Enjoying a Different Kind of ‘Ball + Chain’

 

Rebecca Lobo, Steve Rushin and family. (Photo courtesy of masslive.com)

I have two new best friends. I’ve known who they were for many, many years, but only recently I have let them into my life on a personal level.

Well, truth be told, they’re letting me—and thousands upon thousands of others; especially those in St. Petersburg—into their lives on a personal level, and it’s absolutely priceless.

Former UConn women’s basketball star and present-day ESPN talking head Rebecca Lobo and Sports Illustrated writer Steve Rushin have a podcast called “Ball + Chain.”

They’ve put together 35 episodes, so far. I’m about 26 episodes in as I’m still playing catch up, but I’m enjoying the ride. So much so, in fact, that I’ll sit in the car for a few extra minutes, or drive around the block, just to finish listening to a segment … or perhaps the entire remaining minutes of a podcast.

It’s a home run. Or, in Robo-speak, it’s a pure swish.

First, let me say this: A big part of this podcast is right in my wheel house.

A former college basketball star that I once saw play joining forces with an SI writer, who I’ve spent a lot of my life reading?

What’s not to like, right?

But it’s more than the sports talk that keeps me hooked. It’s the people … well, the family, really .. that’s involved.

It’s like sitting on a back deck with friends, listening to them play off each other to much amusement. It’s like being invited to their breakfast nook the morning after spending the night and listening to husband and wife discuss their day in absolutely entertaining fashion. It’s like being in a car, with your friends in the back seat, gabbing about their family, their world, their lives.

And it’s so much fun. Yet it almost wasn’t.

When I first gave “Ball + Chain” a try, I didn’t even make it through the first episode.

There were some major sound quality issues that made listening to it almost impossible.

Many months later, on a recent road trip to New Jersey, though, when I was stuck in a car, driving through Connecticut, New York and New Jersey traffic, I gave it another try.

SI writer Steve Rushin, half of the “Ball + Chain” podcast. (Photo courtesy of jeffpearlman.com)

They fixed the sound issues, making the podcast much easier on the ears, and by the time my trip to and fro was over, I must have been eight episodes in.

I was hooked.

I was a fan.

I had two new friends to keep me company on pretty much every journey I’ve taken since.

If my drive is more than 30 minutes, I switch off my Sirius XM and tune in to the “Ball + Chain” podcast.

And, I repeat, it is so much more than the just the sports that keeps me tuned in and coming back for more.

First some background: Rushin is going to be turning 52 years old soon, while Lobo is soon to be 45.

As such, both are from my generation and for the most part grew up watching the same sports teams, sports moments, television shows and commercials and listening to the same music as I did.

They are my generation and they relish in their memories of growing up during the same era, and as they reflect on such moments, so do I.

Lobo grew up in Massachusetts, Rushin in Minnesota.

Fate, however, brought them together in a New York City bar. It’s a topic that is frequently brought up on the podcast, and it’s as a great of a first-meeting story as there is out there.

Rushin had once written, “Although Wilt Chamberlain claimed to have slept with 20,000 women in his lifetime, I had once slept with 7,138 women in a single night: We were all snoring in the stands at a WNBA game.”

Lobo happened to be a WNBA star at that time and confronted Rushin at the bar during a chance meeting.

Rebecca Lobo, half of the “Ball + Chain” podcast.

“She asked if I was the scribe who once mocked, in Sports Illustrated, women’s professional basketball,” Rushin later wrote. “Reluctantly, I said that I was. She asked how many games I’d actually attended. I hung my head and said, ‘None.’ And so Rebecca Lobo invited me to watch her team, the New York Liberty play at Madison Square Garden. We both reeked of secondhand Camels (and, quite possibly, of secondhand camels: It was that kind of a dive.) But my insult had been forgiven. It was—for me, anyway—love at first slight. She had the longest legs, the whitest teeth, the best-sown cornrows I had ever seen, and I imagined us to have much in common. I ate Frosted Flakes right out of the box, and she was on boxes of Frosted Flakes. I am ludicrous, and she was name-dropped in a rap by Ludacris. We were, I thought, made for each other.”

Give them a listen and you realize, they really are made for each other.

That’s why it works so well, I think.

I have this little fantasy in my head: Rushin makes Lobo laugh a lot and every time he does I can almost picture him smiling with the knowledge, “Yup, she still loves me.”

Their connection to each other radiates through their words and mannerisms. I don’t recognize true love when I see it. In this case, though, I hear it.

The two married and have four children—three girls, one boy—all of whom come up from time to time in the podcast.

I told you it was about more than sports.

The ball and chain—“Who’s the ball, who’s the chain? is a key line in the podcast’s opening ditty sung by Tom, Dick and Harry (Tom is Steve’s brother, by the way)—talk about their lives and everything that happens in it. Fathers, sons, mothers, daughters … even grandparents, uncles, aunts and neighbors.

As often as they trade good-natured jabs at one another, they also obviously keep their hearts open for each other, as well.

It’s funny. It’s interesting. It’s touching. It’s just a great listen, from start to finish.

It doesn’t matter if they’re reflecting on Larry Bird, Geno Auriemma, the Minnesota Vikings (or Twins), changing their car oil, or Steve’s inability to cook anything other than microwavable White Castle, they will keep you entertained.

While many podcasts have tunnel vision (i.e., I listen to The West Wing Podcast, too, which is focused just on the hit television show), you never know where “Ball + Chain” will take you.

Each episode is a different adventure, but is filled with enough memories and running jokes that Lobo and Rushin make it feel like you’re part of their larger extended family.

Sometimes, literally, it’s an adventure, too, as Lobo and Rushin discuss their different travels and travails, from airports to hotels to Uber (or Lyft) rides. Or maybe just a mini-van ride to an AAU basketball tournament in Massachusetts, or the local grocery store.

They’ve had some special guests—Lobo’s sister, former NFL player and current ESPN personality Mike Golic and his wife, and the podcast’s producer Deny (With one N!) Gallagher– to name a few. Even when others enter the podcast, it doesn’t throw off the enjoyment.

Semi-spoiler alert: The ending of the podcast with Deny (With one N!) is one of the best endings in podcast history.

The author, a Minnesota Vikings fan despite hailing from Maine, with his old friend, Charlie.

In closing, I remember the moment I realized “Ball + Chain” and I had a special connection.

It came when Lobo talked about a ventriloquism dummy she had received as a gift when she was younger. And, Rushin reflected on what it was like to work as a 14-year-old during a Minnesota Vikings game.

It took me back to a picture of myself when I was younger. Of me, wearing a Minnesota Vikings sweatshirt, holding on to a ventriloquist dummy I was given as a child.

Basketball. Sports. A Sportswriter. UConn basketball. A dummy. The Vikings.

How’s that for a fate?

In a different time and in different places, I could have been friends with Lobo and Rushin. We would have shared a lot of laughs.

Instead, I’m just a loyal listener, taking my new friends—one a ball, the other a chain–with me on countless rides to keep me company.

 

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There is no seeing eye-to-eye on anything anymore

Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Joe Kelly fights with New York Yankees first baseman Tyler Austin after hitting him with a pitch along with catcher Christian Vazquez during the seventh inning of the MLB game at Fenway Park on Wednesday, April 11, 2018. (Boston Herald/Matt Stone)

It’s funny how we can’t see eye-to-eye on anything anymore.

If it’s not the unpredictability and unprofessionalism of the alleged world leader I call “45”, then it’s the obviously out-dated historic stand called The Second Amendment.

Or, it’s the Red Sox vs. Yankees.

Forty-five is still doing what “45” does and The Second Amendment is still a hot button topic even as more of our children die (Yes, yes, I agree, there are many other issues, too), but on Wednesday night I realized that one way to understand the non-comprehensible is too look at it from the other side.

It’s the Red Sox vs. the Yankees and it’s not easy.

You hurt Bill Lee’s shoulder, we throw an old man to the ground. You karate chop a ball out of a pitcher’s hands, our catcher beats the crap out of you for disrespecting us.

Ah, baseball. Ah, the Red Sox-Yankee rivalry.

The two teams are at it again this week at Fenway Park, and on Wednesday things boiled over the top once again.

During the game, some kid named Tyler Austin slid into some dyed-haired kid named Brock Holt.

Let’s be honest here: Had anybody from either Nation – Red Sox Nation/Yankee Nation – ever heard of the other player or even cared about either of them before Wednesday?

As all ball players are taught to do, Austin went hard into his slide. He also went in with his spikes high and to the left of the bag, clipping Holt’s lower leg.

Words were exchanged both on the field and on Twitter.

Red Sox Nation knew it was a bad slide.

Yankee Nation knew there was nothing dirty about it.

Everybody watching the game on television got two stories.

