"They slowed down the goddam rabbit. That guy up there (he pointed to some invisible place high atop the grandstand) slowed it down. This was my big one for the night, and he had to slow down the damn rabbit."
The "rabbit" is a mechanical replica of a rabbit which runs on a track on the rail. The rabbit is used to start a race between greyhounds, a race which happens ten times nightly at Wonderland in Revere; a race that sends hundreds of people home mumbling that the "rabbit" had been slowed down of sped up; a race that brings thousands of people off their seats yelling at the top of their lungs for a dog that runs as fast as their bigger counterparts--the horses.
Dog racing has captured the hearts of Boston gamblers. Every night at Wonderland, the dogs bring working class people, rich people, young people and old people to the track. They pore over the racing program, comparing times, how the dog "likes his position" (i.e. what lane the dog starts in), and carefully watching the huge scoreboard to keep up with the wildly fluctuating odds.
I "went to the dogs" for the first time two nights ago, and I thought I was going to hate it. But I found that the dogs are cheap entertainment (50 cents admission, free parking) and if you're careful, you can go home even. It's better than most of the movies in Cambridge these days (How many times can the human mind stand King of Hearts?) and with the new court ruling on pornography in flicks, the people are going to have to turn elsewhere for their evening enjoyment.
I probably won't go again for a long time--basically because I can't afford to lose, and that's the wrong attitude entirely--but for a July 4 night it was much more invigorating than watching fireworks or meditating on where we strayed from the path first blazed by our founding fathers.
The holiday swelled the crowd and the humidity had gone down, leaving a nice breeze. Dog racing attracts a cross section of Boston's ethnic elements and if you can manage to get into talking with the bettors, you can learn something about the area in which we go to school.
While the announcer drones on about the minutes left to bet ("hurryhurryhurry" he says in a slurred voice), the hard-core lean over the fence, staring at the racing program. Every so often, they look up and stare blankly at the vacant track. As the race approaches, they wander off to the betting windows in search of the "big one for the night," the long-shot that will pay for the next week's betting.
And in this respect, dog racing is sad. It's difficult to argue with human nature: people will continue to gamble as they continued to drink some 50 years ago. But like its offspring--the lottery--dog racing takes money from the poor instead of taking the rich. And if you think sports doesn't contain the lessons of life, keep the economics of dog racing in mind.