As I walked into city hall for a Monday night council meeting, Richard, our public works director, said to me, “Did you know you are tied with Reece for first place in the football pool this week? Who wins depends on the final score of the Green Bay game tonight.” This news excited me. Week after week, I had come close, tied for second place with two or three other people. Tied for second is meaningless. As Vince Lombardi said, “Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.”
Last year I never came close to winning. Week after week I contributed my two dollars to the football winner’s fund. It was discouraging. So this year I determined on a strategy, a method, if you will. It was “make” or “break” time. I figured if I didn’t win at least once this year, then I would withdraw from donating my money to the guys.
These men take the football pool seriously. They actually watch the games. They study statistics. They compute probabilities. They know if a team’s best quarterback is nursing an injury. They note if a team’s head coach is involved in a scandal, or when a valuable player is traded, or if the pizza delivery is late. Although they may think I am sitting in my corner filing my nails, I pay attention to everything they say and do. What I have noticed is that after all their conjuring, they vote for their favorite teams.
One man always avoids selecting a team from any town beginning with the letter “C.” How is that for the scientific male mind? Kim comes to coffee with his picks on a sheet of paper in his shirt pocket. I presume that is what is on the paper. For all I know it’s his wife’s grocery list, for he takes a minimum of half an hour to mark his teams, all with great frowning and mumbling and choosing and erasing and choosing again. The other men are quite voluble about who should win and who should have won and why, but, when it comes their turn to mark the paper, they huddle over it like it is a secret ballot.
I raced home after the council meeting that Monday night. I called a friend. “What is the score?” I asked him. If Green Bay scored over 40 points, I would be the winner.
“How did you know I am watching the game?” he countered.
“Who is winning? I gotta know the score. What quarter is it?” I battered him with questions.
David has known me for years. He figures I have not watched an entire football game in my life. That is not true. Well, maybe it is. “You must have some heavy money riding on this game,” he guessed.
“Just let me know the score. Then call me back when my team scores again.”
He told me to set my phone on speaker function and gave me a play by play. When Green Bay scored another touchdown, I let out a shriek.
“Sounds like you won,” he said.
The next morning I floated into the city shop at the pre-workday coffee hour to pick up my winnings. Did I hear any hearty congratulations? No. I was assailed with “I suppose you came to gloat?” “We generously gave of our good advice and now she is going to lord it over us.” “You sure don’t do humble well.” “This is what we get when we let women in the pool.”
I offered to teach a workshop on my methods. The response was a chorus of boos and hisses. But I will share my genius with you. First, I wait until most of the men have made their choices. I average the results. Then I look to see if the favored team is “home” or “away.” I add that into my computations. I weigh other factors. For example, I always choose Green Bay because I spent several enjoyable weeks in Wisconsin many years ago and Green Bay is in Wisconsin. I select Seattle out of misguided loyalty to my old stomping grounds. If, after all this, I still have doubts over which city’s team to pick, I pretend I have to take a trip to one or the other. The city I choose to visit determines the team I mark. And, of course, womanly intuition adds an important element to the mix. That, however, cannot be taught.
Winning is a powerful feeling, a fever. I am hooked. I will hone my best strategies. I will perfect my skills. I intend to win and win and win again.
(Sondra Ashton graduated from Harlem High in 1963 and left for good. She finds, after returning, things now look a bit different. Join her in a discussion of her column at http://montanatumbleweed.blogspot.com.)