Those watching PIX-11, the Yankees broadcast, were preached to about it being a good slide, nothing wrong with it.

Those watching on NESN were told it was the first salvo of a dirty play, the latest moment in a rivalry gone kind of stale in the 21st Century.

As much as it seemed to be a heads-or-tails issue, truth be told and it was a two-headed coin and it all depended upon the eye of the beholder.

Or, what if the spikes were on the other feet?

Austin struck out in his next at-bat, which certainly made Red Sox fans chuckle. Take that, right!

Well, no.

In the seventh inning, the Red Sox got what the infamous unwritten baseball rules cite as revenge, and he got plunked in the back with a 98-mile-per-hour Joe Kelly fastball.

Austin exploded.

Twitter exploded.

And everything else all depended from which eyes you watched.

Red Sox fans embraced Kelly screaming “Let’s go!!!” as Austin charged the mound from the batter’s box.

Yankees fans laughed at how its behemoth batting due of Aaron Judge (6-foot-7, 282 pounds) and Giancarlo Stanton (6-6, 245 pounds without his wallet) “pushed the pile of players” toward the Red Sox dugout.

As though nobody who adores pinstripes has ever heard the law of physics before.

But I digress.

As I perused Twitter, half watching the rest of the game, two things popped into my head—What I thought and what I knew.

What I thought was this: Did Austin intend to hurt Holt with his slide? Probably not, though it wasn’t as innocent a slide as Yankee fans would have you believe. The spikes were high and inside the bag. Period.

What I know is this: Had the tables been turned, had Holt slid into a base in identical fashion, and had his metal spikes clipped the lower leg of Yankees shortstop Didi Gregrious, New York fans would have been saying the same thing Red Sox fans were.

But alas that is likely to ever happen.

You either support 45 or you don’t. You either think it’s OK to have a tank or anti-air defense missile in your basement or you don’t.

You either support the Yankees or the Red Sox.

Or you watched Netflix last night and none of this makes any sense to you.

Happy 2017-Plus One (at least for now)

Let’s not flush 2018 away just yet, eh?

It took approximately two and half hours to fully realize that the peace-and-love salutations of the New Year were long gone.

From the time “Auld Lang Syne” ended to when the last party favor was sounded, peace and love took a back seat to an inebriated asshole pounding on his hotel room door.

And yelling. Loudly.

“Let me in! Quit being a bitch! What the fuck?!”

On the other side of his door – which just happened to be on the other side of my paper thin New York City hotel room wall – I could hear her crying as she yelled back incoherently.

She let him in – finally – but that didn’t stop the clamoring.

What was I listening to exactly?

A domestic situation? A lovers spat? A brother and sister disagreeing on who gets the family portrait and/or cat after the funeral? A guy downgrading a hooker because he didn’t get what he wanted for his $100?

It was 2:45 in the morning in New York City, but if it had been Atlantic City it’d be 1 to 5 to pick ‘em.

Part of me kept waiting for a gunshot, and for Detectives Briscoe and Green to show up at my door as the Law & Order music played.

Alas, neither came.

Finally, after a while, there was just silence. And sleep came again.

When I left the city for the trip home to Connecticut this morning, there was a note slid into the door-jam of the offending room.

I wondered who the author was.

Was it from him?

“I’m sorry, baby … Come back to me … I’m downstairs in the lobby, waiting for you … You’re my life, baby … I love you … They’re just words, baby …  You’re not really all those things I called you. It was the booze talkin’, baby … I’ll see you soon. Don’t forget my wallet. It’s on the dresser. Love, Man Who Yells A lot.”

Or, was it from her?

“Go to hell you rotten no good piece of shit … You know what you did last night and the fact you were still carrying on about it at two forty-five in the morning proves you don’t belong with somebody like me, so bite me! Sincerely, A Women Who Cries A lot. PS. I flushed your wallet down the toilet.”

As much as my curiosity wanted to get the best of me, and as much I as I had every right to read that note since they opted to be so loud as to include me in the early morning brouhaha, I opted to leave it all behind.

I pressed the elevator button and went down, hoping there wasn’t a dead person behind that closed door. Try explaining that finger print on the note to Detectives Briscoe and Green, as the Law & Order music plays.

Detectives Briscoe and Green (Courtesy of NBC)

I bring you this story because on my train ride home from the city that never sleeps, yet often brings the fight right to your doorstep, I realized that 2018 is simply the end of 2017, only a day later.

On my iPhone I perused my social media walls over and over again; from Facebook to Twitter to Instagram, and back again, updating over and over.

I saw so many people saying all the right things about 2018. How we have to be nicer to each other, care about each other more, and do all the right things to make this world a better place.

And then I realized some of them meant they would do so, only after they trashed this person with their words, or relayed/retweeted/shared somebody else’s thoughts on somebody in negative fashion.

Goodbye 2017. Hello 2017-plus one.

The guy I call 45 is still president, the country is still as torn apart as it’s ever been in my lifetime, and people just keep letting me down.

I wasn’t even 12 hours into the New Year when that hit me.

Like dominos falling, though, a second thought hit me soon after.

Why follow the negativity? Why have it as a daily part of my social (media) life? Why let it in?

I have the power to block, or unfollow, or unfriend, or X out people with the click of a mouse … and I don’t have to leave a note in the door to finalize what direction these online relationships are going.

I have the power.

I’ve used it before (after Newtown I unfriended family members and unfollowed long-time friends who made asinine statements) and it made my life better.

Certainly everybody has their First Amendment right to opine in any way they see fit, and I support that 110 percent. But I have my First-Plus One Amendment right to make sure I don’t have to read what I’m tired of reading in the safety of my own living room.

In some cases, I even agree with what’s being said, but if it’s negative, why even say it? I’m just so tired of the negativity. I think back to that lesson I learned as an 8-year-old about if you can’t say something nice.

So I’m going to take my power back.

Maybe I and I alone can make 2017-Plus One feel like 2018, at least to me, personally.

Maybe in my own pathetic little world (yes, that’s a negative, so maybe I’ll just block myself on social media), I can make things a tiny little brighter for me.

And, in doing so, maybe that extra watt of brightness that radiates from me, maybe it might rub off on somebody else.

Just like that the world is a better place. Maybe not a lot, but I’ll take a little these days.

Last week, I read a post about the butterfly effect, about how if somebody goes back in time and does something as insignificant as stepping on a butterfly, it could change the future.

The post asked, if do so something so little today, why can’t we realize we’re changing the future, too?

So here is my note, slid into all of your social-media door jams: Change the future. Think positive. Be positive.

And watch Law & Order. Such a good show.

Happy 2017-Plus One.

Taking a Stand: When are we going to get to the real issues?

Roofers in Waterville, Maine, stand for the National Anthem playing at nearby football game.

So three roofers are standing on a roof.

What sounds like the beginning of a lame bar joke is actually one of the problems with what’s wrong with America, at least in my humble opinion.

Let’s get one thing straight, though: Three roofers taking time out from doing their job and standing for the National Anthem isn’t the problem.

The fact that act is going viral?

I have an issue with that.

My own job puts me in places where the National Anthem is played from five to seven times a week.

I can say with 100 percent authority that in my 33-year career as a sports writer, 99.99 percent of the people within my eye sight are standing when Francis Scott Key’s words start getting sung.

“Oh say can you see….”

A problem in America?

Boy, can I.

Why is something 99 percent of Americans do going viral?

Because the hatred in this country in 2017 for that other 1 percent runs so deep, it’s scary.

Now I’ve gone on the record saying I can’t ever see myself NOT standing for the National Anthem, regardless of the fact that “God Bless America” should truly be our country’s Anthem.

I do support those who want to “protest” by not standing, however.

Their freedom to do that, at least to me, is the ultimate statement of how truly free this country is.

This fall, for journalistic reasons, I’ve been looking around a lot more during the National Anthem to see if anybody dares to take a knee or stay seated during the twilight’s last gleaming.

I’ve seen baseball players two fields away stop their game and stand at attention. I’ve seen adult softball players in the same complex put down their hidden beers and stand at attention. I’ve seen people outside of the stadium stop what they’re doing as the music wafts across the air and disappears into the distance.

I’ve seen people standing in their backyards having lunch, or a swim in their pool, climb out on their decks, face the flag while soaking wet, and honor America.

It’s what we do. Well, 99 percent of us.

So when I see a photo of three guys doing what I’ve seen countless others do “go viral” I can only shake my head.

Only in America.

The fact the National Anthem keeps being an issue, at least to me, is nothing but a deflection from the Orange Glow out of Washington, D.C., to distract us from the real problems this country refuses to deal with.

And that saddens me.

Why are we having this fight?

When are we going to get to the real issues?

If I had to guess, it won’t be until 2020 when the next President of the United States is voted in and has the unenviable task of trying to heal a shattered country.

Again in America

(Photo by John Locher/Associated Press)

I never wanted to go to Las Vegas. It was never on my bucket list of places to visit or things to do.

I had no interest in the bright lights, The Strip, the casinos, that silly sign that sits obnoxiously on the edge of the city as a photobomb for tourists who stand in line to pose for photos underneath it.

It was never a take it or leave it situation, either.

I was leaving it without ever being there.

Until I went.

I loved it and can’t wait to go back.

This Monday morning though, as the sun rises over the southern Nevada desert city, Las Vegas has changed.

Its lights won’t flicker as brightly. The bells and whistles of the casino slot machines won’t sound so musical as it plays as the city’s soundtrack.

Not with the echoes of all those gunshots still ringing out.

Late Sunday, from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, a 64-year-old man opened fire with an automatic weapon.

Photo by John Nash

He pointed his killing machine toward an outdoor concert venue across the street, a plot of land that had more than 30,000 people sardined in front of a stage to attend a country music festival.

More than 50 people were killed – children, daughters, sons, parents. That’s a number that’s likely to go even higher after this diatribe is published.

More than 200 people were injured, their bodies torn apart by flying bullets, or hurt during the stampede to escape with their lives.

A small part of Las Vegas died last night.

The rest of the country could only cry.

Another day in 21st century America, folks.

Less than two months ago, I was across the Mandalay Bay casino floor. I did one big loop and left the way I came, back to the Luxor, which is where I was staying while in town for an AAU Basketball Tournament.

Directly across the street from the Luxor was the open space that held the Route 91 Harvest Country Festival.

Maybe that’s why this latest American tragedy hits so close to home.

While I walked the Las Vegas Strip, from The Venetian south, I had spent four days living within a football field from the place where so many people would be innocently gunned down.

With my trip to Vegas almost 60 days behind me, I had gone to bed in the safety of my humble abode two hours before the shooting started.

I woke up at 3 a.m. local time, glanced at my cell phone and saw a long line of text message alerts telling me off the shooting.

I got out of bed and turned on CNN for more information. I tuned in to the Las Vegas Police Department’s online scanner. I turned to Twitter and saw the videos and heard the gunshots.

At that time, only two were confirmed dead and more than 20 were injured.

I was pretty sure those numbers would grow by morning.

Sadly, I wasn’t wrong.

More than 50 people dead.

More than 200 people injured.

By a man with a gun.

Again in America.

There are still many questions to be answered and the LVPD, FBI, ATF and all those other alphabet agencies will do its best to answer those.

And, this isn’t just about the guns, believe me. That’s part of the problem, certainly, but it’s a far bigger issue about the society we live in.

Sadly, because this is the – ahem – “United” States of America nothing will change.

You won’t work with us to do what’s truly right, so we won’t work with you.

Somewhere down the road, in another city of another state, another mass shooting will shock us and sadden us.

More of our children and parents will die in pools of blood, be it in a public venue like the one in Las Vegas, a movie theater in Colorado, a night club in Orlando, or schools located in Columbine, or just up the road in Connecticut.

To those lost on a suddenly violent Sunday night alongside the Vegas Strip, may their souls rest in peace.

To those of us once again left behind, may our souls dig deep to start finding the answers to change the world before it’s too late.

Five dollars for your thoughts

She asked me if I would buy some oil from her for $2.

That’s how we met, me and the girl who had once been so pretty.

I could see it in her eyes as I looked at her. She had been beautiful once, probably not that long ago, albeit before the demons called on her and changed her life forever.

I didn’t need any oil, but I knew what she really wanted.

I told her I didn’t think I had any cash, until I put my hand in my pocket and pulled out $11 – a ten and a one.

I handed her a George and told her I needed the rest to buy something inside.

As I shopped my mind argued with itself.

She’s probably hungry, my better half tried to convince me. What’s a few more bucks so she can get some chips or some water … something to put just a little bit more color in that once-pretty face.

I also scoffed at myself. Whatever was given to her was going to either get shot into her vein, or snorted up her nose before the clock struck ten.

Every so often, I do this.

I’m approached from somebody asking for just a few bucks.

Sometimes I ignore them.

Sometimes I lie to their faces and tell them I’m using plastic when a roll of bills is burning a hole in my pocket.

Sometimes I reach in and hand it over some cold, hard cash.

