This morning I finally made it to the betting shop in central Frankfurt. Like most other things in the world nowadays, there’s really no difference between a betting shop here and a teletheatre in Ontario – except that you can actually, like, make a bet on an actual sports event here, and no one's forcing you to add another to your ticket. The world actually keeps spinning.
So it's the same computer-card style slips to fill out, and banks of plasma TVs on the wall, each of them telling a different, incomprehensible story: numbers and odds, a pre-racing show from some greyhound track somewhere -- the only sound is from the one set that shows a German soap opera that the kid manning the counter watches intently. The place even smells familiar, of old cigars and the torn-up ticket stubs of a hundred thousand mugs.
But the idea today is to put some money down – splitting any profits at tournament's end (yah, right) with the Star's Fresh Air Fund -- judging from some of the recent stories, it’s quite popular here.
“Where are your World Cup odds?” I ask.
The guy, who speaks a smidgen of English, reacts in the usual German way: he frowns, grunts and goes to the back, where he prints me out 17 double-sided pages of odds. That’s all future bets, too, in addition to the daily menu. Hey, I asked for it.
It's all in German, but a bet sheet's a bet sheet. It's pretty easy to figure out. I'm all right blowing my dough in any language.
THE PLAY: 10 Euros on Netherlands to win the World Cup. THE ODDS: 14-to-1, and I quite like those apples. I mean, Oranjes.
JASPER JUINEN/AP Arjen Robben and the Dutch side at 14-to-1 to win it all.
Now for something on the day. I’m going to be at South Korea-Togo, so that’s the game I want to play. Korea is 4-to-5, so it's a pass on the straight line. But it’s very hot here today – 31C on the morning news – and the Koreans have always been a superbly conditioned side. The city is full of Korean supporters dressed in their red “Go Together” T-shirts and devil horns. I've seen one guy so far in Togo colours and about a small Seoul suburb wandering around -- they are the least menacing group of fans you'd ever want to encounter, as scary as O'Douls next to England's lager swillers. They’re playing against a Togo team who at this rate I might end up coaching.
THE PLAY: 5 Euros on Korea to score a second-half goal. THE ODDS: even money, or a 5-Euro profit.
Hey, I could use 5 Euros. It's enough around here -- barely -- to buy an English newspaper.