One of the Good Guys

by Ed Meyer

posted on January 11, 2016 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Horse Racing, | 2 Comments >>

Once in awhile someone steps into our life by chance, and its never the same again. The kind of people we would like to become, or at least have some of their incredible magic that captured our attention. They give selflessly of themselves and are the kind of folks you can call in the middle of the night for a ride home. Rare and elusive, but when we meet one in the travels of life, take the time to get to know them. – I knew a gent who fit the criteria, and he will be missed more than he would have ever guessed.

His voice gravelly from smoking two packs a day, and had the gait of a former athlete. Deadpan humor that could split your side, and kindness that could bring a tear to your eye. Yeah, you’re probably going to see a tiger riding an elephant before you meet such a person. – I had the pleasure of knowing such a person. We’ll call him “Coach” out of respect for family and friends. A teacher, mentor, coach, father, husband, and one helluva’ gambler. He loved his family and they never knew the “other” side of Coach. He wouldn’t have it any other way. When he briefly ever spoke of his past, he diverted the success to someone else. That was the Coach, and his way comes from a time that doesn’t exist anymore.

He used to cut grass on the side in addition to being an advisor at a local university. The same place that was a pimple when he started when he moved from the high school ranks as a teacher / coach. At the end of his tenure, that small community college became a full-fledged major university. They play in the D-1 ranks thanks to the years of success and the hard work of many. – After hanging up his whistle, he became an advisor to incoming athletes. He was a Catholic man from a humble background, and could bridge the gap and talk on any socio-economic level. One-of-a-kind would not do him justice.

Coach had a separate side. He had a large family, and was in the habit of working two-three jobs over the years. One of which was working at the race track. If there was a place that fit him better, I wouldn’t have been able to pick it out. – He loved to bet, and he kept it quiet. Only a couple of us knew the real Coach, and he liked it that way. – His second life was on the hush, and never reached into his family life. – He would send  one of the young men who worked for him to make his bets. – ” Hey, bet me $50 to win on the #4 at Laurel. Hurry up, they are going to post.” – No program most of the time, and he always claimed he didn’t need one. – ” That crap will just confuse me.” – The truth was he didn’t want others knowing what he was doing by having one in hand, and for the trusted few nobody ever knew of Coach’s secret love. – He loved action almost as much as cigarettes and hot coffee. Both of which he had in hand at all times.

Most people at work will talk behind the backs of others. Not Coach. He chose some of the big time brass and gave them nicknames as they would walk past. – Coach was a very respected man in some of the circles they traveled and he never received a bitch from the “big-heads” as they just walked away shaking their heads. – He wasn’t a trouble maker, he just did it because they lauded power over others, and that just burned his ass. – Coach was one of the few folks I would lend money at the track. He was as good as gold, and if he borrowed $100, you would have it the next day and he would bring you some lunch or you would have another bill tucked into the bank envelope. That was just his way, and it was best not to ask him to take it back. It was disrespect, and he loved his secret life on the side. If you ever exchanged cash, that meant he really trusted you. – I can remember one December years ago where he went on a killer win streak. He was probably up $8 – $10,000. The office fridge would be filled with beer, chips, and cold cuts with all the fixings. He never put on airs and was a true blue average Joe. – We we’re nearing Christmas and that meant we would be off for a few days as tracks only take off for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. – ” Hey, take this and get your girlfriend a little something.” – There was $400 rolled into a small cigarette, and don’t ever turn it down. That wouldn’t have flown, and he would have been insulted. – Coach had a heart that was a big as a basketball.

We would watch countless races and football games over the years. – ” I can’t watch this crap unless I have a bet.” – That summed up Coach. He was a competitor, and it stemmed from his family upbringing. – At first glance you would have thought he was a slacker as he didn’t dress to impress, but there couldn’t be anything farther from the truth. He was as sharp as a scalpel and didn’t try and show it. In the words of the famous athletes from yesteryear, “if you start reading your own press releases you’re on your way out the door.” – A friend, a mentor, and someone who touched many lives along the way. When he stopped working at the track due to health problems, he turned off the gambler’s side as quickly as he turned it on. – He spent his last years with his longtime partner in life and stayed involved with his family’s life. Not one to overwhelm, but you sure knew where he stood without raising his voice or saying it twice. – I will miss my friend. He was a good guy who didn’t meddle or bother. You could talk to him about anything, as he would just listen and draw slowly off his smoke. Deep in thought, and as close as you wanted. Coach will be missed by many, but especially by the lucky few of us who really got to know him.