Not a lot, mind you. But enough to keep her going for the next soft-hearted dope to come along.

What money they have likely is going to go to drugs or alcohol. I know.

But druggies need to eat. They need to drink water, or soda, or juice to survive before the drugs finally get the best of them and they really do die.

I bought $11.28 worth of sustenance and handed the cashier my $10 bill.

“Could you change this for two fives?” I asked.

Split the difference, I figured.

Just in case.

I walked out of the store and walked up to the woman, looking again in those eyes.

“Here you go,” I said, handing her one of the $5 bills. “I hope it’s not going straight into your arm.”

By the time I let go, I saw her reaction.

I had my answer.

Her eyes told me as they looked down to the ground. The sore near her chin disappeared as she lowered her head.

She tried to recover, tried to recover and stammer out an answer.

“No,” she said. “I need gas for my car. I can show you.”

“If you had asked me to buy you some gas I would have filled your tank,” I said.

I paused.

My heart sank.

“Be safe tonight,” I said, walking away from her and back toward my car.

I just got home and put the other $5 bill on my dresser.

Dear Lottery Winner, What if?

Dear $758 Million Lottery Winner,

I woke up this morning and discovered the bad news. I was not the big money winner of last night’s Powerball drawing.

Instead, you were.

Congratulations.

Then, I discovered more bad news.

After walking up to my local deli, and plugging my own two lottery tickets under the scanner (I didn’t even bother to check the actually numbers) I learned I won $4 on one ticket and another $4 on the next ticket.

That’s $8 out of your winnings going into my pocket. Eight bucks worth of food out our your mouth and into my belly.

I’m sure you’ll find a way to survive. I just hope you’re wise enough to thrive with such winnings.

To paraphrase Voltaire – or maybe it was Spiderman – with great money comes great responsibility.

Spend wisely.

Last night, after hearing  a promo for the upcoming drawing, I allowed myself to briefly wander into the “What if” land of a Lottery Wannabe.

What if by shit luck and circumstance my numbers came up.

Well, first and foremost, I know I wouldn’t have been pocketing $758 million.

According to USAMega Website, “If the winner opts for the lump sum cash payout, as most do, then he or she is being awarded $443,300,000.”

That’s before the United States Federal Government steps in, though.

Federal taxes would steal $110,825,000 — for “45’s” golf fees? State taxes would eat up another $22 million or so.

I’d have to pay my mother $1 million as the obligatory thank you for raising me, as well.

In other words, the $758 million actually becomes something closer to $310 million.

Still wouldn’t fit in my wallet, but you get my point.

So back to my “What if?” scenario.

I’m sure the first year would be just silly and ridiculous in terms of blowing money like it grew on trees. In fact, I might even have paid somebody to place the money on trees at the house I bought so I could just pick it off and spend it.

But in my 51 years and three months on this planet, I like to think I’ve lived rather frugally.

No silver spoon here, folk. I’ve lived paycheck to paycheck for all of my life because I chose a career that made me happy, even if it left my wallet light.

As a lottery winner, I thought to myself, I could live off of $2 million a year quite easily.

If I have 20 years of life left in me, that’s $40 million spent just living – which means I would have close to $200 million left over, even with my initial spending binge.

One of two things would happen, I think.

I’d either be making a bunch of strippers very happy, or I’d have my name on something.

A gymnasium somewhere, I suppose. Or a new wing of a journalism building at some college campus.

I’d give a lot to education because if there is one thing I’ve learned in a half century of life, education is the way out of the mess this country has made for itself.

Instead of continuing to fall behind, why not start taking the steps to catch up.

Maybe I’d buy a weekly newspaper somewhere and as publisher just run it right, not giving a flying fig about the bottom line of the financial books, but the bottom line of Page 36.

We lost a $1 million last year? No problem. Here it is from my lottery winnings. But we did journalism right!

That’s the way I’d professionally want to go out.

Sadly, in this day age of the Fifth Estate, I’m likely going out as a Walmart greeter, informing the public that there’s a 2-for-1 savings on toilet paper in aisle seven.

But all that, of course, was in the “What if?” world.

In the real world, I won $8 playing Power Ball.

I bought a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich, and a 20-ounce coffee for $5.44. I pocketed the other $2, waiting for the next time the lottery hits a couple of hundred million.

Then, realizing I had spent $20 in tickets to win that $8 prize, I started to head off into the “What if” world again.

What if I had that $12 back? What would I spend it on?