Everybody wins with the lottery
By Brian Murphy
Special to Page 2

Was it Forrest Gump (or just some Chinese table-tennis champion from the Nixon era) who said: Life is like a pingpong ball. You never know who's going to get Yao Ming.

Jerry Krause and Garry St. Jean
The pingpong balls were not kind to Jerry Krause, left, and Garry St. Jean.
Today at The Cooler, we do not bring you Sparkletts.

Instead, our Dixie Cup runneth over with lottery balls.

And really, isn't that why you became a sports fan in the first place? Screw the '75 World Series. Bag the Bird-Magic NBA Finals clashes. Stifle a yawn over Barry Bonds' whole Willie Mays Act. Who needs human drama, unscripted theater, the struggle of athletic endeavor in the ultimate forum?

It's all about the lottery, baby. It's all about some suit holding Monty Hall-styled "Let's Make a Deal" envelopes, saying, in effect: Do the Golden State Warriors want the $100 I'm holding in my hand, or what's behind Door No. 2?

Say the Warriors: Door No. 2!

Says Monty Hall, er, David Stern: Ohhhhhh! Turns out it's a donkey! Johnny Olsen, why don't you tell Garry St. Jean about this durable burro?

Really. Could we end the NBA draft lottery? Like, now?

It starts with those absurd percentage breakdowns. You want percentages of lottery balls? I've got percentages.

At The Cooler, it breaks down like this:

  • A 22.5 percent chance that I will write my next Cooler column without a single focused idea.

    Steve Francis
    Steve Francis couldn't hide his glee when the Rockets' number came up.

  • A 22.5 percent chance that during this Cooler column, I will meander into the TV room and watch the "Survivor Reunion" show with my girl and wonder aloud if Boston Rob shagged California Sarah.

  • A 15.7 percent chance that I will shamelessly kiss Jason Giambi's hindquarters in this column.

  • A 12.0 percent chance that I will go out of my way to get a shout-out to a close friend, abusing my privilege as a Page 2 contributor.

  • An 8.9 percent chance that I will sleep in this morning so deeply, I will forget to move my car from its street parking spot and get a parking ticket.

  • A 6.4 percent chance that I will shoehorn a PGA Tour/Tiger Woods take somewhere into this column, just to pump up the sport I cover regularly for the San Francisco Chronicle.

  • A 4.4 percent chance that I will go out of my way to get a shout-out for a second close friend, doubly abusing my privilege as a Page 2 contributor.

  • A 2.9 percent chance that the boys in Bristol, Conn., at ESPN World HQ, will wake me -- again -- with a 6 a.m. PT phone call saying: "Uh, Murph ... could we rework this Cooler column again, starting from the top?"

    I'm telling you, man, it ain't easy dispensing lottery balls from The Cooler. I mean, what do I know about pingpong balls? Last time I played pingpong, it was against my sister in the mid-1970s for the right to sit in the best chair in the TV room for ABC's power-packed Tuesday night hour of "Happy Days" and "LaVerne and Shirley."

    I wish I were kidding you.

    We'd better get straight to the Weekend List of Five, before the Warriors' draft pick slips any lower:

    1. And through the raindrops, he looked more and more like the Bambino ...
    Jason Giambi's grand slam was incredibly dramatic ... but Yankees fans have no right to cheer.
    I promised Yankee fans this day was coming. When you lunatics -- lunatics, I say! -- booed your prized free agent in early April ...

    Wait. Let me go over that sentence again.

    When you lunatics -- lunatics, I say! -- booed your prized free agent in early April ...

    Wait. I can't get over that initial introductory clause.

    You booed this cat in early April.

    That's not a great sports town. That's a sports town in need of a tranquilizer.

    So anyway, I promised you a month ago that Jason Giambi would deliver. On Friday night, when he pumped a grand slam, three runs down, in the bottom of the 14th, in the rain, he didn't just deliver. He was giving half of the peace sign to you April boobirds.

    I reiterate my claim from six weeks ago: Yankee fans are not allowed to cheer G right now. You must serve some sort of Insane Fan Penance, where you can't cheer him. You must instead pen him letters of apology. Preferably, on personal stationery.

