For something that a great many people enjoy doing, it is striking how desperately un-fun sports gambling is made to look even in the advertising that sports gambling concerns make on their own behalf. The gamblers in these ads are staring determinedly into their phones while sitting on what is strongly implied to be but not quite shown to be a toilet, or they are sitting on a couch wearing jerseys that say FOOTBALL on the front and cheering as if terrified; the services themselves are sold in ads that are either joke-shaped without ever trying to be funny or purposeful and urgent and otherwise totally obtuse. Jamie Foxx is walking down a corridor and talking to you like you’re the world’s biggest asshole in the precise tone of voice that Michael Mann characters use when speaking on the phone; someone who looks like—but is probably not—Aaron Paul is wearing a turtleneck and sneering something at you about prop bets, also in a tone that implies you are the world’s biggest asshole. This is a service that combines watching sports and, theoretically, making some money. And yet every bit of it is pitched squarely in the tonal register of Things Having To Do With Being Kidnapped. Again, these are the advertisements.
It is both one of the sadder and funnier things about American culture at the moment that the default mode of communication has slid into something like a threat; in confused and frightening times, some people find it useful, or comforting, to attempt to cover up their confusion and fear by trying to seem as masterful and menacing as they can. This is sad, mostly. But in the moments where it is stretched to its limits, it can achieve a sublime uncanniness—a “tactical” Valentine’s Day card with the Punisher skull on it, a baby in a digicam onesie with the words I Will Kill You printed on it, the brain-damaged Skeletor energy of Rep. Clay Higgins’s social media presence. No one is really comfortable having fun, or even appearing to have fun, seemingly because they do not want to yield the tactical advantage that presumably comes with riding the raw edge of terror at every waking moment. There are levels to this shit, but all of them resolve to a specifically American paranoia—every good thing that happens to you is something that you will have to defend against them. Every advertisement pitched in this register—whether for enormous scowling trucks or Operator-themed coffee or sports gambling apps—is also, at some level, an ad for buying a gun.
This is all too abstract, maybe. It is easy to spot various aspects of this in the culture—the blustering menace and the absolute raw terror are intertwined, though one is sometimes easier to detect than the other—but it is not much fun to think about, both on its merits and in what it implies. To look at it straight on, for any period of time, is unpleasant. Luckily, Darren Rovell’s Friday evening post at the gambling site The Action Network concerning what you should do if you happen to catch Aaron Judge’s 61st or 62nd home run ball is extremely brief, and admirably comprehensive. It is all there—the veneer of passionless expertise and mastery over the bottomless horror of living in a world in which everyone is your enemy. The post is sort of about how to win the experience of catching a significant and valuable home run ball, but it is not-so-secretly about how not to die as a result of that experience.
Rovell sets the stage immediately: You have bought a seat at Yankee Stadium and caught one of Judge’s historic dingers. Great. Just fucking great.
You are in a swarm of people as a combination of security and MLB officials head your way.
“Come this way,” says one security officer holding your wrist to get out.
“Would you like to meet Mr. Judge after the game?” says a league official.
The best thing to do: Stay calm and don’t give into the pressure of the moment.
They’ll try to make a deal immediately.
“There’s no deal,” you say. “This is my property.”
What you do in the next 20 minutes is essential.
So what do you do?The Action Network
The rest of the post unfolds roughly along the same beats and in the same tone as Liam Neeson giving advice to his daughter before she is (spoiler) taken in the movie Taken. This ball that you just caught, Rovell says, could be worth as much as $2 million at auction. Provided, that is, you do not screw it up by allowing one of the many adversaries you will face to take it from you. Nothing in your life will ever be the same after catching this ball. All that you have, all that you’ve known, whoever you were, and whatever you loved before that ball landed in your hands—that is in the past. The thing, now, is to extract the maximum value from what has just happened to you.
If you are a fan “and this moment is enough for you,” Rovell writes, you might as well give the ball to the Yankees and their star slugger. But don’t be an idiot about it.
Fair value, aside from a check, likely includes something that was on Judge’s body when he hit the shot.
You likely won’t get the bat or the jersey, but you should start there.
Then ask in this order: Batting gloves ($50K), cleats ($50K), batting helmet ($35K) and wristbands ($5K). You should aim to get all of them.
Your ball is worth $500,000.
You need game-used items. Not the signed balls and signed bat that the guys who caught No. 60 went home with.
Get a picture too.
Of course, if you want to try getting more for the ball, you will have to do more than driving a respectable bargain with Randy Levine’s boys. This starts with getting out of the stadium—”if you took the subway to the game, take a ride share service back,” Rovell writes—and will continue as you face down a series of other challenges. “While in the car home, make plans to figure out where the ball will be stored,” Rovell suggests. “Your house is not sufficient,” he adds, ominously.
You will need to get in touch with lawyers, he continues, not-much-less ominously. They will interface with auction houses, and you will then have to do media to promote the auction at which your ball will be sold. The auction house will get its cut and you will get yours. “And remember,” he notes, “collectibles sold at a gain—if you hold it for less than one year—are subject to ordinary income tax rates.”
This is where Rovell leaves it, but it is by no means the end of the story.
By the point the check clears, less the auction house’s 17-to-25-percent fee, you probably will have made ready the way to spend that money safely. You would, long ago, have abandoned your home, naturally, and removed from the equation anyone from your previous life who might have an eye on your winnings. You would have altered your appearance in some way or other, maybe not so dramatically but enough that you would be able to vanish seamlessly into the new identity or if necessary identities that will afford you something like safety and anonymity in your new life. This is not the end, of course. You will still have to defend what’s yours. But maybe take a moment, then, after your escape is complete, to remember. Do not remember who you were, before that ball came sizzling your way through the fall night; that person does not matter, you must kill them and bury them, they can only get you hurt where you are now. But remember what happened to you. Remember what you have to protect, and this time build for yourself a home that will be sufficient to protect it. And congrats!