The recent frenzy generated by the enormous Powerball payout dominated the national news for days. I’m sure our statistics instructors were amused by some of the “facts” offered in the coverage. Many of us enjoyed fantasizing about how to spend our upcoming windfall. My own dear husband, generous to a fault, added so many potential recipients to his list of people who would share his dough that I wondered aloud if he’d have any money left to send me shopping. “Oh, don’t worry,” he replied. “You’ll get $200.00 to spend any way you want.”
Coach John Calipari of the University of Kentucky, master motivator that he is, used the lottery mania to challenge his players. He offered each member of the team a ticket, and then asked if they knew the odds of winning.
“It’s 292 million to 1. Your ticket ain’t winning. That ticket is not winning.”
Calipari then went on to tell the players that their natural talents were worth far more than a winning lottery ticket.
“They all have a ticket. It’s them.Would you want to be in their shoes as an 18, 19, 20 year old? They all have a Powerball ticket! Play! Fight! Battle! Be worth $100 million! What would you be afraid of? Wouldn’t you just say, ‘I’ve got nothing to lose?'”
Our students don’t have futures in the NBA, but they do have a brighter future than most of the people on the planet. They have the good fortune to have made it this far on the educational ladder, and they have been able to find a way to be in their classes today. They have access to instructors, staff, and administrators who care about them and are invested in their success. The students’ work and our work can create a genuine windfall in their lives and the lives of their families, as well as others who will benefit from the skills and knowledge they are acquiring. Millions of people around the world would love to have those tickets.
Part of our job is to remind them not to throw those tickets in the trash.
(For those of you who bleed Kentucky blue, you can access Calipari’s post-game remarks here...his comments about the lottery begin around 14:21 into the show.)