The Inside Rail

The world didn’t end, I didn’t get hit by lightning, I didn’t blow the turn and wind up at Siro’s. Despite the byline, In the Paddock, by Tom Law,” I wrote yesterday’s column in the spot. It was about Eddie Arcaro’s son, Bobby. Never fear, the Cup of Coffee streak, going back to Wednesday, July 25, 2001, is still intact. We rolled past 500 last summer, next stop, 1,000.

Look out, Cal Ripken.

So the miscue went something like this…

Let’s start with Editor in Chief, Joe.

Joe, what the hell happened to my column?”

I have no idea.”

Come on, man, you always know what happened.”

Like turning the ignition, Joe explained the malfunction.

I laid it out on the page, printed it out for proofing, it came back to me with some changes, I opened the pages again and it was blank. Blank. The ad was there but the copy was gone, the headline was gone, the thing that said ‘Cup of Coffee’ was gone. So I restarted my computer, put in a new column framework and started again. Obviously, I chose the wrong one. I didn’t print it out again because they already had proofed it.”

See, he always knows what happened. 

Further proving his alibi, Joe rifled through the recycle pile under his desk and found the page in question from Friday night. He laid it on my desk. There it is in bold print – “The Son. Cup of Coffee by Sean Clancy.”

At least I didn’t excoriate the interns for missing something so obvious and, believe, me, I never yell at Joe.

And we thought we had dodged a bullet when Shayna Tiller noticed I had written Jose Espinoza, instead of Victor Espinoza, in the first paragraph of the Hall of Fame feature. Well, that one was probably worse than switching Cup of Coffee” for In the Paddock,” at least to Espinoza – Victor, not Jose.

Like giving a jockey a leg up in the paddock, there are a lot of variables from the time the story is written until the story is read. You can think you’ve covered all bases and then you learn that you’re not playing baseball.

We managed to write and design a 52-page paper that included five stakes previews, a Hall of Fame recap, Friday race recaps, entries, results, here and there and all the ads in between. We withstood a power outage and brushed off walk-in visits from Robert Cutler, who does the laundry at Christophe Clement’s barn, to Annise Montplaiser, last year’s intern of the year, to Anna Seitz who came through the back door looking for a pair of scissors. Like always, we stopped and started like a Manhattan bus, fielding calls about stray skunks and texts about weekend beds, writing articles and creating the newspaper in snatches, distracted, disjointed.

But, we wrote them and finished it.

Over the years, I’ve written some good ones and some bad ones, some sad ones, some funny ones, some mundane ones, some maudlin ones. I’ve written about a man running through the parking lot in a wispy shirt at midnight, the police called me the next day asking for any information on a robbery suspect.

I’ve written about a jump jockey getting his life together and was accused of writing fiction. I’ve written about what was on my desk, that’s it, a roll call of everything on my desk, yeah, that was a burner.

I wrote one that was an entire collection of puns, ending with, this column is so bad it’s not even funny.”

I’ve written about horses dying, jockeys getting hurt and trainers struggling. I once wrote an apology to Jimmy Toner after he thought I knocked Wonder Again. I wrote a letter to Mike Freeman when he was in the hospital, I liked it and hated it all at the same time. I wrote one about Garrett Gomez, about his struggles and his triumphs, that one still hurts.

I’ve written some from nothing and others from a lot. I’ve struggled with some and rejoiced in others. I’ve written veiled apologies to friends and foes. I’ve cried while writing, cursed while writing, laughed while writing and, yes, even fallen asleep while writing.

When I check the word count incessantly, I know I’m battling, the words are coming out like dandruff, flecks without meaning, no pattern, a dusting. This one? A battle, I started checking the word ticker at 127, knowing I had a long way to go to get to 800. I’ve consumed a cup of tea, a cup of coffee, and eaten a chocolate chip cookie, hoping for a jolt. I’ve started and restarted, copied and pasted, forced puzzle pieces into impossible holes. I’ve walked outside, in circles. I’ve walked around the office, in circles. Always in circles. Some days, it’s like digging a ditch.

Tom Law, from the corner of the office, offers help.

You want me to write another column for you like I did today?”

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