The Mega Millions jackpot Tuesday: $586 million. The odds of winning: 1 in 259 million. Sounds good; count me in.
Yes, lottery fever is sweeping the nation — or at least that part of the nation that takes part in the Mega Millions game (the game is played in 43 states plus the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Wouldn’t want to leave the Virgins out, right?).
Somehow, I can’t help but think that if the Obama administration had modeled the roll-out of Obamacare after the lottery, everyone in the country would’ve signed up by now — many more than once. After all, people who won’t part with a few hundred bucks a month to safeguard their health are happily parting with tens and twenties and more, even though the odds of getting sick are significantly better than the odds of becoming the next Mega Millions millionaire.
Perhaps it’s the easily understood nature of the game. As Rosa Quiahua, 18, of Chula Vista, who bought six (non-jackpot-winning) tickets for last Friday’s drawing, told The Times: “My intent was to collect as many tickets as I could. My view on a lottery is the more entries, or in this case tickets, the better chance you have of winning.”
And they say kids aren’t learning anything in American schools!
Yes, the odds are long. But we don’t care. Why?
Mainly, there’s this: What are the odds of just getting rich on your own — you know, the old-fashioned way, “You earn it”? (And no, I don’t want to hear from anyone at Caltech who actually has figured that out.) Yep. Call it fate, call it laziness, call it lack of opportunity, call it what you will: Most of us just aren’t cut out to be the next Steve Jobs.
Besides, what’s more American, more human, really, than wanting something for nothing (nothing in this case being, uh, actual money, but why split hairs)?
And especially at Christmas. Why, Mega Millions is like Santa for grownups, and unlike Megyn Kelly's Santa, this one comes in all colors. It lets us be kids again, lying in bed at night dreaming of sugar plums — and Ferraris.
More than that, though, is this simple fact: We common folk already play the lottery every day, in many ways. We gamble our lives on the freeway. We gamble our careers at work, where fourth-quarter holiday season downsizing often picks off a few co-workers, kinda like the wildebeests that get snatched by the crocs while crossing the river. We gamble that we won’t get sick, so we don’t miss work and a paycheck. Or we gamble that the heater can make it through another winter, or the roof through another rainy season, or the car through another year.
So I don’t want to hear from the spoilsports, the naysayers, the finger-waggers, the scolds, the Scrooges who begrudge us our fantasy. Instead, fellow dreamers, I salute you. We are what makes America great. We are the real Americans — white, black, Latino, Asian — the great lottery melting pot of players.
And when one (or more) of us wins, and that money comes rolling in, just remember the immortal words of W.C. Fields:
“I spent half my money on gambling, alcohol and wild women. The other half I wasted.”