By Ray Wallin
No, it is not the new model that Volkswagen is releasing next year. It’s far from “Farfegnugen,” which is the German word for driving enjoyment, which was a VW marketing slogan years ago.
Schadenfreude is from the German “schaden” which means damage and “freude” which means joy. Schadenfreude is the enjoyment of other’s pain or misfortune. As handicappers, we all have a little Schadenfreude in us. When we win, someone else loses. Since only a handful of all handicappers make their living playing the races, that means there are a lot of people losing to the joy of a few.
The point of this article isn’t to make you feel guilty for winning or being glad that someone else lost in order for you to win. Rather you need to embrace and manage your own Schadenfreude at the track.
Have you ever had a bad day at the track? I mean really bad, not losing a few bucks on some bad beats, but the “my wife is going to kill me” kind of bad day at the track? Like the time when our friend Rail Guy went to the ATM four time before the sixth race because he “feels so good about da rest of da card” that there was no talking an ounce of reason into him kind of bad?
Hopefully the answer is no. Yet I am sure that you know of or have seen someone have that really bad day at the track, like our good friend Rail Guy. Did seeing that person at rock bottom make you feel a little better or more appreciative of where you as handicapper? Did it make you appreciate that you can control your bankroll and that you have self-discipline at the track?
Let Schadenfreude be the spark that inspires you to move forward and aspire to not be the perennial loser or degenerate. Use it to help you build confidence in your own skills and self.
In my days of gracing the second floor of the old Meadowlands grandstand, our friend the Schnoz would be happy when he won, but also quietly cheering when others around him lost. The whole world knew when he won as he would pace around with a look of determination on his face while smacking his program into his hand followed by an emphatic “yes, yes, I got that, yes.”
For as animated as he was when he won, he often took great pleasure in watching others lose. We all had respect for each other’s handicapping abilities and when he could get the better of you, he would let you know it.
It took a couple of years for him to open up to us. What we all didn’t know at the time was that he was jealous of the success some of us were having with either our homemade figures or our ability to analyze the pace of the race. That eventually started the constructive conversations and he went back and retooled parts of his own handicapping and had more success at the windows.
Schadenfreude can show you where you may be lacking in your handicapping and whose skills you are envious of. It can also push you to engage in the conversation with those people or to improve yourself to try to get to their level. So own up to why you feel good when things go wrong for others to find a constructive path forward.
Like with our old friend the Schnoz, when you are the subject of someone’s Schadenfreude, you are viewed as a worthy opponent. Chances are you have something they want, such as profitable pace figures in the case of the Schnoz. However you are feeling this race, the next race may be different. You may be on the other end of the stewards’ inquiry this time and glaring down at the Schnoz as he is slamming his rolled up program against the simulcast monitors while using every swear word he can think of.
As handicappers it is only natural to be glad when others lose. In fact, the more people that lose betting on that race means we are likely to win more when the favorite doesn’t hit the board and we have the trifecta. Horse racing can be a humbling game sometimes. It is OK to be happy when you win at the expense of others, as long as you can manage your emotions and remember that next time you may not be so lucky.
Realize that having Schadenfreude is not all bad. It shows you who you view as a worthy opponent or someone that you may secretly admire for their skills and abilities. It also can clue you in to where your own weaknesses are so you can identify and come up with a plan to improve upon them.
Believe it or not, a horse with the name Schadenfreude did set foot on the race track. Foaled on Valentine’s Day in 2002, this Florida-bred bay gelding out of Artax made his debut at Solano in July of 2004. He would go to post 11 times without breaking his maiden, managing one second-place finish in a maiden claiming race at Meadowlands 16 months later.
After a nearly two-year layoff, he would find himself running at Los Alamitos, finally making his last start in 2008, finishing no better than seventh and beating a total of only five horses over his last four career starts.
Perhaps it was only fitting that so many others took comfort in this gelding’s continued misery on the racetrack. Or was it a case of Schadenfreude for Schadenfreude?
Ray Wallin is a licensed civil engineer and part-time handicapper who has had a presence on the Web since 2000 for various sports and horse racing websites and through his personal blog. Introduced to the sport over the course of a misspent teenage summer at Monmouth Park by his Uncle Dutch, a professional gambler, he quickly fell in love with racing and has been handicapping for over 25 years.
Ray’s background in engineering, along with his meticulous nature and fascination with numbers, parlay into his ability to analyze data; keep records; notice emerging trends; and find new handicapping angles and figures. While specializing in thoroughbred racing, Ray also handicaps harness racing, Quarter Horse racing, baseball, football, hockey, and has been rumored to have calculated the speed and pace ratings on two squirrels running through his backyard.
Ray likes focusing on pace and angle plays while finding the middle ground between the art and science of handicapping. When he is not crunching numbers, Ray enjoys spending time with his family, cheering on his alma mater (Rutgers University), fishing, and playing golf.
Ray’s blog, which focuses on his quest to make it to the NHC Finals while trying to improve his handicapping abilities can be found at www.jerseycapper.blogspot.com Ray can also be found on Twitter (@rayw76) and can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.