LET'S BEGIN by restating an ugly truth that has been discussed in this space before: I have never won anything in my life.
I have never won a drawing for a car or a color TV.
I have never won a 50-50 raffle or a Thanksgiving turkey.
I have never won a basket of cheer.
I have never even won a free order of fries in a McDonald's scratch-off game.
Why bring up this pathetic record of futility now?
Because all week long, people have been after me to join their Super Bowl pools. They do this because they sense immediately that I have absolutely no chance of winning.
See, when it comes to contests, raffles or games of chance, I give off a vibe, an aura. And this aura says: loser. This aura says: Take the chump's money.
So they come to me, these Super Bowl pool organizers, clutching wads of grimy $1s and $5s and $10s in their fat, sweaty hands, and they whisper: "C'mon, buy a box."
"Can't win if you don't play," they whisper.
"Can't win, period," I whisper back. And then, like the sucker I am, I fish a sawbuck out of my pocket and hand it over to the evil little gnomes, who chuckle and go on their way.
One thing I've discovered over the years is that when you tell people you've never won anything in your life, they think you're exaggerating.
"Oh, you must have won something," they say. "What about back in school? Didn't you ever peel back a soda bottle cap and win something?"
Nope. Never won in grade school, never won in high school, never won in college.
Never had a sweepstakes entry selected, never hit the lottery (no matter how small.)
Never had a valid bingo.
Let me tell you a little story that perfectly illustrates what we're talking about here.
You know those booths at the State Fair where you put up 50 cents and try to toss the Ping-Pong ball into the goldfish bowl? And if it goes in, you win a goldfish?
I have never won a goldfish.
Look, I've seen little kids play that game and walk away with four, five, six goldfish. I've seen senior citizens with canes and crippling arthritis walk away with goldfish. I've seen, God help me, blind people walk away with goldfish.
But not me, brother. I have never walked away with a goldfish.
Think about that for a moment.
Sounds almost impossible, right? All those goldfish bowls lined up, one after another, row after row after row.
And all you have to do is throw the Ping-Pong ball in the general direction of these bowls and watch it bounce into one of them.
Hell, with all those goldfish bowls, the law of averages practically guarantees it'll bounce into a bowl.
Except with me, it never does.
Whenever I toss the Ping-Pong ball, something happens. Something bad. Maybe it dances tantalizingly around the rim of the bowl and skips out. Or else a gust of wind comes along and blows the ball over the bowls.
Or else it bounces, bounces, bounces and then comes harmlessly to rest -- between the bowls.
Whatever. The point is: I don't win any goldfish.
Instead, the guy with the greasy ponytail and bad teeth running the booth shakes his head sympathetically and says: "Man, that's tough luck. Try again, mister?"
"Sure, buddy," I say. And I reach into my pocket for another four bits.
Because Mr. Loser, he likes to spread it around.
Mr. Loser, he'll drop some iron at your booth and your booth and your booth. The shoot-the- basketball booth, the knock-down-three-bowling-pins booth, the lob-the-softball- into-the-peach-basket booth -- he'll visit them all and he won't come close to winning.
Anyway I hope you see the point here.
The point is this: If you can't win a stupid goldfish, you're not going to win a Super Bowl pool. You're not going to hit for $200 or $500 or a $1,000 when the Broncos play the Falcons.
Which means you won't see me celebrating my big win in the pool this Sunday night, waving my finger in the air down at the corner tavern and shouting: "Get everybody a drink on me."
By the way, Mr. Loser also likes the Falcons with the points Sunday.
Which means, if you have any brains at all, you'll bet the Denver Broncos.
And you'll bet 'em big.
Pub Date: 1/28/99