Saturday, May 19, 2007

I'll take Envy for $1000, Alex.

So let me lay the setting for you: it's another busy Tuesday morning in February in the Jeopardy green room at Sony Pictures Studio in Culver City California. About twenty or so excited contestants from all over the country are introducing themselves, making small talk, partaking in the assortment of coffee, juices, fruit, and breakfast pastries laid out before us. The producers are going through their rounds, chatting amongst themselves, chatting with the contestants, getting to know them better. I'm sitting quietly in the back sofa, drinking my Naked juice and looking over the competition.

I scan over the group and figure my chances for success are good. There are a lot of friendly looking elementary school teacher type ladies, couple of yuppie looking suits, and few grandparents here and there. It's like morning at the DMV, they are normal "adults", they aren't college bowlers. These normals "adults" have jobs, kids, mortgages, responsibilities, and all that stuff. They probably watched the show after a long day of doing things in the real world and while I am this string-less, young, dilettante whose introduction on the show is "a recent college graduate". They didn't have the time to bounce around wikipedia for hours at a time just for the sake of it, or just completed four years of academic bowl competitions. I figure I have an advantage.

So things are going along, they're chatting, I'm drinking, and the makeup lady is starting to take individuals into the back to get done up. That's when the final contestant comes through the door, Mr. Andrew Rostan, college student, from Ohio.

It was at that point I made a mental note in my head: If I do actually win a game or two this will be the guy who'll kill me. This was all just based on first impressions mind you. He had the look, it was the look I had seen countless times hanging out in the main room at the beginning of countless tournaments. A classic trivia master, pale, glasses, quiet, awkward to the bone, quick as lightening on the buzzer, and filled to the brim with knowledge. I was so compelled my first question to him was "did you ever do college bowl?". He said he didn't.

Although that first impression of mine was wrong, after talking to him for a bit, every other impression was correct. This guy knew his shit. And even more frightening was he also knew his pop culture shit. My shit. We talked about Tin Machine and he knew the names of both Soupy Sales' sons, the producer lady made a reference about a 1970s comedy about an illegal, cross country car race with a young Raul Julia and everyone in the room, the producer, and you were convinced it was "Cannonball Run" and he kept saying it was film called "The Gumball Rally", which I looked up later at the hotel.

So as the story went, I got picked to go first and I got sandwiched between two relatively non-threatening ladies. I gave it a good effort but I was done in by my hubris and utter lack of betting strategy. Greatly disappointed at my lost opportunity I passed on watching the others play and went straight to my hotel and took an early flight home. Since then I haven't watched a full episode of Jeopardy (including my own), until last Wed, when I caught the end of an episode and lo and behold, there was Andrew banking $23,000.

I checked the back logs and found that he had up to that point won like over $100,000 over four days! And according to YouTube, pwning the competition. He eventually lost the next day (on the most ridiculous Final Jeopardy question I've seen in a while) giving him a final five day champion total of $126,000! This would, if the website is correct, make him the 7th biggest winner in Jeopardy history...and I'm pretty sure they'll bring him back for the Tournament of Champions!

Now I should be exited that a fellow young dilettante such as I, really stuck it to the competition and proved that a childhood of too much TV and trivia would pay great dividends, but I'm not. In fact, this little run bothered me more than anything else. It's envy, pure and simple. If John the network administrator or Martha the librarian went on the same streak I probably wouldn't have even remembered it. But, this guy was me, at least close enough to me, and every dollar he made was a disgusting reminder of what could have been had I picked Austria instead of Poland, or thought of the possibility that my opponent could have also gotten he answer wrong. Could I just have easily spring boarded myself to six figures and extra face time with Trebek? It's the one question that can never be answered.

It's also annoying since I had just about forgotten all about that debacle when I caught that show. I've had a lot of stuff happen between then and now to dilute the memories of February. I'll eventually get over it, perhaps time and winning more game shows will help me get back to where I was, but it'll take a while. So if you're doing some sort of vanity internet search Mr. Andrew Rostan, and you come across this entry, I just want to say I commend you on your achievement but, through no direct fault of your own, way to open an old wound.