and legends are part of it, for sure.  I’ve always found sitting in the stands at Santa Anita an appealing afternoon.  Less so since news of the frequent horse deaths.

Santa Anita is running right now, without spectators.

“I love to go back to Paris,” Hemingway said, his eyes still fixed on the road. “Am going in the back door and have no interviews and no publicity and never get a haircut, like in the old days. Want to go to cafés where I know no one but one waiter and his replacement, see all the new pictures and the old ones, go to the bike races and the fights, and see the new riders and fighters. Find good, cheap restaurants where you can keep your own napkin. Walk over all the town and see where we made our mistakes and where we had our few bright ideas. And learn the form and try and pick winners in the blue, smoky afternoons, and then go out the next day to play them at Auteuil and Enghien.”

“Papa is a good handicapper,” Mrs. Hemingway said.

“When I know the form,” he said.

from the Lillian Ross New Yorker profile of Hemingway.

How do you “learn the form”?

I chanced recently across this academic paper, Sports Betting As a New Asset Class, by Lovjit Thukral and Pedro Vergel. It addresses the possible money-making potential of a strategy of “laying the favorite.”

The authors take a simple betting strategy based on Horse races in the UK and invest consistently on laying (betting on the event not to occur) the 4 favourite horses (with the lowest odds) in each race. They find the following:

(1) this type of horse racing strategy provide uncorrelated returns to the market;

(2) the strategy outperforms the Credit Suisse Hedge fund Index and S&P 500 Total returns on average for the last 6 years.

Can this be so?  A quick investigation reveals that “laying the favorite” in this way doesn’t seem to be a commonplace option in US horse betting.  I don’t think this strategy would be financially viable here.

This talk of laying favorites reminded me of my friend Beth Raymer’s book, Lay The Favorite: A Memoir of Gambling.

The book was made into a 2012 film starring Bruce Willis and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

In the book, Raymer describes learning from the professional gambler and line-setter Dink:

Studying to find value — into it!  I resolved to learn how to read a Racing Form, and try to glean some information from it that might give an edge.

Using the very helpful resources provided by the late Neil Benoit’s Getting Out Of The Gate website, which has a Racing 101-401 course, I was able to grasp the basics.  This resource at Art of Manliness was also quite helpful, and there’s a Wikihow about racing forms, but it’s Benoit who really gave us a gift.

I’d like to try and summarize my learnings for you, to save you the time in case you’re interested, and because the easiest way to really learn something is to try and teach it.

Let’s take as our example the first horse, Route Six Six, in the 7th race tomorrow (Saturday, June 20) at Santa Anita.

Up top we’ve got some basic info about the horse, like who owns her (f=filly), and her mom (Dam) and dad (Sire).

Personally, and this is based on zero study, but I suspect there’s all together too much focus on breeding in horses.  It feels distracting and possibly irrelevant, like when the old-time scouts in Moneyball are focused on how hot a player’s girlfriend is.  It just feels old-fashioned and unstatistical.  But then again, since I haven’t run any statistical studies, this belief of mine is based on zero evidence as well.

You know what I want to find out from a racing form?  One thing.  How fast is this horse?

I turned to my high school experience as a cross-country runner under the rigorous coaching of Livingston Carroll, who also taught statistics.  He’d always have a pretty good sense of the average race times of most of our competition.  It seems to me that the racing form, while interesting as a compressed pile of information, doesn’t really focus in on the central question: which of these horses is the fastest?  Beyond that is intangibles and unpredictable noise.
Luckily the Racing Form gives us lots of info towards figuring out which horse is fastest, if we can just figure it out.  We get a bunch of data on the horse’s recent races.
We see that Route Six Six ran on the 16th of May 2020 in the fourth race at SA (Santa Anita) in fst (fast) conditions at a distance of one mile.  OK, already useful info.  Remember what Thomas Ainslie says in his Complete Guide about the basic components:
1) elimination of horses that seem unsuited to the distance of the race
2) elimination of horses that do not seem in sufficiently sharp condition
3) elimination of horses that seem outclassed
4) elimination of horses at a serious disadvantage on today’s footing or in light of track biases
The distance helps us sort out #1.  Route Six Six, as we can see, has been running at 1 mile, even 1 1/8 mile.  A mile is 8 furlongs.  1 1/16 mile should be a reasonable distance for this horse.  Races of a mile or longer are called “routes,” vs shorter races, “sprints.”
In my limited experience I find routes are more predictable.  At Los Alamitos they run races at 330 yards.  At that point it can come down to what kind of jump you get out of the gate, which seems harder to predict based on the info in the Racing Form, or at least a different category of study.
Now, let’s talk about class.  It’s worth reading Benoit on class.  Horse races are at all different classes, starting (for our purposes) with Md Sp Wt, or Maiden Special Weight.
A maiden horse has never won a race.  Maiden races are thus famously kind of unpredictable.  Let’s say you win a maiden special weight, as Route Six Six did on December 31, 2018, “breaking her maiden.”  Well, now she’s on an Allowance race.
When it comes to understanding class, the metaphor of minor league baseball is often used.  Going from maiden racing to an allowance race is like going from single A to AA ball.   A horse moving up or down in class is facing a different caliber of competition.
Now, as they say, “the horse doesn’t know what class it’s in.”  But it’s something to watch for, and learn from the Form.  Is this a promising up and coming racer moving up to face faster horses?  A declining athlete going down a level to compete against weaker competition?
Note that Route Six Six is coming down from an 80K to a 62K.  I don’t know what that means, may not even be anything, but it seems like a slight step down in class.  Which could be good!
Now, these numbers in bold.  The Beyer Speed Figure.
Beyer figures are a whole thing
as my bud Jeff Fischer says.  The Beyer speed figures are exclusively in Racing Form, and they’re designed to kind of create a uniform assessment of the horse’s speed, homogenizing for track variables, etc.  They’re still calculated by Beyer’s team.  From a profile of Andy Beyer by Michael Konik in the autumn, 1996 issue of Cigar Aficiando:

