World Cup tickets for free?
When the phone rang, the man known as Tactoad greeted the man on the other end of the line with a double-dose of skepticism.
"I thought it was a prank call and didn't tell anyone," he said later.
Best bet on his part, because more than a few of us know the feeling of thinking we've just won something, only to hear our friends snickering on the other end of the line.
But for Tactoad, a PokerStars Supernova, interesting e-mails followed. They looked official, but, still, it couldn't be, could it? After all, the South African PokerStars player has been steeped in World Cup fever for some time now. It's among the biggest things that's happened in his country in his ilfetime.
"People drive around with the national flags hanging in and out of their cars. You hear the occasional bafana bafana chants with a vuvuzela in the background. Young kids play soccer in the streets," he said. "The World Cup atmosphere completely removes any racial and cultural boundaries, which unfortunately still exist to a certain extent here in South Africa."
In that atmosphere, it seemed inconceivable that Tactoad would be getting a call and e-mails from PokerStars offering him free seats to a South Africa match. It didn't seem real, until it was.
It's not as if Tactoad is a big money player on PokerStars. He plays regular limits and is a proud member of the PokerStars VIP club. He didn't win some contest or freeroll. He just happened to be playing on PokerStars and live in the World Cup host country. For that and that alone, PokerStars slipped him some pretty expensive tickets to the match.
"It was my first time watching a game in an actual stadium and I just happen to have the very best tickets to my own team!" Tactoad said.
As Tactoad sat in the stadium watching history, he was struck by how a simple game can change the world, if only for 90 minutes at a time.
"You blow your vuvuzela and people would turn around and smile. You wave your flag at someone, they smile," he recalled. "Everyone acts as if though they are friends and have known each other their whole lives. They respect each other as equals. At a sporting event like this everyone realizes and respects their differences and that alone is extremely important in a country with such diversity amongst its people."
Thanks to Tactoad for the reminder, and for sending us this photo of himself just as South Africa's game ended.