By Jeff Girod
California has decided to try its luck at Powerball. Our state recently voted to join Powerball, which is played across the country in 42 states. Tickets will begin selling here on April 8 and cost $2 each.
Sure, California already has Mega Millions, Indian casinos and horse racing, not to mention Las Vegas just a drunken party bus ride away. But this is POWERBALL. Even the name sounds like something that should be sketched by Stan Lee and star Robert Downey Jr.
On Nov. 28, two winning tickets split the biggest Powerball jackpot ever—$587,500,000. Divvied two ways, that’s an ass-load of Ferraris. In the immortal words of that sage poet Kid Rock, we’re talking about “f’in‘ Matchbox 20 money.”
We’re also talking about so much money your coke habit can have a coke habit, a helipad, two stripper girlfriends and start its own rap label. You want to spin a giant wheel, Junior? Go on The Price is Right. This is Powerball, where you’re not just dreaming about winning lotteries. You’re dreaming about knocking off the Kahuna of all Payolas.
Win Powerball and you’re instantly worth more than every person who’s ever won American Idol and the Amazing Race . . . combined. Hell, you’ll probably be worth more than every draft pick for the Oakland Raiders since 1997.
The California State Lottery Commission believes allowing Powerball in California could net the state an extra $90 to $120 million in annual lottery revenue. I’ll bet they double that. This is the land of Golden Gates and Hollywood wannabes. Dreamers have been coming here since the first Forty-Niner yelled “Eureka!”
Then again, who am I kidding? I’ll probably never win Powerball. I say “probably,” because there’s always one chance in 176 million. Still, those odds aren’t promising. I’m 64 times more likely to die by being struck by lightning.
But as you get older, your dreams start to get bigger, unrealistic, and—I’ll say it—more desperate. It’s not enough to just find your next job or spouse or move into a bigger house. You have to go out and complete that perfect hail Mary, that one-in-a-million miracle shot that’s going to somehow undo two decades of hard livin‘, fast-sinnin‘ and buying a Bowflex.
Maybe you’re trying to prove everybody wrong. Maybe you’re trying to win something or somebody back. Hell, maybe you just wish you were rich enough to buy some ass-kicking revenge. But when you head down to the liquor store at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday, you’re not just buying one lottery ticket anymore. You’re buying 20.
Or you’re throwing $50 into a pot with 20 other shmoes from work, and there’s some sort of complicated bi-weekly spreadsheet with all your names on it. And you’re all just hoping and praying (begging, really) that somehow you and the Ocean’s 11 boys will crack this Powerball scheme wide open.
Never mind that 290 million Americans are playing the same long odds you are, dreaming the same silly dreams, counting down the hours until they can ditch their cars, their jobs and their boxed-in little lives and just get lost inside a pile of filthy, stinking cash. What we all wouldn’t give to just roll around in it.
That’s all the lottery is, or any contest really: you get something you didn’t earn and you probably don’t deserve. Odds are you’re probably going to lose this one, too. And deep down in parts where you suppress all of your regrets and disappointments, you already know the outcome.
You will probably lose every time you play Powerball. You are 1,700 times more likely to die from a snake’s bite. But don’t let that stop you from playing.
It’s a cure-all, an elixir for our wounded souls and never-ending pessimism. It’s a way out. It’s a diversion. It’s a much-welcomed “what-if” scenario that tempts us out of our cars and cubicles, and away from common sense and reality.
Most of the fun should be in buying Powerball tickets and pretending. Otherwise, where’s any fun at all?
Also, watch out for snakes.
Contact Jeff Girod at email@example.com.