News of the inane

I love news stories that aren’t news stories. I flipped on the TV this morning and saw that a local station had gone through the trouble of sending a crew out to the freeway to interview a police official who had some startling news: With more people driving and more cars on the road, there might be more accidents this weekend. You think?

Then I flipped over to the national all-news networks, and it wasn’t much better. Three channels devoted time this morning to talking about the lottery. With our country currently involved in two wars, national elections a few months off, and dozens of other major issues, the freaking lottery was a news story.

Here’s the print version, from the Albany Times-Union:

George Frany Jr. hasn’t bought his ticket yet. But have no doubts, he will.
A lottery skeptic, Frany knows better than anyone that his chances of winning $290 million in tonight’s Mega Millions jackpot aren’t good. Since the jackpot hit $200 million, he’s seen hundreds of hopeful multimillionaires walk through his convenience store door to dish out as much as $50 on tickets and strategically fill in the little numbered boxes with parents’ birthdays and children’s ages.

“It’s strange. At $3 million, people will say, ‘I’m not going to bother,’ ” said Frany, owner of a Mobil gas station on Delaware Avenue. “But now their odds are five times worse because the tickets are so hot.”

From behind his convenience store counter, it’s easy for Frany to shake his head at the unlikely dreams of his customers.

But it’s hard to ignore the scrolling marquee on his cash register that, in flashing multicolored figures, repeatedly reminds everyone who passes that they could win “$290 million” and encourages them to “Play Now!!”

So Frany’s buying his Mega Millions ticket today. Though barely of legal age, 18-year-old George Frany III has already purchased $10 worth using the $7 he won when he matched three numbers in the $210 million jackpot.

With 400,000 Mega Millions tickets selling per hour in New York alone, the Franys are far from alone in their guilty pleasure. The odds of winning today’s jackpot are 1 in 135,145,920.

For a shot at $290M, you bet they’re irrational

It’s funny that, for years, anti-gamblers attacked the numbers as the most pernicious form of gambling, with the worst odds. Now that state governments profit from it, it’s impossible to make it through breakfast without listening to “newscasters” basically promoting the lottery.

I wouldn’t dwell on this, but the line between news and stupid is getting very blurry. One news network actually ran an extended piece on, “What would you do with $300 million.” Gee, let me think…buy stuff? How is this a news story? Of course, before the lottery, everyone will talk about all of the charitable work they will do, because they’re trying to curry divine or karmic favor (just like people heading into casinos, who need a little luck, are usually more polite than those heading out). But I guarantee that most people think “car, boat, expensive electronics.”

Of course, what I would do with the money would be a legitimate news story–I’d buy the Boardwalk casino and turn it into a living carnival of the absurd.
clown on the Strip
If I played the lottery and won, this might be mine.

I don’t know exactly what I would do with the property (besides retaining the evil clown facade), but isn’t it fun to dream? I wouldn’t dream of taking up bandwidth with musings like these, but apparently dreamy speculation is considered hard news today.