50/50 raffles are the best part of Tampa Bay sports season
Are you going to win? No! Is it fun to play? Maybe!
A Stanley Cup is nice, but have you won a 50/50 raffle?
A Stanley Cup is nice, but have you won a 50/50 raffle? [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Oct. 26
Updated Oct. 28

Tom Brady is not returning my calls, but I’ve heard from other sources that we’re in the thick of sports season. That means it’s time to “tackle” (ha-ha) a topic oft debated by the global intelligentsia:

50/50 raffles.

A 50/50 raffle is lovely in its simplicity. Folks put money into a pot, and the winner splits the final take with a charity. The more people who buy in, the bigger the pay day.

Fun fact: Many 50/50 raffles in Florida are illegal. For example, an organization cannot require payment to enter, only suggest a donation. I am sorry if that causes infighting at this winter’s Historic Homes Wine-Around, when Trevor insists he does not have to pay by law.

The big sports teams have their patooties covered with legal disclaimers, of course, and no one really enforces raffles at the wing joint cancer fundraiser. Maybe that’s because the enforcers are busy digging in wallets for their last $20.

Or is it just me? I am powerless around a 50/50 raffle, like a dog near a trash can of pulled pork.

I’m not a gambler by nature. In Vegas, I’m more likely to spend on commemorative Celine Dion merchandise than a slot machine. Florida lottery? Nah. My Lottery Dream Home usually ends with a center-unit townhouse in Racine, Wis., which doesn’t seem worth the trouble.

Why, then, is a 50/50 different? The charity element is key, of course. It feels better to risk cash when you know it’s going to a good cause. But it’s more than masking compulsion with virtue. I have thought about this a lot, typically during the final 40 minutes of a sporting event when they stop serving beer.

What we’re paying for is the chance to fantasize through, oh, at least half of a game that may sometimes be, I’m sorry, boring. After spending $40 on a soft pretzel, it feels good to marinate in a daydream of becoming the Stanley Cup champion of raffles.

The sensation travels beyond sports. We visited a church fall festival, an event full of gambling and alcohol sales to raise money for the Lord’s work. After having my tires rotated by a ride called Zero Gravity, I sought solace at the 50/50 table. My stepkid wondered why I would spend money on something I’m not likely to win.

“Steph doesn’t really do anything bad,” her father explained, because covering for my faults is his main task. “Just let her have this.”

Yes, an important life lesson! Just leave your bug-eyed, craven family member alone to wallow in her toothless vice! Talk about her to your friends, if you must, but walk on!

It goes without saying that I have never won a 50/50 raffle and don’t expect to. If you play, you know that, right? The odds are just incredibly bad, especially in an arena filled with 20,000 loose-wallet revelers on a third White Claw.

But you know what’s priceless? Sitting through the seventh inning of a Rays game, when someone has been trying to steal third for a full 20 minutes, watching that number tick up on the big screen. Imagine how it would feel to replace a fence and pay off a Visa and purchase a California Closets system?

You could use a good laugh

You could use a good laugh

Subscribe to our free Stephinitely newsletter

Columnist Stephanie Hayes will share opinions and funny business with you every Monday.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

In that moment, ever brief, there is true joy.

Get Stephanie’s newsletter

For weekly bonus content and a look inside columns by Stephanie Hayes, sign up for the free Stephinitely newsletter.

Related: Read more columns from Stephanie Hayes