INTERLUDE: Normal Andrew Meets Gimmick Andrew

NOTE: The below conversation happened early Thursday morning in an otherwise-empty bathroom in Los Angeles International Airport. Turf writer/handicapper/digital media guy/rocker in the free world Andrew Champagne washed up and looked into the mirror, only to see a warped version of his reflection. For the sake of clarity, what Normal Andrew (the real-life person) said is in italics.

– – – – –

“Wait, who are you?”

“I’m Gimmick Andrew. I’m the guy that comes out to play when times call for getting mad at something or doing some sort of self-promotional bit.”

“Ah, okay. You know, a lot of people don’t think there’s a difference between Normal Andrew and Gimmick Andrew.”

“Well, that’s why we’re here.”

“Why couldn’t you have just done this on a podcast?”

“I know a few podcast hosts. One of them wants no part of me because I lobby for fake yet extremely prestigious awards in a way he doesn’t find amusing. Another won’t interview me because I don’t know jack about Arabians and his co-host will strangle him if we go back and forth with professional wrestling impressions. So you’ll have to do.”

“Oh, joy.”

“Dude, don’t act like you’re above this. You covered Little League in Saratoga.”

“That’s…not incorrect.”

“Anyway, desperate times call for desperate measures, and since you’re about the 11th or 12th-best writer I know and the only one on that list who’ll talk to me…”

“Yeah, I get it. You come across like a jerk, you know.”

“Only in character.”

“Which is how often, exactly?”

“As Loki said in, ‘Thor: Ragnarok,’ it varies from moment to moment.”

“What even started all of this?”

“Remember that meeting a little more than a year ago? You got told you had a very strong personality by someone who despised you solely for existing and not being his/her idea.”

“I remember it vividly. There were other things that happened that day, too. Thanks for reminding me.”

“Hey, just being honest. When you make the connection that people will make the decision to not like you solely because you’re not their idea, rather than what the truth of the matter is, it becomes very easy to decide what I decided.”

“Which was?”

“That if people were going to make their own judgments about me, I was going to have as much fun with it as I possibly could. Think of it as a professional wrestler being told to work a crowd without a script. That’s me.”

“You couldn’t have just sat down and shut up?”

“You’ve known me for almost 30 years. When the hell has that EVER been something we’ve been able to do?”

“…okay, you have a point.”

“And that’s why what happened last summer was about the single worst thing a lot of people could’ve hoped for.”

“Saratoga.”

“128 winners in a single meet. Led all public handicappers across the media.”

“I know. EVERYONE knows. You tend to bash people over the head with that like Owen Hart did with his Slammy trophy.”

“That’s precisely my inspiration! It’s almost like you know me inside and out.”

“Well, this interview IS taking place in my subconscious.”

“Fair enough.”

“So you’re telling me that having that type of chip on your shoulder makes you better at what you do?”

“Unquestionably! When someone tells you they don’t find you capable of doing something, and you go out and not just do it, but do it as well as anyone ever has, it’s intoxicating.”

“Credit where it’s due, you busted your butt.”

“And it’s all because I had something to prove to a lot of people, self included.”

“Do you honestly think you’re as much of a commodity as you portray?”

“You mean, am I as cocky as I come off?”

“Sure.”

“HELL no! Do you have any idea how hard it is to sustain yourself in horse racing?”

“We’re kind of the same person, so…”

“It’s ridiculous! Like baseball, this is a game where, if you fail seven out of ten times, you’re one of the best in the country. Russ Harris was the leading handicapper across all media for approximately 879 years, and last year, I was the guy who did it. We know people who knew Russ Harris, and they’ll be VERY quick to tell us that we are NO Russ Harris.”

“That’s rarified air.”

“It’s good to have goals. We’ve got time to get there.”

“It seems like you feel a sense of disrespect. Is that accurate?”

“Not among the people whose opinions I care about. My family loves me. My girlfriend loves me. I’ve got a job that I love with co-workers and supervisors who are among the best in the world at what they do. I’m also fortunate enough to have somehow made friends with some of the best people in the business, and oddly enough, they caught on to what I was doing with this gimmick RIGHT AWAY.”

“Well, not all of them.”

“No, but that’s why we’re doing this.”

“So who DO you feel disrespected by?”

“Mainly the people who don’t want to admit that a 28-year-old a few influential people wish wasn’t around kicked everyone else’s butt last summer at one of the toughest meets in the country.”

“So the people who say millennials are killing horse racing?”

“They’re on the list. It gets really annoying when people say the younger generation has no idea what it’s doing. There are some bad apples, sure, but a few of us can pick winners.”

“Not being respected seems to tick you off.”

“Oh, you’ve noticed! Look, I can deal with being disliked. My personality doesn’t mesh well with some people…”

“I’ve seen that.”

“…and that’s completely fine. Not everyone in the world’s going to like me, and that’s okay. But would you agree there’s a difference between being disliked and being disrespected?”

“Oh, absolutely.”

“That’s my breaking point. People can say I come off as pompous, arrogant, and have an ego problem…”

“Are you pompous and arrogant? Do you genuinely have an ego problem?”

(after a measured pause) “No. 99% of the time, I’m you. I’m a quiet guy who works at home and makes his living handling digital media and watching horses turn left. But here’s the thing: Being successful while people THINK you’re all of those things REALLY bothers the folks whose frustration I take delight in causing.”

“You paused there.”

“It was important for me to choose the right words. If people are going to make the decision to not like me, I’d prefer it to be for reasons based in reality.”

“You mentioned the effects of being successful. What happens if you fall flat on your face?”

“I’ll take that chance. I’ve done it before. A Kentucky Derby-winning owner wrote a pretty scathing email when I so much as insinuated the 2012 Breeders’ Cup lineup wasn’t inspiring. Quick: Who was the European we were all supposed to be excited about coming over?”

“Excelebration.”

“Better known as, ‘the European miler that wasn’t Frankel.’ Better question: What 3-year-old was the only remotely high-level horse of his crop to contest that year’s Classic?”

“Let’s see…I’ll Have Another and Bodemeister retired. Paynter fell ill. Take Charge Indy and Gemologist both retired…”

“Alpha. GOD, you’re slow.”

“Sounds like your opinion held up. You gonna rub that in everyone’s face, too?”

“Only if they tick me off.”

“There was another comment about that piece that still grinds your gears.”

“The words used were ‘pessimistic rubbish.’ I’m over that, actually. At least that was a good line.”

“There are some other stories we can’t really tell, at least not yet.”

“Nope. In about 30 years, once some people retire or die, we’ll write one hell of a memoir.”

“Count on it. Think people’ll read it?”

“They’re reading this, aren’t they?”

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