So That's Who Wants to Be a Millionaire

There are 7.3 million millionaires in the world. To put that in perspective, if they were to lie down head to toe starting in Los Angeles heading east, over 5 million of them would fall into the Atlantic Ocean and drown, meaning with luck I could skim the surface with a fishing net and make off with some of their money. Hey, fishing's a time-honored, respectable profession.

It's strange to think that one of every 863 people walking around is a millionaire. Okay, maybe most millionaires don't walk, but we can pretend, can't we? I think it's safe to say that I've known at least 863 people in my lifetime and, to the best of my knowledge, not a single one of them is a millionaire. I don't know what the odds are of this, but it seems closely related to the phenomenal anti-luck I have. Take the lottery, for example. In California the odds of winning the lottery are 1 in 14 million. According to Mike Orkin, author of "Can You Win? The Real Odds for Casino Gambling, Sports Betting and Lotteries," you're three times as likely to be killed in a car accident if you drive ten miles to buy that ticket than you are of hitting the jackpot with it. If that's not an argument for getting plenty of exercise, I don't know what is.

The question is, how is it that I can consistently buy a couple of lottery tickets and not match a single number, yet for the life of me I can't make a match and win a lousy dollar? It seems to me the odds are just about as high for losing big as winning big. My brother once told me he could calculate this for me but unfortunately I mistook a "c" for a "w" and am still waiting. Not that it will help my chances, but some days it's nice to remind ourselves we're good at something, even if it is being a loser.

The number of millionaires is growing. Last year the ranks swelled by 2.1 percent. This year the club will welcome at least one new member, and he didn't have to buy a lottery ticket to join. It's LeBron James, the 18 year-old high school basketball player who, without even being signed to a team better yet having played in a pro game, picked up a seven-year endorsement deal with Nike for a whopping $90 million. That's right, he'll be handed more than $12 million a year -- which comes to $1,071,428 a month or $35,225 a day -- just for wearing shoes. You know, those things you have on your feet right now, except you had to pay for yours.

I'd like to meet some of these millionaires just to find out what they're really like, but apparently I hang out in the wrong places. Millionaires, like sea slugs, prefer to spend time with their own kind. And they do it in their own places. You know, places like country clubs, investment seminars, and Tiffany's. Strange, but I don't seem to bump into them at dingy rock clubs, time share presentations which don't come anywhere near making the free weekend stay worth while, or the Dollar Store.

One place you do find them is at presidential campaign fundraisers. These are gatherings in which people with too much money hand over large sums of it so for the rest of their lives they can tell people they had dinner with the President. Hey, if they sat across from him and shared a Grand Slam Breakfast in Denny's I'd be impressed. And curious about which one George W. ordered. My guess is it would be the All-American Slam. Or possibly the Grand Slam Slugger. Something tells me it wouldn't be the French Slam. I mean, the Freedom Slam.

During the 2000 presidential primary, Bush raked in about $100 million through political fundraisers, which is more than any candidate had ever raised. This time around he's trying to break that record and may just do it, considering that the other night at a dinner in New York City he took in $4 million and all he had to do was give a 29-minute speech. That comes to almost $138,000 per minute, which is a close second to what LeBron James will probably earn playing basketball. Not counting his shoe-wearing allowance, of course.

Bush hopes to raise $175 million, which means he's going to have to give about 21 hours' worth of speeches. That's a lot of words to potentially stumble over. But he's going to have to give it his best since his campaign staff plans to spend $426,640 a day between now and November 2004 trying to get him re-elected. That's a lot of money, especially when you consider that just one day's expenditure could buy 12 days of endorsement from LeBron James, a three-minute speech by Bush, or 426,640 lottery tickets. I wonder what the odds are that out of all of those I wouldn't match a single number?

More Mad Dog can be found online at: www.maddogproductions.com. His compilation of humorous travel columns, "If It's Such a Small World Then Why Have I Been Sitting on This Airplane For Twelve Hours?" is available from Xlibris Corporation. Email: md@maddogproductions.com.

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