Nine years ago, Roger Federer, then 21, captured his first Wimbledon title.
Nick Newlife, an English tennis fan, was impressed. Based on what he saw, Newlife felt Federer might win at least six more Wimbledon singles titles. And he didn’t just announce that opinion in a pub. He put his money – or at least £1520, about $2,300 – where his mouth was. More precisely, he found a bookie who’d give him odds of 66-1 against the possibility that Federer would win at Wimbledon at least seven times.
By the time Federer managed his seventh win by knocking off hometown favorite Andy Murray last weekend, Newlife had passed away. In fact, he died in 2009. But he’d thoughtfully left his betting slip to Oxfam, the organization that fights poverty and famine around the globe. As of Sunday, Oxfam had $157,749.85 to put toward that good work, courtesy of Newlife’s wager.
This seems to me a story worth retelling for several reasons. There is something deliciously ironic about the marriage of sports betting, which is often regarded as depraved, with the fight against hunger and poverty, which is generally thought to be an admirable pursuit. I also like the idea that your opportunity to win a bet shouldn’t necessarily expire when you do. Beyond that, Newlife’s – and what a great name that is, considering the circumstances – posthumous payoff suggests various possibilities for the rest of us.
Nobody’s likely to run 100 meters in less than nine seconds in London this summer, but what about the Olympics in, say, 2052? Who knows what athletes will be eating and drinking by then, let alone what sort of genetic reconstruction will have become commonplace? What if you could find a bookmaking establishment that would accept your wager on – say – an eight-second 100-meter performance by the 2052 Games, double the payoff if those Games take place on another planet? You might not be around to collect, but, sadly, one presumes there will still be a need for Oxfam.
What have you got to lose? And more to the point, what does Oxfam or the worthy organization of your choice have to gain? You can’t take it with you, but as Nick Newlife recently demonstrated, with a little imagination, you can have a bit of fun betting on the possibility that a significant chunk of the “it” can go on doing good after you’re gone.