I have a gambling problem.
For years, I’ve had trouble turning down a good wager, particularly if it involved a sporting event. I think after watching sporting events for so long — as is required by my job — I got jaded to all but the most thrilling of athletic endeavors and it takes a little something extra to spice things up for me to hold my interest.
Hence, my gambling problem.
Now the Supreme Court has seen fit to allow individual states to decide if they want to allow sports gambling within their borders. I suppose that will be nice for some of you, but in all honestly, it won’t affect me all that much.
You see, the good thing is my habit has never cost my a lot of money, mostly because I don’t have a whole lot of it to gamble. So I tend to use other forms of currency — often in the form of some sort of unsavory chore around the house with my wife or some sort of public humiliation with one of my coworkers. No money is ever exchanged — but one’s dignity often is.
Sometimes this works out in my favor — as an example, the time I won a March Madness bracket bet with TDN reporter Twin and she had to work a shift in the Heywood Elementary School carnival dunk tank. Sometimes this doesn’t work out so well for me, such as the time I lost a bet playing miniature golf with my wife in Myrtle Beach and had to spend the next day buried in the sand.
As unpleasant as the consequences of those wagers can sometimes be, however, they are generally over in a few hours, everyone has a good laugh at the loser’s expense and there are never any life-altering consequences.
Until a few weeks ago, that is.
Two years ago, my daughter was entering Troy Junior High School and had hopes of becoming a pole vaulter on the school track and field team. She made it her immediate goal to break the school record in the event before she left the junior high. Now, thanks in large part to coaching she had received from local vaulting gurus Herb Hartman and Roger Bowen, I knew my daughter was a good vaulter, but I still didn’t think she was in any danger of breaking the school record.
That’s because the school record was set by Christine Moser, a state qualifier and currently the second-best vaulter in Troy High School history. It wasn’t so much that I thought my daughter was that bad, as much as I realized just how good Christine — now a senior at Troy — really is.
Still, though, I wanted some sort of motivation for my daughter … something she could keep working for even though she probably never would break the school record. So I asked what would be a decent prize if she were to actually break the record.
She said she wanted a dog.
As you may remember, The Great Dog Debate has been going on in the Fong household ever since my wife and I were married. She has always wanted one, I never have. Once we started having children, the pressure to get a dog only intensified, as both the kids and my wife were now pushing for a dog, but I held firm. The way I figured it, there was only room for one flea-bitten mongrel in the Fong household, and we already had one named “Daddy.”
While I was outnumbered, I was able to stand my ground for years and seemed to be winning the battle. I figured all I had to do was hold off four more years until my daughter went to college and then war would be won. But when she asked if she could get a dog if she broke the Troy Junior High School pole vault record, I figured it was a win-win situation for me.
She would have motivation to work hard and continue to improve — and likely would fall just short of breaking the record, meaning we wouldn’t have to get a dog. How could I possibly lose?
Of course, as the folks in Las Vegas know, the house always wins. In this case, it was the rest of the Fong house.
Earlier this spring, my daughter vaulted 9 feet, 2 inches at Northmont, good enough to break the school record by 5 inches. The second after she landed on the mat, she sprang up, looked right at me, absolutely beaming, and said, “We’re getting a puppy!”
As it would turn out, she’d break her own record again last weekend at the Ohio High School Athletic Association 7th and 8th Grade State Championships, vaulting 9’3,” good enough for fourth place in the entire state of Ohio. Thank God I never bet her she could get a puppy each time she broke the record.
I am, of course, a man of my word, which means this summer we’ll be looking around shelters and pet rescue agencies for a dog that best fits our family’s lifestyle. My daughter is excited, and also started to look ahead to her high school pole vaulting career.
Just the other day she asked me, “Dad, if I break the high school record, can I get a new car?”
I’m hope I can resist the temptation to enter into that wager … but I doubt it.
Reach David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong