Monday, September 7, 2009

The gift that keeps on giving

Being a horse racing fan paid dividends for me this Labor Day afternoon in the form of a free chicken sandwich, earned by wearing a free hat.

Patrons of Chick-fil-A restaurants around the country might have been aware that, today, the eatery that "didn't invent the chicken, just the chicken sandwich," were giving those sandwiches away to anyone who came in wearing their favorite sports team's logo.

I decided to see if I could procure a free sandwich by touting my horse racing fandom, and was pleasantly surprised not once, but twice.

I told the assistant manager behind the register that I realized horse racing didn't have teams, but noted that the TVG hat I was wearing also bore the NTRA logo -- which could be considered the "team" that promotes horse racing to the masses. And, being more a fan of horse racing than of any other sport, I'd prefer to cash in on Chick-fil-A's free sandwich deal thanks to my favorite pastime.

Not only did the man make good on the sandwich deal -- and, really, what was he gonna do? -- he also asked me a question: "Ever been up to Alberta?"

Now, 99 out of 100 patrons at the Henderson, N.C., Chick-fil-A would've figured the fellow was talking about Canada. ... O.K., 70 out of 100, with another 29 never having heard of Alberta nor remotely being able to name all the provinces of Canada.

I knew he meant Alberta, Va., population 306, some 50 miles up Interstate 85 from Henderson and bucolic home to the nearest off-track-betting parlor for us racing-starved North Carolinians.

"Not nearly as often as I'd like," I responded.

I tend to work a six-day week and even getting 50 miles away from town for long enough to actually spend a day enjoying myself is a real challenge. I've only visited that OTB a time or two when I could stay awhile. I also occasionally run up on the first Friday in May, for instance, and make a bet on the following day's Kentucky Derby. Those haven't always worked so well, but it's a little more fun to bet the race and lose than to watch it on Saturday without having any wager at stake.

At any rate, needing to get on to work -- and with Chick-fil-A swarming with customers wearing sports logos, wanting free sandwiches -- today was not the time to spend a few minutes getting to know the guy behind the counter. But clearly I've at least found another fella in the area who knows what an OTB even is, and maybe that's the sign of a real race fan.

I'll have to stop in some other time and see about that. Since Brendan O'Meara left my newspaper, I have to admit that I know exactly zero people in my own county (of more than 40,000 people) who are real horse racing fans.

Oh, and about that free hat, the cap was earned a couple of years ago when I answered a trivia during an afternoon of watching racing on TVG. (I was the first to correctly answer that trainer Doug O'Neill's two international Grade 1 wins were with Fleetstreet Dancer in the 2003 Japan Cup Dirt and Spring at Last in the 2007 Godolphin Mile on Dubai World Cup night.)

That correct trivia question answer happened to coincide with my birthday, and when I e-mailed my shipping address to TVG and mentioned that fortunate coincidence, the prize package from TVG headquarters arrived bearing not one, but two caps, and a handwritten note saying, "Happy Birthday!!"

Nice people.

So, one of the free hats from a couple of years ago has earned me free food today, and perhaps helped introduce me to somebody else who gives a flip about horse racing.

Truly a gift that keeps giving.

(Notes: Not my desk in the photo. There is not enough of a clearing on my desk for both a sandwich and a hat. Also, added perk of trip to Chick-fil-A, a visit with the friendly cow.)


  1. Yes!!! Not only did Chick-fil-A make your blog, so did the cow!!! I'm so glad you stopped by, and I'm also glad you found a kindred spirit among our staff. I'm betting Doug is who you spoke with - you'll have to let me know!

    At 4pm today, we had already given away 800 sandwiches...and oh did the crowd continue!

    BTW - you should take a picture of your work desk so your readers can truly understand your statement about it! :-)

  2. I'm not sure the outside world is ready for a picture of my desk.

    It's already a miracle they let me out in public.

    But I do behave myself. Unlike some patrons, I was fully sober upon visiting the restaurant and engaged in no inappropriate contact with the mascot.


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