Valdosta Daily Times

What We Think

December 18, 2013

Playing the odds

VALDOSTA — Today, chances are high that somewhere in the U.S., there is at least one, if not multiple, new millionaires following last night’s Mega Millions drawing. The $636 million lottery jackpot caused a frenzy for tickets, with folks plunking down their hard-earned cash to obtain a one in a gazillion chance at winning.

Why does everyone get so caught up in lottery fever? What makes a person want to buy a ticket, knowing that the odds — although maybe not a gazillion — are staggeringly not in their favor?

Perhaps it’s the notion that getting rich quick is the best way to obtain a fortune. People generally believe that money will ease their problems, often forgetting that sudden wealth also creates new, much bigger problems. Few lottery winners seem to live happily ever after.

Or perhaps it’s the magic beans effect. Everyone knows the Jack in the Beanstalk story from their youth, where Jack traded in his family’s cow — not for the money or food they so desperately needed — but for a handful of magic beans. The beans grew into a beanstalk, which Jack climbed to find a giant guarding a goose who laid golden eggs. Jack managed to escape with the goose, thus ensuring his family a lifetime of prosperity.

Perhaps the ‘why’ in the Mega Millions craze is that someone, somewhere, will beat the odds. For someone, those magic beans will pay off. That one dollar lottery ticket matching all the numbers exactly will ensure a huge payout to the lucky holder.

Who hasn’t fantasized about what they would do if they won the lottery? For someone today, that fantasy may have come true. And that’s why so many have lottery fever. They believe that not only will they beat the odds of winning, but they will beat the ‘giant’ odds, living happily ever after although their world will be forever changed. And if they didn’t win this time, there’s always another chance at another jackpot right around the corner.

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