2/15/2005

Pope-a-Dope

Inspired by Martini Pundit...

The Pope pulled through his recent hospitalization, much to the the chagrin of Las Vegas books...

With odds against the pope?s survival set as high as 12-1, Las Vegas? biggest sports books took a massive financial hit last weekend when the ailing pontiff pulled off a huge upset against his heavily favored archrival, death.

?No question, it?s a catastrophic loss,? said Bally?s sports book director Tony Silvestro. ?You?ve got a frail and gaunt 84-year-old man with massive health problems and he finally gets the flu. It?s like a gift from God for oddsmakers. I?ve never been more confident of a betting line.?

Death opened as a whopping 16-1 favorite, but early betting on the pope gradually lowered the line to 12-1. A few lower-tier casinos dropped the line until it began attracting equal dollars from death and pope bettors, but the normally cautious big casinos felt death?s victory was such a sure thing that they allowed themselves to become overextended.
There's something darkly humorous about people in Las Vegas betting against the Pope. How'd you like to have to answer for that at the Pearly Gates?

St. Peter: It says here that you put five large on JP2 going down early.
Me: Well, yeah, but the Pats didn't cover the spread and I was behind.
St. Peter: You will be put to the flame. E! A! G! L! E! S! EAGLES!

Anyhow, word on the street is that the Pope is in stable health, albeit very frail. The images of the Pope that are common today, slumping in his chair and mumbling inaudibly, are at odds with the images of his early papacy. John Paul was an avid skier and outdoorsman, as Lisa Ann Auerbach points out in "Pope on a Rope Tow"...
Pope John Paul II is widely known and revered by millions the world over as the spiritual guide and shepherd of the Roman Catholic Church. What is less well known is his history as a trailblazing two-planker. The Man in White ripped the Polish pow from the time the papacy was just a gleam in his eye until his mature years as the toast of the Vatican. In his younger days, JP2 was known as a megahiker, an avid kayaker, and a camper nonpareil. He preached in the woods, ate watery pudding for sustenance while surfing the backcountry, and repeatedly lost his prayer book in the wild. When asked, "Is it befitting a cardinal to ski?" his reply was, "What is unbefitting a cardinal is to ski badly."
JP2's term - twenty seven years - is the third-longest in the history of the Catholic Church, and he was the first Italian selected in over four and a half centuries. Rumors of his impending death to the contrary, he continues to defy (and impoverish) oddsmakers and has outlived just about everyone ever selected alongside him in a dead pool.

Five days after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997, and while the attention of the world was focused on that tragedy, Mother Teresa quietly slipped out of life's back door. I believe that she chose that moment as a good time to go, sensing an opportunity to depart when her death would not become a spectacle. I always thought it was a classy exit, and in keeping with her character.

Part of me wonders if John Paul isn't waiting for a similar opportunity; leaning back on the ropes, letting Death punch himself out, and waiting for a moment of his own choosing. I'd like to think so. If anyone can take Death the distance, it's John Paul II.

You can bet on it.