I've never played the lottery, even once. Then again, I probably have some bias against the lottery thanks to a creepy "book store" in my hometown, which didn't sell books. Rather, Village Books was the hub for dirty magazines and lottery tickets. I used to have to pass by it whenever I wanted a decent slice of East Coast Style pizza at Roman Delight as a kid.
But like any sports fan, I have weaknesses. My vices include things like sportswear, March Madness office pools, and another big one. That other thing is charity auctions. If there's a sweet piece of sports memorabilia, I WANT IT.
A year ago, I got sucked into the "sports section" of a silent auction charity event. With its Wild West theme, it was bad enough I got roped into dressing like a cowboy, boots and all. I looked like a cowhand without spurs, but knew my mettle when it came to picking the best item at the Pilgrim School auction.
That piece: a large, framed black & white photo of the 1991 demolition of the Comiskey Park, old home of the White Sox.
I'm a Cubs fan and a baseball fan foremost, and this pic was a nice piece. So I made sure to win it at any reasonable price. After bagging it, I promptly hung it on my office wall like a champ, and that's where the problems started.
My new boss, Manny turned up the next day at my office. I hadn't met him before but we had spoken by phone and we got into baseball talk, as you always tend to do in May. After our business talk powwow, he asked me about my prize.
"Not for sale, Manny."
"I'm a Sox fan, you're not," he said politely. He wanted that thing.
The same topic came up almost weekly. It was either "How much?" or "When you gonna sell me that?" A month later Manny called me one Friday with an offer. He had a block of tickets to the Friday Cubs/Sox game at The Cell and wanted me to join him, on one condition.
"Let's make a wager," he said. "Cubs win and I'll give you my tickets for the Cubs-Pirates series, three games". Fair enough. "But if the Sox win, I get that Comiskey photo."
Deal. Only if I had a crystal ball would I have known what I was in for.
Despite nobly blowing off work, I got there late after the first pitch. Didn't matter, though, because within 20 minutes it was over. The Cubs had relieved starting pitcher Zambrano early since he'd already bottled it. Plus Big Z had other business to attend to, which involved a shouting match and near brawl with teammate Derrick Lee. At 6-0, Sox, I knew my prized photo was gone.
I should have seen the writing on the wall. As I walked out of The Cell, embarrassed by the Cubs' efforts I turned around for another look. Hanging from the upper rung of the stadium I saw a huge banner that read "Welcome to the BP Crosstown Cup". There were inspiring player photos from both teams and a warm, friendly undertone. But I couldn't help thinking that on this day BP was responsible for yet another natural disaster, particularly for us Cubs fans.
Nonetheless this defeat and loss of an important sports artifact wasn't enough to discourage me. I'd be at it again soon.
When I got invited to the Parenthesis DreamMakers charity event, I knew there'd be some goods there. First off there was Johnny Lattner's 1953 Heisman Trophy up for auction. But I had my eye on the Blackhawks package, which consisted of a Bobby Hull jersey and a puck signed by the NHL legend.
So there it went. My wife got nervous as the live auction really took off. I flashed my number placard first on the Hawks items, and got into a bidding war with another sportsnut guest. People displayed excitement and possibly horror as the auction worked us close to a thousand dollars for this shirt and piece of rubber.
But I held my ground, while the other guest bailed. $900 got me Hull and the puck. "Not bad" I thought, since the other relics included were Bulls tickets and a $50 worth of soul food. I guess I've never picked up on Hawks fans' love of cornbread and collard greens, but I was more than happy. Still, I knew this was part of the price.
Whether it is slogging through long seasons, crushing losses, soaring ticket prices, or the fringe costs of addiction and obsession, sports fans always pay the price for their fandom. But it's worth it, always worth it.
Andy Frye writes about sports and life here and dispenses thoughts throughout the day on Twitter via @MySportsComplex. Next year he hopes to bid for and win Derrick Rose's jump shot.