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Some Subtleties of the 'Sportsman's Sport'
Paul Mandel
December 07, 1959
The author revisits a jai alai match 21 years later and finds things are a little different now
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December 07, 1959

Some Subtleties Of The 'sportsman's Sport'

The author revisits a jai alai match 21 years later and finds things are a little different now

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"Come off it, buddy. It's all fixed. It has to be. It's just a big man race. You bet on men, you get a fix. What's gonna keep a guy from laying down for a buddy once in a while?"

"How do you know?" asked my wife, an incisive sort.

"Hell, I don't know. Nobody knows. You can't know. That's the trouble. Hell, it's a Spanish game, Americans can't even understand it." He tapped his program. " 'Quiniela. Quiniela Exacta.' Even the bets are in Spanish. They're all foreigners out there. You can't expect 'em to be honest, can you?"

"Why do you bet?" said my wife.

The bald man was waiting for that question. "I don't know how the fix is in. It doesn't bother me none. I just play the colors myself. Tonight I'm playing the blue. I'm only four bucks behind." He excused himself at this point and headed down for the pari-mutuel windows, consulting his program as he went.

So it went throughout the evening. Nary an arriba. Not a cheer. The Fronton was a pool of suspicion, filled with curses, whistles, boos; vibrating with sundry shouts of "Miss it," "Fall dead," "Kill him" and other pleasantries. Finally we came to the 11th game, only four bucks behind ourselves, and decided to beat the rush out. We walked back down the slope, fending our way through the cigar smoke, and about halfway down we passed two comely girls wearing black shawls who were standing on their seats and shouting with animation and enthusiasm. And they were shouting in Spanish.

"There they are," I said. "At last. The real McCoy. The fans. Listen." A quick, tripping tinkle of Spanish issued from the two young ladies.

"What are they saying?" asked my indulgent wife.

"I will find out," I said. I walked over to the cheering girls, tugged at the skirt of the nearer and asked her what her companion was saying.

"She's cheering," she said. "The green team."

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