    Now that's the end of that.

    2. Essay questions from the NBA conference finals
    It's springtime. Time for kids taking finals and kids graduating from school. As such, the NBA conference finals have presented some potential Blue Book essay questions.

    To wit:

    Kobe Bryant
    For those folks in Sacramento who do not know, this is Kobe Bryant.

  • What were the Sacramento Kings doing before Game 1 with their little huddle-up Rockettes dance? Was this supposed to be intimidating? Did this not, perhaps, have the opposite effect of intimidation -- indeed, perhaps, have the effect of comedy? Explain.

  • Is there any reason to believe the Kings have more than a snowball's chance in hell against the two-time defending champions? Noted expert Bill Walton, asked on NBC immediately before tip-off if the Kings had narrowed the gap with the Lakers, answered plainly: "Absolutely not." Should NBC praise Walton for his honesty, or dock his paycheck for giving viewers a reason to go clean the rain gutters instead? Explain. (For bonus points, explain in the voice of NBC sports executive Dick Ebersol.)

  • Is there any reason to believe Kobe Bryant's story about the Sacramento woman who did not recognize him at the "Star Wars" movie before Game 1? If so, explain in detail how a supposed Kings fan would not recognize a 6-foot-6 black man who looked like Kobe Bryant in a Sacramento movie theater? (Bonus points if you make this answer believable.)

    3. Speaking of graduation ...
    Big news here in the Bay Area when the University of California at Berkeley -- Cal, to all who follow the Pac-10 -- had Olympic mogul skier Jonny Moseley as its commencement speaker. Some felt this was the equivalent of Faber College having John (Bluto) Blutarsky speak at its graduation. Best take I heard on Moseley was from my boy T.C. We were watching his "Dinner Roll" move at Salt Lake City from a local tavern in San Francisco, and T.C. said, right when Moseley pulled it off: "Man. That's pretty good for a guy who spent the last four years drinking and (shagging)."

    It made me wonder. Should other prestigious institutions dump the idea of a bookish intellect for commencement speaker? What could be done? My same boy T.C. has a nephew, C.C., at Annapolis, the U.S. Naval Academy. I wonder, should they just bring in Roger Staubach to tell the grads: "Really, guys. It's not about serving your country. It's about having a rocket for an arm and a pair of great feet. You can skate through your time at sea, then launch an NFL Hall of Fame career. It's easy. I swear."

    Or should UCLA bring Bill Walton to speak every June? Quoth the Redhead: "I've seen some of your essay answers to my NBA conference finals questions, and really, they're just awful. I've also seen what Steve Lavin has done to this once-proud program, and it's horrendous. It's why I sent my kid to Arizona."

    4. This whole War Emblem thing
    War Emblem
    War Emblem is closing in on the Triple Crown, but the horse's owner still has a lot to learn.
    Yeah, I've got no problem with this handsome thoroughbred getting it done at the Derby and at the Preakness. Fair play. It's a beautiful horse.

    My problem is with the Saudi sheik who bought War Emblem about 10 seconds before arriving at Churchill Downs. Hey, you buy the horse, you won, fair enough. But after the Preakness win, when Bob Costas asks the delicate question of how Americans are receiving you, you don't say: "Really, I think I'm more popular than President Bush."

    Now I'm not here to preach politics, Senor Sheik. I am here, however, to invoke the words of my wise Grandpa, who once said to me: "In mixed company, never talk politics, religion or another man's wife."

    See, Sheik? I don't know about you. But me? If I'm you? In this environment? I lay low, pal. Act like you've been there before.

    Just a word of advice before the Belmont. And good luck to War Emblem, baby.

    5. Issuing fair warning
    I forgot one more lottery ball percentage -- a 100 percent chance that, starting May 31, the Cooler will pimp the World Cup.

    That's right. There's room on this plate for Major League Baseball, the NBA Finals, and the concept of firing up for a Poland-Portugal match in Team USA's bracket.

    Open your international eyes, Cooler-dwellers. There's a whole world out there beyond the lottery balls.

    Brian Murphy of the San Francisco Chronicle writes the "Weekend Water Cooler" every Monday for Page 2.



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