Beyer took a stack of old Daily Racing Forms and did the laborious math by hand, sifting through years of data, applying the analytical skills he had developed as a games-playing child. “‘Six furlongs in 1:13 equals seven furlongs in 1:26 and a fifth’ was my E=MC2,” Beyer says, laughing. By 1972 he had managed to construct a reliable speed chart that incorporated the important element of track variance, a measure of track speed and bias, which was previously calculated by an antiquated–and, in most cases, inaccurate–system. Beyer devised a highly specific, sophisticated method for determining track variances, a method that accounted for the times turned in by different types of horses.

By combining his newly minted speed ratings with his fresh perspective on track speed, the young columnist invented the Beyer Speed Figures.

Interestingly, Beyer come up with his numbers specifically because so much of racing thinking at that time was centered around class:

“The orthodoxy back then said that ‘class’ was the measure of a race,” Beyer says, while making hieroglyphic notations in the margins of his race program. “For instance, if a $10,000 claimer was running against a slower $200,000 claimer, the assumption was that the slower but ‘classier’ horse would win. I was looking for a way to verify–or contradict–that assumption.”

We’ll come back to Beyer Figures in a bit.
Now, how about the jockey?
Don’t bet the horse, bet the jockey
is an old racing adage.  It is interesting that jockeys have very different stats and results.  Here are the stats at Santa Anita from this week’s Racing Form.
Prat wins 27% of the time, and J Valdivia Jr wins 10% of the time.  Worth considering.
Finally, we see the results of the horses in previous races:
Note those boldface names on the most recent race.  That tells us that Ax Man (AxMn) and Multiplier (Mltplr) both are in this very race!  So Route Six Six is running today against two horses that have already beaten her!  This is good information to know, as we try and figure out who will win today’s race!
The notes on the race are kind of helpful, but in the age of YouTube, you can also go back and watch these previous races, and see if there’s anything interesting that may not be fully recorded here in the Form.
One more thing: works.  Sometimes the horse hasn’t run any races, and all you have to go on are the “works,” or officially timed practices.  These are intriguing measures of a horse’s speed, although the horse is (always? almost always?) running alone in these conditions.
Take a look at Route Six Six’s opponent Ax Man’s works:
That bullet mark means Ax Man had the fastest work of any horse of the day on June 17 at Santa Anita.  How meaningful is that?  Depends, I guess.  (Note that Ax Man is a gelding (g in the gender line).  They castrated Ax Man?!  Rude.  I don’t know much about the meanings of horse gender on speed.  The colts seem a little faster than the fillies, but three fillies have won the Kentucky Derby.)
Here’s my crude handicapping method:
Let’s start by just trying to rank these horses on speed.
Simply averaging the Beyer speed numbers, occasionally throwing out some outliers, and factoring in a pinch of understanding about class and jockey and so on seem indeed to be a reasonable predictor of which horses will finish first in a race.  In two days of experimental handicapping, the winner was always in the top three I selected via this method.
Now, you compare these results to the odds.  It’s possible to occasionally spot a “value” horse.  I found the results, as Ainslie would say, salutary.
In horse race betting, you’re not competing against nothing, or even the morning odds.  You’re competing against the other bettors.  Their bets determine the final odds.
Knowing a particular horse is the fastest competitor in a race isn’t that useful, because it’ll probably be reflected in the odds.  Very occasionally, though, you can spot anomalies, where your personal handicapping of the race differs from the odds in an interesting and possibly profitable way.
Remember though, the track is taking an 18-20% take.  You need to predict 20% better than the cumulative wisdom of the crowd just to break even!
Anyway, here’s how I’d handicap the Belmont Stakes tomorrow:
1 – Tap It To Win – average Beyer Speed Figure minus any outliers I chose to throw out: 75.6
Coming off two consecutive wins, but if this race goes off at any kind of speed will struggle to keep up
2- Sole Volante – 90.2
Very consistent, won on June 10 decisively.  A fast horse, maybe underappreciated.  Worth looking at the odds close to post time.  This could be a value bet.
3- Max Player – 75.33
New jockey today.  Don’t think this horse is fast enough.
4 – Modernist – 76.4
Last won a race in February
5 – Farmington Road – 77.33
A solid also ran horse
6 – Fore Left – 72.75
This horse’s last win was in United Arab Emirates.  Feels fishy.  But that was a good clean win and very fast.
7 – Jungle Runner
A weak horse
8 – Tiz The Law – 91
The strongest contender by far, on the cover of Racing Form this week.  But look, the favorite loses something like 78% of the time.
9 – Dr. Post – 84
Can a new jockey get something out of this horse?  The pickers like Dr. Post.
10 – Pneumatic – 89
Something just seems off about the results for this horse.  Does he know how to win?
Hely Picks
8 – Tiz The Law
2 – Sole Volante
10 – Pneumatic
I haven’t looked at recent odds.  This morning Tiz the Law was at 6-5, and Sole Volante 9-5, so no real value there.  Fore Left came in at 30-1, and Pneumatic at 8-1.  Pneumatic to show could be interesting?
One attraction of horseracing is it really draws out a certain kind of stylized or old-fashioned writing in enthusiasts:

Benson has had it with this hanging crepe for its own sake!

Disclaimer: I’ve spent maybe twenty hours learning about horseracing.  I know nothing.  There are thousands of horse race bettors who’ve spent easily 10,000-20,000 hours on this.  There are whole teams that have seen every single race any one of these horses have run, and spent hours putting information into fast computers.  That’s the competition.   I’m posting this for my amusement, and to enhance the amateur enjoyment of this pastime for my well-rounded readers.
Before you bet any actual money, which no one’s encouraging you to do, see if you don’t find a small “mind bet” as emotionally stimulating, as satisfactory in victory without being as painful in defeat.

Jaipur Addendum!  

Readers, I just idly checked out the 9th race at Belmont today, the Jaipur.  Will be televised on NBC.  I noticed Hidden Scroll, a very fast horse, had something aberrant in his last race:

What’s that about?  Here we see the pleasures and oddness of the Racing Form as compressed storytelling:

What?

Luckily in this glorious age of YouTube what Hidden Scroll did in his last race, this might be the craziest thing in a horse race I’ve ever seen:

Motherfucking horse nearly broke his own neck, lost his jockey, and still almost won!  He’ll have the same jockey (JR Velazquez) today!  That should be a very interesting race.

 


Coaches, Super Bowl LIV

Andy Reid, head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs football team, poses for a photo with leadership of the 139th Airlift Wing, Missouri Air National Guard, at the Chief’s training camp in St. Joseph, Mo., Aug. 14, 2018. The Chiefs hosted a military appreciation day on their final day of training. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Michael Crane)

Will you be doing a coaches profile for the Super Bowl this year, Helytimes, as you’ve done in the past?

I get asked this so much when I’m out.

To be honest, I can’t do it this year.  Just haven’t had the free time and enthusiasm to study the biographies, food habits, and philosophies of the two coaches to give a true, honest effort.

I’d say from a quick skim I admire much about both Andy Reid and Kyle Shanahan.

(I like those shoes.)

Reid is from LA:

Born in Los Angeles, California, Reid attended John Marshall High School and worked as a vendor at Dodger Stadium as a teenager.

If I have to make a flash prediction it’s that Reid will put in the superior coaching effort and execute the better strategy, and the Chiefs will win the game as well as beat the current 1.5 Vegas spread.

(I will not be betting on it, I don’t think I have any edge, sports betting isn’t my thing.  The only skin I put behind this prediction is my public reputation for sports predicting acumen (which I don’t value much)).

Enjoy the Super Bowl, everyone.  Send us a picture of your favorite snack!


Visualization

Vernon smiles and then, as motivation is one of her key themes, she continues. “Looking back, I didn’t motivate myself in a good way for that race. I motivated myself by imagining the Chinese flag going up the Olympic flagpole. They were our main rivals and that was how I pushed myself. Then I’m standing on the podium in Beijing. The Chinese flag is in the middle and I’m living my nightmare. Since I’ve retired I see things differently – but a part of me will always think: ‘That was your chance, and you blew it.’”

Fascinated by this Guardian piece on Annie Vernon and her book, Mind Games: Determination, Doubt and Lucky Socks: An Insider’s Guide to the Psychology of Elite Athletes.  Pumping yourself up by visualizing your worst nightmare does sound kind of depleting.

