Sunday, August 13, 2000


Lottery's purpose questioned

        Bad things happen to good people. That's an easy one. We call it suffering and say it's part of God's plan.

        But what to make of the reverse, when great things happen to total screwups? No wonder ministers would like to ban state lotteries. Goofball winners suggest the big plan is not only mysterious, but also ridiculous.

        Consider Mack Metcalf, the Florence man who won a $65 million Powerball jackpot last month. He started his new life by having his old, pathetic one jerked into the spotlight.

        First, the Kenton County attorney pointed out that Mr. Metcalf, 42, owed $31,000 in child support. A judge decided $880,000 of his winnings should go to a teenage daughter.

Problems described

               Reporters dashed to the courthouse and found the Metcalfs' 1986 divorce papers, in which Marilyn Metcalf describes her husband. On Christmas Eve 1985, he came home in a “drunken stupor” and forced his wife and daughter to leave, she claimed. He has a “severe drug and alcohol problem,” she said.

        More than a decade later the same Mack Metcalf was charged with driving drunk in the parking lot of the Florence Mall.

        There's more.

Still has bad habits
               At the age of 22, Mr. Metcalf was convicted of a misdemeanor after allegedly selling amphetamines to an undercover cop, Kenton County court records show. In 1998, he was evicted from a Covington apartment for failing to pay the $260 monthly rent.

        He almost redeemed himself last week, when he generously gave half a million to some woman. Turns out he was drunk at the time and is now suing to get the money back.

        So what's the plan here? This guy wins millions as a test of our sanity?

Lotteries love him
               I consulted the Rev. John Edgar of the United Methodist Church in central Ohio. He's part of a campaign to eliminate the lottery in the Buckeye state.

        Lottery officials love winners like Mr. Metcalf, the Rev. Mr. Edgar says. They count on selling tickets to hapless types with screwed-up priorities.

        “For every Mack that does win, whether he's deserving or not, the real issue is there are tens of thousands of folks whose lives are as vulnerable or confused as his had been, who just keep on losing,” the minister says.

        He objects to the message lotteries send to schoolchildren: We're preying on poor people to fund your education.

        “We don't want to try to convince people to get something for nothing,” he says.

        Right. But the fact remains: Mr. Metcalf did just that, and it's darned annoying. He's planning to buy several houses in Australia, and he doesn't even have a driver's license.

        Clearly, this is a matter for the New Testament. In Matthew 5:45, Jesus says of the Creator: “He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”

        Life is a test in many ways. The challenge is to love the screwups not only as they are, but even as they become after winning millions.

        Yeah, I know. It's tough. Perhaps we better just train those loving thoughts toward Australia.

        Karen Samples is The Enquirer's Kentucky columnist. Her column appears on Sundays and Thursdays in The Kentucky Enquirer. She can be reached at 578-5584 or email her at