Under the Boardwalk: The MONOPOLY Story10:13

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Contestants look to be crowned champion at the 2009 Monopoly World Championship in Las Vegas. (AP)
Contestants look to be crowned champion at the 2009 Monopoly World Championship in Las Vegas. (AP)

Watching "Under The Boardwalk: The Monopoly Story" brought back various memories, some fond, some not.

Like a lot of the people featured in the documentary, I played Monopoly with my parents. As I recall, that was fun.

But I also sometimes played against a friend of mine who was a natural athlete. This guy pitched for his Little League team and scared most batters so badly they were afraid to dig in against him. He won tennis tournaments, starred in Youth League Basketball, beat everyone I knew in ping-pong, and hit the ball straight down the fairway the first time he picked up a golf club.

In short, he humbled me in every sport we played.

And, though it made no sense, he always won the Monopoly games. Because even the best players featured in "Under The Boardwalk" concede that success in that game is hugely dependent on lucky rolls of the dice. Strategy might come into it from time to time. You don't want to get careless and buy the Reading Railroad from yourself or forget to collect $200 when you pass "Go," but in Monopoly, a gifted athlete should have no advantage over someone who can't hit a curveball and likes to read.

But that's not the way it worked. The gifted athlete always won. I did not question that outcome when I was 12 or 13 or 14. It must have seemed self-evident, perhaps inevitable, if not just.

Now, though, I wonder. Was I the victim of some idiotic impulse to sabotage my own best efforts for the greater glory of the natural? Is that something lots of great athletes experience as they grow up? If so, does it perhaps explain a great deal about how things work out for some of them later on? And if that's what was going on, what would happen if the two of us, I and that guy who excelled at every sport 40 years ago and beat me at Monopoly, too, were each to pick up an iron or a cannon or a top hat and roll today for the first opportunity to own Park Place or Connecticut Avenue?

This segment aired on January 22, 2011.

Bill Littlefield Twitter Host, Only A Game
Bill Littlefield was the host of Only A Game from 1993 until 2018.