We had one meeting several months later where we analysed our splits and established that the Chinese had a phenomenal last 500m. Did we ever confront exactly what went on the year before? No. This week was the first time Fran and I spoke in detail about it. I asked Fran: ‘How do you feel about Beijing? How do you explain to yourself what happened?’ My take was that we were so desperate to win we arrived there terrified we might mess up. That tension affected us.”

Vernon is at peace now and able to see a fresh outcome. “In lots of ways Beijing led me to Mind Games because I wanted to do something in elite sport that left me feeling positive. I didn’t want that to be the defining feature of my career or my life. Maybe one day, rather than the woman who stood on the podium in Beijing wishing she was anywhere but there, I’ll be known more as the author of Mind Games.”

 

 


Coaches

Jaguars at Redskins 9/14/14

Reader Tabitha in Marin County, CA writes:

Always love your writeups on the Super Bowl coaches.  What do you think of Boy Wonder Sean McVay?

Thanks for writing Tabitha!  Most of what little I have to say about Sean McVay I got out on this week’s Great Debates feat. Mina Kimes.  To be honest, much like the Rams themselves, McVay seems to be: good but not interesting.  A sense of his vibe in this NFL.com article by Michael Silver:

As he greeted McVay in a room that would soon be vacated by Demoff, Snead and the other Rams officials present, Goff didn’t know what to expect.

“They left us alone for half an hour, maybe a little longer,” Goff recalls. “Afterward, I remember texting my dad, ‘If they decide to hire him, I’m all in.’ ”

Goff also texted an NFL Network analyst who, nearly a year later, would write a very long feature story about the league’s leading Coach of the Year candidate: “Loved him. Mini Gruden haha. Everything revolves around the QB… If McVay is the guy I’d be fired up”

Full disclosure: A few minutes later, I also got a text from McVay (who, incidentally, is not a huge fan of punctuation): “I loved him bro he is awesome”

This WashPo article compares him to other young leaders (profitlessly imo).

McVay’s grandfather John coached the New York Football Giants in the ’70s.

McVay’s girlfriend is Ukrainian model Veronika Khomyn, but a quick scan of her Instagram reveals no real insights into coaching philosophy.

Gonna give the edge here to Belichick, a special, unique weirdo.  We predict a decisive Patriots win.

Let’s hope both teams control their A. P. E.s

For philosophical consideration of the Super Bowl, we return once again to the remarks of Deadwood creator David Milch on the Super Bowl and Kierkegaard:


Sunday Scrapbasket

  • Work by Ai Weiwei at Marciano Foundation:
  • down the docks, San Pedro:
  • Good illustration of Satan in the Wikipedia page for him:

from Strange Tales From A Chinese Studio (1740) by Pu Songling

  • Looking into the history of the USA and Chile, found this.

  Declassified notes Richard Helms, CIA director, took at a September 15, 1970 meeting at the White House

game plan

make the economy scream

  • This is a take I didn’t know I had until I saw it expressed:

of course.  these rascals hired her and they knew who she was.  it didn’t work for them like it did for Fox so they threw her under the bus, but they’re no more principled than she is.

  • moving books around:

 

  • happy fate to be in attendance at the longest World Series game ever played.  Beginning:

End:

 


John Madden, Vince Lombardi

source: this medium article.

In 1962, John Madden, then an assistant coach at San Diego State, emptied his savings account to go to a Vince Lombardi coaching clinic in Reno, where he listened to Vince speak on a single play for eight hours.

My source for this: this Intelligent Fanatics article.


Sir Garfield Sobers, by Mighty Sparrow

Two cool names.  From the 1966 album This Is Sparrow.

Context:


Update on Kentucky Derby times

The Darley Arabian

Much stimulating discussion ensued after Saturday’s post about why Kentucky Derby winners aren’t getting much faster.

Reader Avin D. sends us this 2014 Deadspin piece by Roger Pielke Jr. which has much better stats and looks at whether we’ve neared peak speeds in animal races:

One possibility, advanced by Denny and others, is that thoroughbred race times may have leveled off because the narrow genetic diversity of racehorses limits the genetic diversity in the pool of potential thoroughbred champions. Modern thoroughbreds are descendants of a small number of horses (less than 30 in the 18th century), and 95 percent are thought to trace their ancestry to a single horseThe Darley Arabian. Today, there are fewer than 25,000 thoroughbreds born each year in the United States. Compare that with the more than 7 billion people worldwide.3 The size of the human population may simply lead to a greater number of potential athletes with extreme speed.

Very cool.  Imagine if every current human runner was descended from, like, Guto Nyth Bran.

The Darley Arabian sired Flying Childers:

It is said he completed this race, over the Round Course at Newmarket, in 6 minutes, 40 seconds and that he reached a speed of 82 1/2 feet per second or 1 mile per minute. This was claimed to make Flying Childers the only horse on record as having matched the top speed of the unbeaten Eclipse. By way of comparison, this would be nearly 40 seconds faster than the unbeaten Frankel ran the Newmarket Rowley Mile in his famous 2,000 Guineas victory of 2011, over 30 seconds faster than the current mile track record and very close to the five furlong track record set by Lochsong in 1994.

