Good Men Project resident bluesman Todd Mauldin explains the value of $1 bets.
I’m from Nevada, so I like a good bet more than most. And I’m looking at a genuine US dollar that features the authentic signature of the founder of the Good Men Project, Mr. Tom Matlack. I won this signed dollar off of him when I challenged him into betting me about the 2011 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco, where the University of Nevada Wolf Pack whipped up on Boston College. It was a big deal to us out here in Reno, because we don’t usually have our team nationally ranked and playing in a bowl game, and it was damn sure a big deal between me and Matlack, because we both understood what was at stake: pride. And after he lost, like I knew he would, he pulled out a dollar and, through bitter tears I’m sure, he wrote his name on it along with the defiant inscription “Go BC” and put it in the mail to me. It joined a very exclusive and distinguished group of dollars I have pinned up on the wall of my den.
See, signed dollar bets are perfect between friends. It isn’t about the money changing hands so much as it is making the loser autograph his poor judgment for all posterity. A signed dollar won or lost becomes a trophy. An heirloom. I can’t help but smile when I look at my collection of signed dollar trophies. But then again, I have to cringe a little too, because I know that out there in the world, there are several dollars with my autograph on them, many bearing much more profane and passionate inscriptions than Tom’s, marking the times when I had to eat my words.
One of my best friends and one of the the best men I ever knew was a betting man, too … my father-in-law, Larry.
He died in 1999, but back in the old days we loved to bet each other over stuff. Our standard wager was $10. Larry loved boxing, and in the 90s, when Oscar De La Hoya was dominant, he always used to tell me he hated De La Hoya and would ALWAYS bet against him. We’d fuss and argue, then fight night would come, De La Hoya would win, and Larry would give me my $10. I won a lot of money off Larry from those fights. Then, after his funeral, I found out from some of his family that Larry actually loved De La Hoya, thought he was the greatest fighter of the era. He just loved messing with me more, so he’d bet against ol’ Golden Boy and lose $10, just to get me riled up.
He was also a big Oakland Raiders fan, and I’m a Steelers fan. So you know we always had a $10 bet on Oakland vs. Pittsburgh, and one year, after the Raiders lost to the Steelers (again), Larry paid off his wager by putting a $10 bill in an envelope, then stapling it about 350 times, and mailing it to me. It took me over an hour to pull all the staples out. My $10 bill looked like a very thin slice of swiss cheese with a President on it.
And even though I have all these great memories of him, I don’t have anything tangible to show for our gambling adventures. I’m sure I spent all his $10 bills, even the stapled one, on something, but I can’t tell you what. I wish we’d been doing signed dollars back then. Because all I can tell you is, I can’t remember a thing I bought with his money, but I sure think of him often. And I’d sure like to get that staple-ridden $10 back and just hold it in my hands awhile.
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