First things first: The Beautiful Heth is $222 richer today, thanks to the Daily Double at Saratoga Race Course Thursday. Romantic that she is, she asked her dad to bet the Nos. 8 and 7 horses in the first two races, respectively, for our 8/7 anniversary date, and wouldn’t you know it … they came in.
That spectacular bit of news pretty much typified our September 2 in Saratoga Springs, as Jack and I spent a cloudless, windless (!) and 95-degree day at the track representing Hoops For Heroes. Jack split time between rebounding duties and the ponies, and I split time between cultivating the sunburn on my ever-expanding dome and making 1,500 free throws.
The day came to be thanks to good pal Lee Cohen, husband of the fabulous Kristen Langdon Cohen (my buddy since birth) and father of two sets of twin boys, Dan/Tom and Peter/Charlie. It just so happens that I’m the Godfather of Peter, while the Godfather of Charlie is a college buddy of Lee’s, Mark Bardack, president of the New York public relations agency Ed Lewi Associates.
Am I making a short story long? Sorry about that.
Anyway, Ed Lewi Associates does the public relations for the New York Racing Association, including Saratoga Race Course, so Mark invited me to be a part of the track’s Proud To Be An American Day. He, along with Vice President Lisa Audi and Special Events Director Amanda Lecce, set us up with a hoop near the jockeys’ quarters, so promptly at noon we began shooting, Jack at my side, and a couple of jockeys — Victor Santiago and Johnny Velazquez — shagging balls.
Now, we all know jockeys aren’t the tallest guys around, but I’ll bet what you didn’t know is that they are typically in absolutely phenomenal shape. In the photo above, that’s Victor (at left) and Johnny (at right) — and that’s Victor with me in that photo to the right. You can kind of get a sense of the athleticism we’re talking about. As Kristen said, “Holy smokes! Look at the guns …”
I guess it shouldn’t have come as any surprise, then, that these world class athletes would be able to figure out the rebounding thing. Not that it’s rocket science by any means, but for the couple hundred that Victor and Johnny rebounded, we had a real nice speed and rhythm going. Oh, except for this part …
Now keep in mind, Johnny (in white) is the top Saratoga jockey to date this season, so who’d have thought he was a pole-climbing, top flight hoop mechanic as well? Anyway, big thanks to both Victor and Johnny for all their help.
In addition to those guys, and Jack and Lisa, we had a bunch of folks stop by to rebound (thanks, Dante Federici, Tatyana Rodriguez, Keilana MacNeil, Terri Perry, Tom Tybush, Dennis Nicol Sr., Dennis Nicol Jr., Peter Davis, Brian Ferraro, Brenden Deady, Caroline Bibula and Taylor Wittick), and a bunch more stop by to drop a few bucks in the bucket. Lots of supportive passers-by, including Mr. Keith Morrison, the Dateline NBC reporter with one of the most distinctive (and cool) voices on TV, who was with an NBC crew at Saratoga for the day doing a story on the filly Lisa’s Booby Trap (Google her). Lisa, meanwhile, was at her public relations best, trying to drum up some interest with Mr. Morrison by telling him about HFH and passing along our card … so who knows? I can only imagine how spectacular it would be to hear our story told from that particular larynx.
Our next door neighbors at the event were the folks from Operation Adopt A Soldier, including founder Cliff Sequin, who nearly eight years ago began sending care packages to a platoon of eight solders from the 368th Combat Engineer Unit from Rutland, Vt. The organization has since seen its efforts grow to include over 600 individual soldiers and a company of 2,300 solders, having sent more than 1,300 cases of supplies overseas. Says Cliff, “The need is there and will always be there, as long as there are servicemen and women fighting for our freedom.” Amen to that.
As for the shooting, it wasn’t half-bad until the last couple hundred or so, at which time I’ll admit to being pretty well beaten down by the sun. The last 100 couldn’t come quickly enough (and didn’t), but eventually did come, giving us 1,500 for the day and 414,507 in total (We’re now at 417,007, as of Saturday morning). We did a few interviews, packed up our sweaty belongings, then took a wonderful walk with Amanda and Lisa to the Shake Shack, which I can’t even begin to explain other than to say that if Heaven has an official drink, it’s the Shake Shack vanilla.
So that was pretty much it. After a quick visit to the Ed Lewi office just outside the Saratoga gates, I came back into the park and met up with Jack, who got out about $25 richer himself, and we were on our way east, Union Avenue to 87 to 149 to 4 to 89 to 93 to 393 to 4 to Black Hall to Colby to Old Town Ext. to the driveway. Three and a half hours each way … and more than worth every minute.