Working Memorial Day in our beautiful office at GamingToday, I just want to thank all of the men and women who have served this country in order that I have the privilege of my fleeting freedom. Thank you all for your service.
When I was just a young lad growing up in a melting pot, steel city of Steubenville, Ohio, this day was called “Decoration Day.” My grandfather would get us all in his car and we would head out to the Mount Calvary cemetery. We decorated the graves of our fallen and paid homage to them. It was just so quiet and serene.
Back in 1966 then-President Johnson declared Memorial Day officially began at Waterloo, New York, on May 5, 1866 when the citizens there honored the graves of the Civil War dead and flew flags at half-mast.
Boy have times changed, and you know how I hate change. I still wish baseball just had the eight teams in the National League and eight in the American, no free agency and players stayed with their teams. Now all has changed. Very few will go to the cemetery today to pay their respect to our fallen soldiers as they will be golfing, cooking out or going to a movie.
The Internet and the cell phone were designed to make life easier for us but instead we have become slaves to them. We go absolutely nuts when the Internet is down or our cell phone runs out of power. We are lost.
It was great when as kids we were out playing stick ball in the middle of the street. No cell phones, no Internet to play stupid games on. We were running around homemade bases getting our knees all scratched up and drinking out of a lawn hose together. Now you must have bottled water as that water in the lawn hose will kill you. Wonder how so many of us made it this far the way we ate and drank?
I can remember it like yesterday when me and my buddy Bob got on the bus and headed to Cleveland as we set out for our duty in the Air Force back in 1967. We were so excited and crazy. We enlisted on the buddy plan and would spend our basic training together in San Antonio. It was one crazy ride.
The Vietnam War was raging and all our buddies, the ones who didn’t get drafted, joined the Marines. We didn’t want any part of that. After talking to my dad “Broadway Bennie,” who told us how much money he won playing cards with Air Force guys in the war to end all wars WW 2, we decided the Air Force was the place for us. We could hustle pool, which was our main game at the time, and play some cards. We could build up enough cash to open a little bookie joint and pool room downtown when we got out.
We did end up winning all the money in our barracks in those three months of training as we had a midnight card game called in-between. I was the dealer and my buddy Bob somehow knew when to go all in. He must have had extrasensory perception. Well, not really, but Bennie was right about those Air Force guys gambling.
After basic Bob went on his way to Japan as a jet mechanic and I went down the road to Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas. We split up the cash, which both of us promptly went through. What did you expect? We were 19 years old for goodness sakes.
Our kids are lucky today or maybe not as our military is all voluntary. No draft like when Vietnam was roaring. Friends back there in Steubenville, as all other small cities in the country, had its casualties. Some still are facing the horrible last effects of Agent Orange as I have friends with huge problems. These kids grew up to be men not zombies with a cell phone grown to their body.
Yep, the times they have changed. We may be better off today but we are not better today than we were.
Next week I will cover all the horses in the Belmont Stakes as the time draws near for California Chrome to make history. The way he has been going over the track at Belmont says he has a huge shot, rain or shine.
Richard Saber, a former director of race and sports at the famed Stardust book, is GamingToday’s horse racing and sports handicapper. Follow Richard on Twitter @SabesBet. Contact Richard at [email protected].