Any chance bookies could liven up dismal in-shop experience?
Published 15/04/2015 | 02:30
I go to the bookies twice a year: for the 1.35 the first day at Cheltenham and for the Grand National - the two events that bookend my abridged gambling year.
For the sheer randomness of the crowd, a visit to the bookies on Grand National day is one of the great Irish social experiences.
Thankfully, the first-timers and the uninitiated bring just enough hope to paper over the desperation of the professional gambler's office.
Given the explosion of online gambling, you'd have thought that bookies' shops might try to enliven the in-person gambling experience.
I'm not talking about having small orchestras perform in the corner, but small interior design touches. Lightbulbs that don't flicker, air freshener, new carpeting. Something to lessen the experience of purgatory.
I was tight for time on Saturday and ended up in the bookies closest to my house in Dublin 12. It wasn't one of the big firms. It was a place more likely to be sponsoring a digitised dog race than anything at Aintree.
"Ah how are ya?" said a guy standing just inside the door.
"Good," I replied.
"That's good," said the greeter.
I thought at first he might be part of an official welcoming committee, but it turned out he was just a chatty customer. There were eight other people waiting for the race to begin: seven grizzled gentlemen and a young woman of south-east Asian descent with a vaguely Irish accent.
I enacted my usual Grand National betting strategy. Spread €10 across five each-way bets. Hope to make my money back.
The greeter quickly announced to the room he was on The Druid's Nephew, as was I, so I knew that I was already on a loser.
Finally the race began.
"Did he say Many Clouds?" said the woman in the room as Aspell and Costello began to pull even with McCoy. Her giddiness grew as Many Clouds pulled clear.
"Come on Many Clouds!" she shouted at the top of her lungs. "I want new shoes!"
The horse obliged. Her €1 bet at 25/1 came good. They probably weren't Manolos, but a horse bought them.
MacGinty a naturalist of the highest order
We, here, at Team Off The Ball would like to join in the various tributes being paid in recent days to the golf correspondent of this parish, Karl 'Mad Dog' MacGinty, who filed his last follow-up story for the Independent this week from Augusta.
Of all our regular voices on golf, few people described the sport with the same verve and jocularity as Karl.
One wonders if the next generation of golf writers will be able to extract the golden nuggets from the big tournaments that MacGinty seemed to find every time he walked a course.
Take his dispatch on Graeme McDowell's travails with Mother Nature during the 2015 Masters.
As Irish Independent readers would have learned yesterday from MacGinty, G-Mac had to endure an encounter with a cottonmouth snake as well as the strange bee kamikaze that nearly cost him a shot during Sunday's final round at Augusta.
Peter Alliss spoke on our programme this year about how fortunate the golf industry is since its players, staff and reporters spend much of their time carousing in resplendent nature.
As Karl proved this week, the best golf writers are firstly naturalists.
We wish him well in all future endeavours.