Why We Bet On Everything From Popes To Pennant Races

There are pricey, professional betting syndicates -- usually in Vegas and London -- where some of the best mathematical minds crunch numbers in order to publish odds on events little and large. And while you and I may read about these statistical projections, you can believe it that some high-rollers gamble big money on them. The selection of the Pope was one of these bets. I guess you could call it: Betting on the beatific.

Couple ways to look at these gamblers. The coolest of the cool OR the scaredest of the scaredest!

My feeling is they -- along with you and me -- are scared of a lot of things in life, especially the future. The future is that dark specter that scared the hell out of Scrooge for the same reason it does us: We know absolutely nothing about it. The past is fixed and the present is within touching distance; but the future, oh, that realm is beyond our comprehension and, therefore, beyond our sense of control.

Scared little creatures that we are, we very much fear not being in control. Like being placed in the driver's seat of a powerful car speeding down mountain highways but without a steering wheel. What do we do...? We try to control the car in any desperate way we can.

Some people pray. Others visit seers. Still others develop complex algorithms. The rest of us bet. Not with these syndicates, maybe not with anyone else, just with ourselves. We bet on that mysterious caped shadow up ahead by opting for one path or the other...one choice or the other...one set of expectations or the other.

Call it betting, anticipating, planning, projecting, whatever. In each one there's an element of gambling. Of risking. And yet, by this very action we tend to find at least a small sense of control, a sense that we have at least narrowed the odds of our reaching the bottom of this highway safely. Sometimes we're right. Other times we're not. Either way, if we live we'll live to gamble another day.

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