As for Eclipse:

Eclipse is still remembered in the phrase “Eclipse first and the rest nowhere”, snowcloned as “[name of competitor] first and the rest nowhere,” referring to any dominating victory. This phrase is occasionally seen in American print media (most often in newspaper sport sections) but is more common in Britain.

A new one to me.  If Flying Childers could keep his alleged top speed of 82.5 feet per second he’d finish the Kentucky Derby in a minute twenty.

Why aren’t horse races longer anymore, the way they were in the Stewball era?

Anyway, congrats to Justify:

 


Why haven’t winning Kentucky Derby times improved more?

is it interesting that the winner’s time on average hasn’t improved that much over 121 runnings at the current length?

The winner of the 1896 Kentucky Derby, the first run at the current length, was Ben Brush.  He ran in 2:07.75.  Only 4.16 seconds off the most recent winner, Always Dreaming.

Always Dreaming ran in 2:03.59.  Crummy conditions, it’s true, but in 2015, on a nice day, American Pharaoh’s still only at 2:03.02.

Four seconds ahead of 1896.  Would’ve lost to 1931’s Twenty Grand.

Twenty Grand finished in 2:01.8, which would stay the record until 1941, when Whirlaway shaved off .2, coming in at 2:01.40.

Whirlaway’s 1941 time that would’ve beaten 62 of the 76 winners since then.

Whirlaway and the great Barbaro in 2006, champions from sixty years apart, put in times less than .05 seconds off from each other.

source: KYbluegrass on Wiki

The winning time for the Kentucky Derby has hovered around 2:02 for sixty years.

In 1973 Secretariat broke the two-minute barrier.  A special horse.  It’s still the record.  Monarchos cracked two minutes in 2001.

In the Kentucky Derby, the top ten all time fastest finishers represent six different decades.

Compare to humans:

A world champion human mile runner from 1941 could not hang with any serious Olympic miler of the current era. Champion human mile times have improved by about thirty seconds.

Maybe that’s the wrong comparison.  The Kentucky Derby is a sprint and tiny differences are significant.

OK.  Say like the 100 meter dash?

Usain Bolt would beat any 100 meter dasher from the 1940s.  He’s a special case, the best ever, but even the sixth place finisher at the 2016 finals would’ve been breaking the world record from ten years before.  Nobody from the ’80s would’ve come close, let alone anyone from the ’40s.

The world record holder in the 100 meter dash from the 1940s wouldn’t even make the finals at the 2016 Olympics.

You have to go down into the 200s of fastest Olympic times  before anyone from before 1990 shows up:

Olympic gold medal times have improved by about 10% on what they were in the early 1900s.  That’s in a race that lasts around ten seconds.

The human race that timewise is the closest to the derby, around two minutes, is the 800 meter dash.

Again let’s use the Olympics.  Edwin Flack of Australia won in 1896 with a time of 2:11.  By the 1930s he would’ve been smoked.  By then, Tommy Hampson could run 1:49.7.

By the 1980s Hampson would’ve barely made the finals.  By 2016 David Rudisha of Kenya is finishing at 1:42.15, a 29 second improvement over Flack.

Rudisha is very special of course.  But even Yiech Biel of the Refugee Olympic Team, last finisher in his early heat, put up a time of 1:54.67, a healthy 17 seconds ahead of Flack.

Maybe that’s the wrong comparison.  The Kentucky Derby isn’t a world record, it’s a specific race under changing conditions that can be favorable or unfavorable.

Fair point but aren’t Olympic finals conditions variable?

But the Kentucky Derby’s a one-off, you only run it once (when you are three years old)

That might be interesting but also so what?  Shouldn’t that mean even more variance?

More: the Derby-length (1 1/4 mile) world record run by a horse hasn’t broken 1:57.  Closest was in 1980.

The world record time for a horse running this distance hasn’t improved in thirty-eight years.  Meanwhile human 100 meter dash times progress pretty neatly.

So here’s my question:

Has human running improved more than horse running? 

Why? 

One theory: horse racing reached peak times quickly and stayed there because there’s more money in it.

Are my assumptions wrong?  Very open to that, maybe average racehorse times have improved, I don’t know and I’m not sure I’m gonna bother finding out!

Please, weigh in if you have a take.

Here’s my second question:

is this interesting?

 


Daytona

Happened to catch the end of the Daytona 500 – super dramatic!  That is Austin Dillon’s dad.  Dawned on me that a reason men love sports is the emotions are so intense inhibitions break down and they can express love and tenderness for each other.  (War too?)

source: Al Chang for the US Army, 1950.

