Thursday, January 05, 2006

You Can't Win Unless You Play

When I was growing up that was the motto of the Pennsylvania lottery, and there was just something about that quote that I adored. I even used it on my application to Princeton in its "Hodge Podge" section, which appeared after the arduous essays, and asked for a list of our favorite things from movies and source of news to quotes. The written instruction on that section said something to the effect of "This is a section that's supposed to be fun so don't worry about your answers, we just want to get a better sense of you." (Don't worry about your answers -- Riiiiight -- let's just say I was such a basket case, Harry and David's created a commemorative "Fruitcake & Nuts" sampler of me.)

Anyway, even though I wasn't sure I'd gotten the right answer for "favorite movie" (Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure), I was 100% certain that they, too, would totally get my quote (and it was going to be a million times more clever than people who went with something from Rilke or A.A. Milne.) Read it again: You Can't Win Unless You Play. Sure, it's an advert promoting gambling, but it was poetry in my mind, lifting the spirit with precisely the right combination of encouragement, hope and motivation. Wordsworth was just talking about the Alps.

The meaning and importance of the motto has stayed with me over the years (and still strikes me as MUCH better stated than New York lotto's own far crasser version of the sentiment, "You Gotta Be In It To Win It"). And whenever I'm trying to do a cost/benefit analysis of whether I should do something or not, I factor it in.

Still, Hugh Hawkins for shame! This Iowa Powerball Lottery winner who just stepped forward to claim his $54 million prize had declared bankruptcy but seven months ago. And instead of ooh, I don't know, paying off his debts, putting money back into the hands of the people who gave him money before he went belly up and defaulted on his fiscal responsibilities, Hugh goes and wastes his money on impossible to win lottery tickets. Hugh, that's insane! And irresponsible! And downright stupid! And if you'd like any more advice, I do a bit of consulting work and I'm sure we'd be able to work out some sort of payment schedule.


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