Monday, April 23, 2007

The Dead Yeltsin Pool

In 1995 Boris Yeltsin fell ill and underwent a second heart operation. For weeks and weeks he hovered on the brink of death, his every (not very sober) breath the subject of breathless worldwide news bulletins.

A cynical cadre of Pensacola trivia buffs tired of the constant media attention. They started among themselves a "Dead Yeltsin Pool." For one dollar you could buy a number from 1 to 31. Winner take all -- the proceeds went to the one who bought the exact day of the month Yeltsin finally died.

Sick? Undoubtedly. Iconoclastic? Yes. Disrespectful of human life? Perhaps, but unintentionally so.

The Dead Yeltsin Pool calendar was circulated among patrons of Damon's, then a local sports bar and one of the first venues where NTN Trivia could be played. The restaurant manager held the calendar of bets and the money. Relying on media reports, everyone assumed Yeltsin would die soon.

But he didn't. Instead, he lived on and on and on and on.

In the intervening years, one president was impeached. Another should have been. The U.S. started an imperialist war and can't figure out how to end it. Damons' Pensacola manager quit once, was rehired, and quit again. Damon's itself eventually closed. A new and fancier restaurant, without the distraction of electronic trivia games, took its place. NTN Trivia changed its name to the awful-sounding, cacophonous "Buzztime." The gambling trivia buffs scattered to new restaurant venues from Pensacola to Destin. The 1995 U.S. dollar fell to about 67 cents.

And now, sad to say, Yeltsin has died. On April 23.

We want our money.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

He was a politician in the mold of the old Democratic city pols - a construction worker who went up through the union, to the party, and clawed his way to the top.

Too bad about his decision on Putin.