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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, there was a brief parade of the participants climaxed by a perfunctory wave of their baskets at the audience and the first game started. Directly that play began, one of our neighboring old women 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."
"Kill 'em, you bum," said the old lady.
Here the old lady's protagonist, the young man evidently named 6, missed what I thought was an extraordinarily difficult shot, a low and hard and evil shot which sent him sprawling spread-eagled against the screen in a hurtling effort to return it. "Look at the jerk," said the old lady. "He coulda got it. He lay down. Get up, you pigeon." She tore up a pari-mutuel ticket, letting the pieces flutter down through the cigar smoke.
SOUNDS FROM THE STANDS
"Money corrupts," I said. "But there're still plenty of fans. Listen. You'll hear 'em. They shout in Spanish." As if in magic answer, I became aware of a muted sound behind me. I nudged my wife and turned around to single out the chanter, who proved to be a young bald man in a sports jacket with a handkerchief saying "Why Worry?" protruding from his breast pocket. "Listen," I said. We listened. As more teams were eliminated one by one, his incantation became gradually louder, and by the time there were just two teams left it was perfectly plain what he was saying. He was saying "Miss it. Miss it. Miss it," over and over to the opponents of his team. Finally one of his players shared the fate of the unhappy No. 6, crashing into the side wall at the apex of a high and vain leap at the speeding ball.
"He never even tried," said the bald man, varying his chant. "They make it look good. They can get any shot if they want." This was not the jai alai I knew, and I felt it was time to defend the old order. "Why's he lying there bleeding?" I asked.
"Act," said the bald man, smirking. "They all do it. They're all actors. They rehearse, like wrestlers. They all got money on the game. You want they should be honest too? Guys like you, they never learn."
"How about The Rule with Teeth?"