"Programs are very interesting," I said to my wife. "Tell you what to yell at the players. Audience is a big part of the jai alai game. Players need lots of encouragement. Very dangerous game. You yell at 'em in Spanish. Sportsman's sport." I opened my program to find out what to yell at a player in an orchid shirt and was confronted by some good-sized type saying "All Major League Jai-Alai Players MUST PLAY TO WIN. WHY? THE RULE WITH TEETH." This was an unexpected change. I read further. "Any player who is thought to be intentionally playing an inferior grade of Jai-Alai...must be immediately suspended and a report filed with the Florida State Racing Commission.... Such players are automatically SUSPENDED from the Major League for life.... "
This indeed seemed to be a toothsome rule, although I felt it lacked the ingenuous sportsmanship and good will of the Hippodrome's program. I read on. It turned out that there were up to eight teams in each game; that you bet on the teams as if they were horses. Percolating with all this new-found information, I obtained the services of an attractive young lady wearing a flat hat and a telephone headset. She was also wearing a coat of claret velvet and a bunch of lace at her chin, like the highwayman in the poem. Feeling that the resemblance might be significant, I told her I wanted to put $5 on one Muguerza II, to place.
"Huh?" she said.
"Muguerza II," I said. "The one with glasses."
"What race?" she said.
"Second game," I said.
"His number's 3," she said as she wrote out a receipt and phoned in my bet. "Names don't mean nothin' to me. Just gimme the numbers."
I waited until she got decently out of earshot and leaned over to my wife. "They've commercialized it," I said. "But watch the fans. Once the game gets going. They really get wrapped up."
The lights on the court turned up and the first game started. Directly that play began, a neighboring old woman jumped to her feet and shouted "Come on, 6!"
"There they go," I noted to my wife. "Jai alai fans are famous sports. Once it starts, you can't hold 'em."