A winner every time

Somebody sent two bottles of champagne in the middle of a box stuffed with newspapers from Dallas.

During the holiday season, which goes from Halloween to the new year, there's apt to be a box on every porch, and a nondescript vehicle containing a crook or two behind the delivery truck. Lousy people welcome in the holiday season by stealing boxes off porches. So it's appropriate to have a security camera covering the drop-off spot out front, or build or landscape an area where the package can't be seen from the street.

My box of champagne was behind a hedge.

According to the Internet, it was better than average champagne.

This note written in longhand was taped to one bottle: Thanks for the Breeder's Cup picks.

I hit a few picks over the Cup weekend and was as surprised as anyone by a $22 winner.

Perks used to come with the media gig. My father was the sports editor of the daily newspaper in Oklahoma City. I played baseball at the University of Oklahoma, making all conference at second base. My standout achievement was refusing to walk. I went down or out or on around swinging. Being the son of the sports editor got me hit during numerous times at bat. Once, after a high hard one hit me in the small of the back, the umpire behind the dish laughed and said tell your old man to write that up in the newspaper. It was always thought that being a media person's offspring got you preferential treatment. Hit a couple of singles, you're in the lead of the next-day game story. Being the son of a media person also got me into most of the games free. As a little guy, I used to play Ping Pong with legendary Oklahoma football coach Bud Wilkinson in his home after games. He was a tremendous competitor and used to enjoy bashing smashes off my forehead. Anymore, media perks come less frequently. Whereas it used to be that you could never tell when you might need somebody at a newspaper or television station to keep your name out of the headlines, today's media is considered to be more gossipy and is less trusted. As for the perks themselves, today they're apt to be considered payola, not a gift.

When a gift follows a wildly successful horse race pick or two, that could lead to a problem.

There's absolutely no doubt that I deserve the champagne. Picking horses in print is nerve-wracking. Hitting a few triple-figure exactas is worth every bit the tip that a successful financial advisor gets at the year's end. But here's what's wrong with making someone else horse race money: A lot of luck is involved. You could lose them money just as easily as you made them money. And if pickers had a union, here would be the first bylaw: Your losses are your responsibility. This disclaimer is inherent in the business: Picking a horse is half skill, half luck. All profits and losses are yours.

Good pickers always bet what they tout. Bad pickers come back and say I might have missed those I made public, but I hit a couple of prop bets off the radar and broke even.

Sure you did.

As there are no refunds on wretched Wall Street advisements, so too are there no guarantees on horses.

After a live handicapping seminar, a man and a woman followed me to my car, seeking a reimbursement totaling $75 that they had lost on one of my picks. I tried to tell them that wasn't the way it worked but they weren't listening. I offered them my picks for the next race but they weren't interested.

Responsible complaining is an integral part of gambling. The responsible horse race complainer makes a selection before a race and, in doing so, gets to say whatever he or she wishes about your selections. If you don't play, you're obligated to remain silent. You might learn something from players. You already know how to complain.

So the champagne has to go. I'm sure the Breeder's Cup picks were enjoyed for amusement purposes only and that the gift was made in the spirit of the season.

Buy if you're not covering the losses, you can't take fruits of the victory.

I gave the champagne to a charitable organization.

Everybody wins.