The love of money and Ding Dongs are the root of all evil.
Gambling had consumed my life by the time I was seven years old. The transition from horse racing to gambling on football was far too smooth. It should have raised red, white and blue flags for friends and family. Yet, at age seven, when you are betting candy bars, one dollar bills, one hundred pennies, twenty five nickels, excessive yard work, or even a trade for a better school lunch, it almost seemed both trivial and fun…….which is exactly what is best about gambling. Unless you are a professional, it better be about the fun.
In 1980, I won a Super Bowl bet with my first chump. Years before I turned seven, while recognizing I was losing bets against elders, I decided to pick on some of my peers. It was the first time I made a bet on a team I wasn’t rooting for, but Vegas knew more than me or this other clown only betting on numbers and colors.
The Philadelphia Eagles were playing the sinister Oakland Raiders, with the Raiders being favored by 6 and a half. I didn’t like the Raiders, but I knew they were better than the Eagles. My friend, Brian, loved the Eagles and didn’t know they’d probably lose to the Raiders. This is the seven year old’s conundrum. How do you bet someone with no money at the age of seven? Our only collateral was food.
Bless my mother’s loving heart, Brian’s mother was always on the cutting edge of sack lunches where as my mother was more interested in a proper lunch withholding dessert. His mother placed items in his lunch making his sack look like a brown bag Frito Lay/Hershey factory. My lunch was white bread, mayo, and processed Buddig chicken, turkey, beef, or whatever kind of Fisher Price meat one could only carve with an exacto knife. She tossed in some veggies as a chaser.
Never a bully, I wasn’t just going to steal Brian’s lunch, and he wasn’t willing to trade his Ring Dings or Cheetos for celery sticks. My mother had maintained this strange notion that my lunches should be healthy and the snacks we had at home be reserved for special occasions such as the Super Bowl and other phony holidays. Therefore, I thought, with a few embellishments, I could score some of his midday delights. It took gambling to make that work. Although we did have Ding Dongs at home, and depending on the weather or amount of people coming in and out of our house, it was never a sure bet you’d get one before mom had to make her weekly run to the store. So, when I told my friend I would give him two ding dongs for his package of Doritos, (something we never had) he needed proof. He needed to see the Ding Dongs before we solidified the bet.
The Wednesday morning before the Super Bowl, just before receiving a kiss on the cheek from my mother on the way to school, I created a diversion by spotting two chickadees in our backyard. My mother is a sucker for birds. On her way to get some seed, I snatched two Ding Dongs before she could wave goodbye.
At school, Brian asked me if I had the goods. Opening my denim jacket revealing two silvery encased snacks, he was more than satisfied. The bet was on. As a good Catholic boy, I didn’t succumb to temptation that day. The Ding Dongs were properly replaced upon returning home. Eating them before the bet would have pissed off the gambling Gods. Bad Karma.
My betting team, the Oakland Raiders, ended up cruising to a victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, 27-10. That next Monday morning, my friend was there with the Doritos. I knew he would be good for it. He saw me flashing my Ding Dongs around to other cats in our elementary school the week before, and he knew some pencils might be broken if he didn’t pay up. That’s really when it started.
By the time I was in the fourth grade, Frito Lay was making different brands of chips never available at home. Still winning, I began doubling down on empty Cool Ranch bags just to display my playground credibility. Those sandwich sized bags were easy to hide and could be found all over any grocery store littering complex. I probably could have made more money off of recycling. A guilty conscience has no room for a successful gambler. After a four year run of winning Super Bowl bets just to satisfy my savory tooth, I began feeling remorse as they were not in my league. It was like taking Doritos from babies. When you describe the point spread to someone knowing nothing about the point spread, it’s just not fair. I was getting 20 points when my team was favored by 3 and the hook. (The hook is the half point separating the winners from the losers.) I couldn’t lose.
Sometimes, when hobbies lose their luster, you get bored. Gambling lost its luster when I began playing games competitively. Win or lose, the scoreboard provided satisfaction after a ballgame. And, it was always fair, even when we’d come out on the losing side.
Post college, when I began earning my own money, I dabbled in gambling once again. Winning and losing….(mostly losing)….. I had some fun and ruined some remote controls along the way. It’s been years since I’ve been to Vegas or Reno, but I have fun betting with a brother or friend, or even playing fantasy foolsball. I don’t enjoy betting in groups. It dilutes the party. One on one gambling is fun, because it usually involves a good lunch.
I’ll be giving points this weekend while rooting for the Atlanta Falcons over The Tom Bradies. Win or lose, I’ll be eating well somewhere, and it won’t be just a bag of chips.