Thursday, February 09, 2017

You have to Play to Lose

If you live in the Midwest, you might have seen the Kentucky Lottery's slogan of "You Gotta Play to Win". The logic is that if you want even a slim chance to win the lottery, you have to play to win. 

On the face of it, that makes some sense. You can't win if you don't buy a ticket. Of course, buying a ticket isn't a guarantee you will win. 

I've played many contests in my life, and rarely won any. A few years ago, I won a Twitter contest with EA Games. Not for the BMW they were allegedly giving away. Nope, I won a copy of one of their driving games, a satchel/book bag monogrammed with "Need for Speed" and a PC copy of a game. If I hadn't tweeted, I never would have won. 

Even further back, in the 1990s, I happened to be at a fundraiser at Indiana University Southeast. I entered the drawing for door prizes. I happened to win a baseketball autographed by Bobby Knight and the whole Coaching staff for IU. If I liked basketball, I probably would have been thrilled. Instead, I was like "Cool", and kept it until years later when I made a friend of a super IU fan. My pal had tons of memorabilia, but no autographed ball. I dug through my boxes of junk from over the years and gave him the autographed ball I'd won. He appreciated it a LOT.  

To get the ball, I had to play. Sort of. I really just attended. My pal didn't have to play, and he most definitely won. 

Somewhere in between my racing games and gifting a signed basketball to a friend, my wife won a raffle for a new flatscreen TV. She surprised me with it as an early Christmas present. We still have it, and it's been a great TV. She of course had to buy a raffle ticket to win the TV. 

These are great stories of playing and winning, but what about the times you play and lose? Does anyone ever talk about that? More importantly, does anyone talk about the feeling of losing?

If you've ever been to a carnival, you probably know the burn of not winning. Carny games are designed to be not winnable. And how many times have you bought a scratch off ticket only to make a mess and end up just a buck or two poorer? 

We may hand out participation trophies to kids these days, but in real life, when there's a winner, there's a loser--or in these cases, losers, plural. Losing isn't fun. it's like rushing down on Christmas morning to open presents and finding that instead of toys, you got a sweater, or a sleeping bag. 

You can keep on entering contests, waiting for Ed McMahon to show up at your door with one of those giant checks, or you can decide to quit feeling downtrodden when you inevitably lose. Who wants to be a loser, after all?

My point is, it's true you have to play to win. But it's also true you have to play to lose. Losing sucks. I hate losing. Luck isn't something you can improve (that's Karma). If I sucked at a sport, I'd practice until I got good enough to win. But I just can't do that with games of random chance. 

For me, every time I see there's someone giving away a car, I get excited, then flash back to all the cars I haven't won. I didn't win the Tim Burton Batmobile MTV gave away in the 90s. I didn't win the Speed Racer Mach 5 Corvette given away when the live-action movie was released. I didn't win that BMW EA gave away I mentioned above, nor did I win the Ford Raptor pickup given away for the HALO game. I also didn't win the Call of Duty Jeep a few years ago. Both Cabelas and Basspro have given away pick up trucks. I didn't win any of those. 

If we go really far back, my first disappointment in not winning a car came from a local auto parts store. They were giving away a brand new 1980-something Ford Ranger pick up. I was super-hyped. So hyped, I bought a bunch of blank index cards and painstakingly filled them out to put in the drawing box. When I say a bunch, I mean six-hundred and seventy-two. That number is burned into my memory as I hand wrote them all out.  But I didn't win the truck. 

My solution is simple: avoid the frustration of repeated losses by not playing. Save up all that Lottery scratch off money for a nice burger--at least you can get a warm feeling for a little while after you eat it. 

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