(Talking cis-straight men here, friends and fathers and sons and comrades and teammates, gay male affection a different topic)


Skiing

There were no ski lifts from Schruns and no funiculars; but there were logging trails and cattle trails that led up different mountain valleys to the high mountain country.  You climbed on foot carrying your skis and higher up, where the snow was too deep, you climbed on seal skins that you attached to the bottoms of the skis.  At the tops of mountain valleys there were the big Alpine Club huts for summer climbers where you could sleep and leave payment for any wood you used.  In some you had to pack up your own wood, or if you were going on a long tour in the high mountains and the glaciers, you hired someone to pack wood and supplies up with you, and established a base.  The most famous of these high base huts were the Lindauer-Hütte, the Madlener-Hause and the Wiesbadener-Hütte.

So says Hemingway in A Moveable Feast, “Winters in Schruns”

Skiing was not the way it is now, the spiral fracture had not become common then, and no one could afford a broken leg.  There were no ski patrols.  Anything you ran down from, you had to climb up to first, and you could run down only as often as you could climb up.  That made you have legs that were fit to run down with.

And what did you eat, Hemingway?

We were always hungry and every meal time was a great event.  We drank light or dark beer and new wines and wines that were a year old sometimes.  The white wines were the best.  For other drinks there was wonderful kirsch made in the valley and Enzian Schnapps distilled from mountain gentian.  Sometimes for dinner there would be jugged hare with a rich red wine sauce, and sometimes venison with chestnut sauce.  We would drink red wine with these even though it was more expensive than white wine, and the very best cost twenty cents a liter.  Ordinary red wine was much cheaper and we packed it up in kegs to the Madlener-Haus.

What was the worst thing you remember?

The worst thing I remember of that avalanche winter was one man who was dug out.  He had squatted down and made a box with his arms in front of his head, as we had been taught to do, so that there would be air to breathe as the snow rose up over you.  It was a huge avalanche and it took a long time to dig everyone out, and this man was the last to be found.  He had not been dead long and his neck was worn through so that the tendons and the bones were visible.  He had been turning his head from side to side against the pressure of the snow.  In this avalanche there must have been some old, packed snow mixed in with the new light snow that had slipped.  We could not decide whether he had done it on purpose or if he had been out of his head.  But there was no problem because he was refused burial in consecrated ground by the local priest anyway; since there was no proof he was a Catholic.

What else do you remember?

I remember the smell of the pines and the sleeping on the mattresses of beech leaves in the woodcutters’ huts and the skiing through the forest following the tracks of hares and of foxes.  In the high mountains above the tree line I remember following the track of a fox until I came in sight of him and watching him stand with his forefoot raised and then go on carefully to sop and then pounce, and the whiteness and the clutter of a ptarmigan bursting out of the snow and flying away and over the ridge.

And, did you, btw, sleep with your wife’s best friend?

The last year in the mountains new people came deep into our lives and nothing was ever the same again.  The winter of the avalanches was like a happy and innocent winter in childhood compared to that winter and the murderous summer that was to follow.  Hadley and I had become too confident in each other and careless in our confidence and pride.  In the mechanics of how this was penetrated I have never tried to apportion the blame, except my own part, and that was clearer all my life.  The bulldozing of three people’s hearts to destroy one happiness and build another and the love and the good work and all that came out of it is not part of this book.  I wrote it and left it out.  It is a complicated, valuable, instructive story.  How it all ended, finally, has nothing to do with this either.  Any blame in that was mine to take and possess and understand.  The only one, Hadley, who had no possible blame, ever, came well out of it finally and married a much finer man that I ever was or could hope to be and is happy and deserves it and that was one good and lasting thing that came out of that year.

Google, show me Schruns:

 

 


Coaching Matchup: Super Bowl LII

Beginning with a 2015 look at the positivist philosophies of Pete Carroll , we’ve written some on top-level football coaches and coaching philosophy here at Helytimes.

Our Reader found less charm in Nick Saban’s book:

but did learn what Nick Saban eats for breakfast.

The Super Bowl matchup between Ron Rivera and Gary Kubiak proved one of the least charismatic coaching duels in memory but Our Correspondent found some points of interest in Rivera’s Control Your APE philosophy

King of Coaches is Bill Belichick.  We reviewed the best book on him back in 2015.

Last year’s Dan Quinn / Belichick matchup provided a political contrast, noted by Our Correspondent.

Jan 19, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles new head coach Doug Pederson is introduced to the media at the NovaCare Complex . Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

This year Belichick faces goofball Doug Pederson, who once had his jaw broken while playing as Brett Favre’s backup:

Pederson never started a game with the Packers and threw for only three touchdowns in his seven seasons. Two of them came against the Vikings on Oct. 5, 1998, when he replaced Favre in a blowout loss. On the second of his two touchdown passes, Pederson suffered a broken jaw thanks to a hit from corner Corey Fuller.

He would need his jaw wired shut after the game, but he still took the field for the next play because he was Longwell’s holder on extra points.

