Jim O'Leary

Waverly Star

By Jim O'Leary

An e-mail newsletter for and about Waverly people, used with permission in the HLW Herald and on this web site.

Sept. 8, 2001

I see that one of the four winning tickets for the recent $295 million jackpot was sold in Minnesota in the Powerball lottery drawing recently.

I see where the line to buy tickets would have stretched coast to coast, which is about the same size as the line I saw here in Corpus Christi, Texas, to buy tickets.

There were 600 million tickets sold. The people I saw who lined up to buy the tickets were mostly tired, sweaty people, coming in from a hard day's work at minimum wage.

The New York Times says, "Lottery organizers have learned to exploit the weaknesses of their clientele. Over time, they found out that reducing the chance of winning could actually boost ticket sales. The lower the odds of winning, the more the jackpots go unclaimed and roll over into a bigger grand prize . . .

"Worse odds have failed to dampen players' enthusiasm . . . Most people gamble for a fantasy

. . . changes in infinitesimal odds make little difference to them.

"The diehard players who buy tickets in bulk aren't gaining any extra entertainment value. Throughout the country, as many as one in every 11 players is a compulsive gambler feeding an addiction. The last thing they need are bigger prizes to pursue hopelessly."

I see the odds were over 80 million to one.

I see where Randy Moss bought $1,500 worth of tickets. Did Randy know that for each of the 1,500 tickets, the odds were still 80 million to one?

I have heard this called "a fool's tax." In other words, a tax on the stupid, but it is not really a tax because you have a choice as to whether or not to buy the ticket, and the people who buy the tickets aren't all stupid.

At a roulette table in a casino, the chances of winning are 35 to one if you place a chip on one number, so the payoff is 35 to one - a long shot, but a fairly intelligent bet compared to the astronomical odds in the state lotteries.

Or should we call them astrological odds? Who are the people who buy lottery tickets? Are they superstitious? Do they read their horoscopes before they buy a ticket?

What is going on here? Can the astrologers help, those wizards with the pointy hats with the propellers on top?

Texas has the largest lottery of any state, and its lottery is the fourth largest in the world. And yet we have lousy government services here.

The lottery is a huge swindle on people who are mostly poor. It used to be called "The Numbers Game" and was run by the criminal Mafia. Now it is run by our state governments.

Some religions say gambling is a sin even though it is no sin to be stupid. It is a sin, however, to steal from the poor.

The biggest players are disproportionately poor and uneducated. They are twice as likely as the average adult, both to have dropped out of high school and to have a household income under $10,000.

Squandering their money on Powerball or any lottery just makes matters worse as they go deeper into the hole.

To you who continue to buy lottery tickets, I say dream on, suckers. Your odds for the Minnesota Twins to win the World Series are much better than any lottery ticket.

Baseball, not Powerball

Waverly is now, and always has been, a great sports town.

Just look at the Herda family - five Herdas have played on the team sponsored by the Herda and Sons Seal Coating Company of Waverly. They won the Minnesota State Tournament in class C fastpitch softball as reported in this newspaper Aug. 20.

Just look at the number of Waverly boys and girls whose pictures are in the sports page every week, representing all the high school teams in every sport.

Waverly has always had great baseball teams. The Sunday afternoon games in the '40s and '50s filled the stands.

In addition, lots of people sat in their cars and watched the game as they parked along the fences on the third base and the first base side.

Whenever a Waverly player "hit one into the lake" the honking of the car horns could be heard from a mile away.

Those were glory days, so it's no wonder we all became instant Twins fans when the Washington Senators moved from Washington D.C.

Back then, Cal Griffith, the owner, was notably stingy ("The Washington Senators: First in war, first in peace, and last in the American League") but even at that, the Twins had some good seasons.

Jeanne Reardon Painschab sent me a white hanky from "The Homerdome" when the Twins really did win a World Series, their first, back in 1987. But this year?

The Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs let their fans down year after year, but the Twins don't let us down because we never expected much of them in the first place.

Baseball - agony and ecstasy in Minnesota

There is a piece in the Wall Street Journal by Phillip Connors.

"Minnesota fans are different. How do we explain this fact?

"The place to start is with the observation that Minnesotans, composed in large part of hardy German, Swedish, and Norwegian stock are prone to an expectation that the large forces will always get them in the end.

"Perhaps this is a result of harsh winters and the role weather plays in the fortunes of the state's farmers; perhaps it's a stubborn vestige of Scandinavian pessimism.

"Whatever the case may be, if the fates announce that their beloved Twins can start in first place and end up in last, they would only look up at the sky and think, 'By golly, there are worse places to be.'

