MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

In the spirit of the most recent greed frenzy, “What will you do if you hit Mega Millions?”, a reporter once asked Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Tug McGraw what he was going to do with his winning 1980 World Series share.

“Ninety percent of it,” McGraw said, “I’ll spend on booze and women. The other 10 percent I’ll probably waste.”

While I certainly had my preference as to whom I wanted to hit the $1.34 billion Mega Millions jackpot (and my preference wasn’t some mope in Illinois), I had long reached the point where I wanted somebody — anybody — to hit it because I had once more grown weary of standing in line for long periods of time in convenience stores and in what the good people of Maine call provision centres (we call them liquor stores here) while greedy, yet well-meaning people load up on Mega Millions tickets.

(And the scratch-offs; don’t forget the scratch-offs. And what’s that all about, anyway? And why do they have to scratch them off at the counter while there are people in line behind them waiting to pay and to get the hell out?)

Look, I’m just trying to buy a couple of newspapers, not read them both front page to back while I’m standing in line. In that regard I have found the liquor stores to be better suited to sell mass quantities of tickets at a higher rate of speed than most other places. I don’t know why that is, but it seems less painful to buy other provisions in those places if you know what I mean. And I think you do.

Obviously you have to play to win; I understand this, and I do play, five times a week. But the amount of money these jackpots, this latest jackpot in particular, get up to really tends to bring out the worst in all of us. I mean, I’ve seen more brutal moving picks in the lottery lines than I did during the entire NBA playoffs. It’s gotten dangerous out there, man.

And what I will never understand are people who don’t play the lottery until the jackpot is at least in the high nine digits. What would be wrong with winning $10 million? What would be wrong with winning $1 million? What’s wrong with winning 25 bucks?

No, 10 million dollars is not worth the time it would take for me to get out of my car and stand in line at a lottery machine. I’m just not going to do that.

Okay. I will.

I hear people say that if they win a ginormous jackpot they’re going to save it for their grandchildren’s college tuition. Hey, by the time some of those grandchildren are old enough to go to college, $1.34 billion might not be enough.

But really? If I had children — and that I don’t is likely a jackpot in itself for both me and the children — I’ll be damned if I would let them waste any of that $1.34 billion on college. College? Hell, with that kind of change in your pocket you can buy the damn college.

Wait. That doesn’t work …

I have a friend who makes his living in banking. It’s work that he loves and he’s very successful in it, and he once said at a public house gathering that if he were to win what was at that time a potential $800 million jackpot, he would invest it. To which I literally spit beer through my nose …

“You’re going to invest a billion dollars?! Why?! You’ll have no need to ever invest again. That’s why they call it the jackpot!”

Me? It’s as Steve Martin said in the ‘70s, “With my first big check, I bought some pretty good stuff. Got me a $300 pair of socks. A fur sink. An electric dog polisher. A gasoline powered turtleneck sweater. And … I also bought some dumb stuff.”

My outlook on lotteries is that I don’t need all of it. I’d just like to have some of it — a large sum of it, mind you, but I’m a simple man with simple needs and pleasures. I’ll be happy with five numbers and no mega or powerball. I don’t see how that’s being unreasonable, but the lottery people have yet to come around to my way of thinking on the matter.

People tickle me who tell me with a straight face, “You couldn’t live the rest of your life on a million dollars.” Are you kidding me? To paraphrase what Butch said to Sundance up on the cliff, the fall will probably kill me.

Naturally, money changes everybody and everything, I’m not naive enough to believe otherwise. But at my age, if I live through the initial shock of ever winning that amount of money, I’d make the best run at living on it for the rest of my life that you’ll ever see. Of course, I’ll probably have to limit myself to just one fur sink.

Actually, I know a young lady who otherwise didn’t give me the time of day, but who for years assured me that if I ever did hit the lottery she would be more than willing to marry me and make absolutely sure I didn’t live to spend it all. I wonder what she meant by that?

I told her she shouldn’t get her hopes up, because the closest thing I ever won like that was a book of discount coupons that I had to pay for. The guy on the phone who informed me of my winnings really made me feel good about it, though. Then, by pure dumb luck, he found out I was looking to buy a used car … Small world, eh?

Well, apparently, she didn’t get her hopes up. She married a very good guy last June.

I just hope for his sake they hadn’t moved to Illinois.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT