Before I delve into the high stakes world of gambling, let me be one of the first to give each and everyone of you a Halloween greeting card. I found the appropriate card for all you dear readers. See it here!
I am in the midst of a weekend that has found me celebrating two anniversaries. Tomorrow, Sunday, is the first wedding anniversary of our daughter Gretchen and our son-in-law Scott. I'm happy to say that they have survived year one and are still happy! Of course, I cannot report on that event until after it occurs.
The other anniversary took place Friday night. The evening marked the 20th anniversary of a special cause célèbre. Twenty years ago myself and fourteen others won a softball championship. It was the first of four consecutive titles for our team.
....While some of you are probably thinking "whoop-de-doo," it was special to me. It was the first time I had ever been the part of a team that had been a champion in anything. Dating back to my days in "Pee-Wee" sports, Little League, Church Leagues, Intramurals, and on through college, my teams never won a title.
....Whoever it was who said, "Winning isn't everything, it's the way you play that counts," obviously never actually played. I wasn't the greatest of athletes, but I was better than average. What I lacked in size and speed, I more than made up for it in determination.
....Even though I was thirty-eight years old at the time, that clinching victory two decades ago put to bed all those years of frustrating disappointments. I was an active participant, a member of a championship team! The after-game celebration was a memorable one. Fourteen softballers and about a dozen others who had shown up to watch us, crowded into a tavern known for 99¢ 16-ounce Michelob draughts and a great $3.00 steak tip plate.
....That year we had played with a battle cry: "Win or lose, drink the booze!" You might say it was the mantra that had carried us through the season. That night also unveiled a practice that would be continued for three more championships. Only five of us partook of the "Chrome Dome" that night, but that changed at the future title fetes when every member joined in for the "taste of victory."
....You will probably find this disgusting, as do I after all these years, but you might say it turned into a frenzy that only aging athletes can understand or appreciate. Our pitcher was a bald fellow in his fifties. Imagine that bald pate that had been sweating beneath a baseball cap less than an a hour earlier. Picture if you will, it being polished to a shine with a waitress' towel. Our star center fielder next announces that the "table has been set." Now try to visualize the scene as dijon mustard is poured upon the "Chrome Dome." You stare in disbelief as he licks the mustard from the man's head. You are stunned as myself and three others join in for a sampling of that smörgåsbord.
....That was twenty years ago, and Friday night was a reunion of sorts to celebrate the first championship. Only ten of us were able to attend, but the group comprised the ten starters from the original team. We met at the same tavern and gathered at the same tables. The place hadn't changed much except for one noticeable thing - the prices on the menu. Those Michelob draughts were now $2.99 and the steak tips were $5.99. It was apparent that inflation had also impacted the physiques of the lot of us.
....I think all of us were relieved when he of the Chrome Dome made it abundantly clear from the outset that there would be no dijon mustard served on his pate that night. It was bad enough from the head of a man in his fifties, so there was no disappointment that his now seventy year-old scalp would be spared. I said to him, "What were we thinking back then?" There was a round of shrugs as we ordered a round of draughts.
Wouldn't you know that it would be the center fielder who would come up with another unique idea that evening. He proposed to the unsuspecting group that we play Credit Card Roulette. We were bewildered, but he quickly explained the details to us. He asked for a brown paper bag from the waitress and stood up. From his wallet he produced a credit card and asked the rest of us to do the same. We would all drop our credit cards into the bag, which would be left in the care of the waitress. Then through the course of our evening one card would be drawn by her with every order of drink and food placed. The last card drawn would have to pay for the entire tab for the ten of us. All others drawn prior to the last one would be free of any expenses. If for any reason anyone chose to pull out or leave early, then he would be responsible for the tab at that point as a matter of fairness. The game would continue for those who remained for any further food or drink.
....It was agreed. I had never heard of Credit Card Roulette before that night, but I'm sure it must have been created by some high rollers with suits that cost more than my truck. Since we had already ordered a round, one card was pulled from the bag right away. It was old Chrome Dome's card. He was assured of eating and drinking with his wallet secure in his pocket. I didn't have to be a math whiz to quickly calculate that the first round of drinks had already cost the "losing" winner $29.90. Ten matching orders of the steak tips quickly added another $59.90 to the total. (That total was already double the funds I had planned on spending that evening.)
....A curious (?) thing began to happen. It was readily apparent as card after card was plucked from the bag, that those spared of any possible expense suddenly decided that they were hungrier than they had first thought. They were also becoming thirstier. Soon there was an order of fried shrimp in front of one. Chrome Dome suddenly had a yen for some lobster. Inexplicably some smart ass decided to pile it on by ordering a bottle of champagne for the table!
....I don't have to tell you that I was beginning to sweat bullets! There were still three cards left in the bag. You guessed correctly - mine was one of them! I was thinking that I should have pulled out early and licked my wounds over an hour ago. How was I going to explain that credit card bill? I was beginning to lose my appetite. Why had I agreed to participate in the first place? I was in over my head. I had lost track of the total, but I was certain it was approaching $500 and that wasn't counting a gratuity!
....I was afraid to look and even more afraid to listen when the eighth card was drawn from the bag. You see, in addition to have never been on a winning team before that night twenty years before, I am also very unlucky. I have never won anything, not even a dollar on a scratch ticket! Cards? Nope!
....Hot damn! My luck was changing - at least for that night. It might be a tired cliche', but a weight was lifted from my shoulders. My card was drawn! I was out of the running! On a night when winning was losing, I had actually "won" by losing. Does that make any sense?
So relieved was I, that without thinking I ordered a beer. That order of course triggered the final reach into the bag. It was between our second baseman and the center fielder. One was about to be rescued from a killer tab, while the other was going to pay for a very expensive night out with the boys. Neither one of the two seemed to be the least bit worried. Interestingly, the two remaining were the two most finacially successful of the ten of us. It was almost a cruel but poetic justice.
....The second baseman collapsed into his chair with a smile as he accepted his card from the waitress. How ironic he noted that it was he who had suggested the game and it was he whose card came out last. He suggested one more round - on him of course - before we all called it a night.
....He raised his glass and gave a toast, "Here's to the best champions I have ever had the pleasure to call team mates."
....It is with heavy head that I am putting up this account of last night. You see, Im not a very good drinker either - at least not anymore. There is one consolation -
I hate dijon mustard!