"On the flip side of this nonchalant fatalism is a tendency for Minnesotans to be unrelentingly tough on whatever they think they can control. Anyone who whines about wanting to be traded to a bigger city, as if he's some kind of underappreciated big shot, well, he needs to be taken down a peg, like when Knoblauch went to play for the Yankees.

"The Yankees, for one, epitomize what Minnesotans find distasteful. Their payroll is more than four times the size of the Twins'.

"One might think Minnesotans would be joyous at their sudden good fortune in winning at the beginning of the season this year. Even with the lowest payroll of any team, the Twins had the second-best record in the league.

"Doug Mientkiewicz, a heretofore obscure first baseman, who spent last year in the minors, hit .400 through the first third of the season.

"Yet even in the midst of this unexpected prosperity, intimations of doom hang over the typical Minnesotan's dreams . . . Nothing is as painful as high expectations dashed. Better to expect nothing and be pleasantly surprised.

"And Minnesotans won't buy another stadium, even if their Twins start winning again. Ponying up for another stadium a mere 20 years after a new one was built would insult a Minnesotan's sense of thrift.

"Fancy sky boxes and pretty sight lines are for effete Easterners and suntanned Left Coasters who need distractions from the torpid intricacies of the game itself."

I recently got to watch a Twins game on ESPN from my front row seat in the living room. Cleveland won in 10 innings.

Cleveland had a $50 million payroll on the field vs. the Twins' $3 million combined payroll.

I then remembered that the Texas Rangers are paying their shortstop Alex Rodriguez more of a salary this year than the entire Twins roster will receive. Is it all about money?

Say it ain't so, Joe.

The Saint Paul Saints

If you have despaired of the Twins, we have a viable alternative in the Saint Paul Saints.

Garrison Keillor, in a recent essay in Time Magazine had this to say about them:

"A new stadium? Come on now. We have our own ballpark, next to the railroad tracks south of the state fairgrounds, where our baseball team, the Saints, plays against teams from Duluth, Sioux Falls, Sioux City, Fargo-Moorhead, Madison, Winnepeg, and Thunder Bay.

"We wave at the trains as they go by, and we always have a good time regardless of what happens on the field.

"Between innings, a man walks up to the home-plate ump, leading a pig with a bag of fresh baseballs on its back.

"Once, a player from an opposing team was offended by the pig and turned to the umpire and said, 'That is so bush league," and the ump said, 'This is the bush leagues.' . . .

"What truly distinguishes Minnesota isn't majorness or hipness, but a sweetness of character that, perhaps, is brought out by bitter weather and sensory deprivations, and that you can't show off to outsiders because the moment you do, it's gone.

"This is a state of people not so far removed from the farm, and farming is a civil business that believes in sharing new information and helping your neighbor.

"It produces goodhearted people who are tolerant, helpful, and friendly . . . We have seen major league places, and that's one reason we live here instead."

Whoa Nellie, hold on to your Twins caps

This letter to the editor was in the Aug. 30 Minneapolis Star-Tribune from a Mr. Clark C. Griffith, who may be related to Cal Griffith for all I know:

"Your editorial 'Mudville' reveals a colossal lack of understanding of the nature of the baseball season.

"There are 30 games to go, and even though 'mighty Cleveland,' as you described them, has built a five game lead, we are now starting September where the best is saved for last.

"This race will be decided in the last week of September, as the Twins play not-so-mighty Cleveland. Who knows? Chicago might get hot and make it a three-team dead heat."

So, as Yogi Berra, retired catcher, New York Yankees, says, "It ain't over 'til it's over."

Quotes of the week from sports figures

"You guys line up alphabetically by height."

- Bill Peterson, a Florida State football coach.

"He treats us like men. He lets us wear earrings."

- Torrin Polk, University of Houston receiver, on his coach, John Jenkins.

"I'm not allowed to comment on lousy officiating."

- Jim Finks, New Orleans Saints general manager, when asked after a loss what he thought of the refs.

"It's almost like we have ESPN." - Magic Johnson, on how well he and James Worthy work together.


- Tom Nissalke, new coach of the NBA's Houston Rockets, when asked how he pronounced his name.

"I lost it in the sun."

- Billy Loes, Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher, after fumbling a grounder.

"I can't really remember the names of the clubs we went to."

- Shaquille O'Neal on whether he had visited the Parthenon during his visit to Greece.

"Republicans buy shoes, too."

- Michael Jordan, when asked why he didn't speak out about Nike's labor practices.

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