“He kind of mumbled, ‘Something’s wrong with my jaw,’ but he got the hold down, and we made the kick,” Longwell said.

so reports Rob Demovsky at ESPN.

Can’t find too much of interest in the Doug Pederson literature, but I do think it’s cool that ten years ago he was coaching high school:

The former Louisiana Monroe graduate retired in March of 2005 and accepted a job as head football coach at Calvary Baptist Academy in Shreveport, La., which has 900 students in the K-12 school.

“I thoroughly love it,” Pederson said. “I get a chance to share my faith with these guys and teach them things on and off the field.”

(from this Packers.com story by Jeff Fedotin)

Good luck to both coaches!


Can’t forget one of our key missions here

Reporting on notable Helys.  Here’s one:

That’s in the Ahmedabad Mirror.

Kalyan Shah took that for us over on Wikipedia, thanks Kalyan!

We could use some good news.  Keep going, Hely!


Edelman learns Super Bowl has ended

seen on Inside The NFL on Showtime.


Coaches for Super Bowl LI

MORE ON public lands under Trump to come, but first we have to address a reader email:

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Dear Helytimes,

Will you continue your tradition of discussing the Super Bowl coaches, in anticipation of Big Game LI?

So writes reader Abigail J. in Wellesley, Mass.

Thanks for writing Abigail!  Last year, we profiled the somewhat dim personalities of Ron Rivera and Gary Kubiak.

Photo Credit: Reginald RogersParaglide Carolina Panther head coach Ron Rivera, left, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and former Carolina Panthers player Mike Rucker sign autographs and photos for Soldiers at the 1st Brigade Combat Team dining facility Friday during their visit to the post.

Photo Credit: Reginald RogersParaglide Carolina Panther head coach Ron Rivera, left, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and former Carolina Panthers player Mike Rucker sign autographs and photos for Soldiers at the 1st Brigade Combat Team dining facility Friday during their visit to the post.

Rivera’s Panther’s may have controlled their APE but it wasn’t enough.

This year we have a return for Bill Belichick, whom we investigated to the edge of known facts before the epic XLIX game.  In that battle he squared off against Pete Carroll, the most compelling coaching figure in the NFL and subject of an in-depth Helytimes profile.

This year comes Dan Quinn.

quinn

He won a Super Bowl under Pete Carroll in 2014, and seems more Carroll than Belichick for sure.  Here’s an article about him from the AJC by Jeff Schultz.  Bumper stickers are a theme:

Quinnisms: Iron sharpens iron. Do right longer. Do what we do. It’s about the ball. It’s about the process (Former coach Mike Smith left that one behind.)

Quinn also has had a dozen T-shirts or hats with punchy thoughts made up during the season, the latest being, “Ready to Ride, Dog.” The week of the first playoff win over Seattle, players wore shirts reading: “Arrive violently.” Those words were referenced by Neal after the game.

Don’t have much more to add.  In light of Belichick’s Trump support perhaps this a revealing moment, from Inside the NFL:

We’ll see what happens in Houston.

At the moment, who can fail to find NBA coaches more compelling?:


Stressful job

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Bill Belichick’s IT guy.  Lucky Coach says he is happy with Dan Famosi.


Went to check on results of the Harvard-Yale boat race

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an inauspicious day for the Crimson.


Control Your APE

Reader Kayla in Colorado writes,

Enjoyed your take on Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll last year.  Would love your read on this year’s Super Bowl vis a vis coaches (Kubiak vs. Rivera)

Thanks for writing Kayla!  As should be noted, I don’t know much about football but I’m interested in coaches and coaching philosophies.  So let’s take a look at Super Bowl Fifty: The Coaches.

In this year’s Super Bowl L, we have Ron Rivera of the Carolina Panthers:

Ron Rivera

Photo Credit: Reginald RogersParaglide Carolina Panther head coach Ron Rivera, left, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and former Carolina Panthers player Mike Rucker sign autographs and photos for Soldiers at the 1st Brigade Combat Team dining facility Friday during their visit to the post.

against the Broncos’ Gary Kubiak:

DENVER, CO - AUGUST 29: Denver Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak wasn't happy when the team had to call a timeout on defense in the second quarter of the preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Thursday, September 3, 2015. (Photo by Steve Nehf/The Denver Post)

DENVER, CO – AUGUST 29: Denver Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak wasn’t happy when the team had to call a timeout on defense in the second quarter of the preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Thursday, September 3, 2015. (Photo by Steve Nehf/The Denver Post)

Neither of them has written a book, nor have their personal philosophies been as parsed and examined as those of Belichick and Carroll.  Still, from what we have available let’s take a look.

Ron Rivera was born on Fort Ord, right here in California, and he went to Seaside High in Monterey.

Fort Ord

Fort Ord

Fort Ord

His dad was a Puerto Rican born Army officer and his mom is Mexican.  He’s not the first Hispanic head coach in the Super Bowl, though – that honor goes to Tom Flores of the Raiders:

Every week during team meetings, the 56-year-old Rivera chooses one pivotal play from the previous week’s game and plays the Spanish broadcast version for his players. Most don’t have a clue what the broadcasters are screaming about, but they holler in delight upon hearing the call.

So says this article in Citizen-Times.  Everyone seems to agree Rivera is a decent, focused dude.

“On one side I’m getting a strong and deep sense of family, tradition and culture,” he says. “On the other side I’m getting this discipline and pride that you get growing up and living on Army bases.”

He won a Super Bowl himself with the ’85 Bears, a game I myself watched with disappointment during, if I remember right, a snowstorm.

He could’ve been in the famous “Super Bowl Shuffle” video but missed his chance:

Rivera could have been a part of the video, and gone down in music video (and YouTube) history, but he chose to sleep in instead.
“Half the team showed up for it,” Rivera said. “Half stayed home and slept because it was a Monday night game. We didn’t get home until 4:30-5 o’clock in the morning.”
So says Fox 46 in Charlotte.  Here’s the closest thing I can find to a coaching philosophy for Rivera, from this article on Fox News Latino:
Pulling up his weekly presentations to the team, Rivera showed me how every one of them starts with a slide that says “Control Your A.P.E – Attitude, Preparation, Effort.” This emphasis on self-empowerment and responsibility has created a team culture of positive attitude, intense preparation and maximum effort.

On to Denver:

Gary Kubiak:

Amazingly, Gary Kubiak seems even less interesting.  He once had a Transient Ischemic Attack on the field during a game:
It’s only his first year as Broncos head coach — the last time he was head coach, of the Texans in 2013, he was fired in mid-season.
Maybe the most interesting angle to look at Gary Kubiak psychologically is that for most of his career, he was John Elway’s backup:
Gary Kub with Elway

Photo by Eric Lars Bakke, AP

That’s the perspective behind this article, “Gary Kubiak and the Tao Of the Backup Quarterback” by Footbyballs over on SI’s The Cauldron.

As a backup Kubiak was on the sidelines for three Super Bowl losses.  (He also won three as an assistant coach for the Broncos and 49ers).  Elway as GM/EVP of the Broncos is still Kubiak’s boss.

Says Footyballs:

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Gary Kubiak is a Broncos’ franchise cornerstone. He played out his quarterback career. He did his job, stayed ready, and waited. Now, it’s his team to lead. The Broncos are doing just fine with the professional backup in charge, uneven seas and all. Maybe he’ll have a third career, as a writer, in which he gathers all his accumulated wisdom into a book of sorts. He could call it “Precepts of the Tao of the Backup Quarterback.”

I would definitely read that.

The more dynamic coach on the Broncos might be defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, himself a former head coach

wade

and the son of NFL coach Bum Phillips:

Bud Phillips

can’t find source

whose Quotes section on his wiki page is worth a look:

  • (20 years after playing Pittsburgh six times in two seasons) “Don’t take long to spend all the time you want in Pittsburgh.”[7]
  • (referring to Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula) “He can take his’n and beat your’n and take your’n and beat his’n.”[8] He also said the same line about Bear Bryant.[9]
  • (referring to Houston Oilers quarterback Warren Moon) “That boy could throw a football through a car wash and not get it wet.”
  • (when asked about Oilers RB Earl Campbell’s inability to finish a one-mile run in training camp) “When it’s first and a mile, I won’t give it to him.”
  • (when asked by Bob Costas why he took his wife on all of the Oilers’ road trips) “Because she’s too ugly to kiss goodbye.”[10]

Here’s a little trivia coworker Zack calls to my attention: who did both Ron Rivera and Gary Kubiak replace when they took over their current job?

Answer?:

NFL coaches play nice with 326th AS crew

John Fox

All things considered, this doesn’t seem like nearly the coaching duel of last year.

I give the psychological edge here to Rivera, and predict based on my patented Coaching Analysis System the Panthers will defeat the Broncos (and cover the six point spread).

As you can see here, my system has me at 1/3 total, but 1/1 on Super Bowls.

X factor: very possible the NFL rigs the game so Peyton wins.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar talks to Tyler Cowen

Great interview.  Kareem talks about how his love of Sherlock Holmes made him a better basketball player:

Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 9.02.41 AM Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 9.02.47 AMAbout that action scene above:

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The USWNT

I gotta say, I’m enjoying the women’s World Cup, and I am for the US women.  I like Tobin Heath

Tobin Heath

And Kelley OHara

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And Sydney Leroux

110514-SOCCER-USWNT-Sydney-Leroux-vs-New-Zealand-PI.vadapt.620.high.0

I like this:

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And I like that Alex Morgan wrote a bestselling book for middle schoolers:

The-Kicks-1-Saving-the-Team

This is the only one star review:

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Do agree with Ken that this is troubling:

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