You Owe Me, Ken Jennings!

Have you ever had one of those moments where you suddenly realize what your purpose is? I did a couple of weeks ago, when I was watching a commercial for a new TV game show. First, though, some background information is in order...

People who know me know that my brain is full of all sorts of trivial facts; for some reason, I have a good memory for things I read, and I'm very good at recalling these facts. (My brain makes room for all that information by getting rid of things like the names of non-famous people with whom I actually interact.) Everyone I've ever wasted in a game of Trivial Pursuit has said that I should go on "Jeopardy", but I was always afraid to try out -- I didn't want to embarrass my shipmates (and myself) by going on the show and looking like an idiot when all the categories turned out to be about Opera or Fine Wines. When I was doing my twilight tour in San Diego, I was in a job where I got home early enough to watch Jeopardy most nights, and I think SubBasket was getting sick of me yelling answers at the screen and calling the contestants bad names when they missed "easy" questions. She finally said: "Look, you don't have any more excuses for not going on the show. Get online and sign up." I realized she was right, so I called up the show and they told me when to show up for the screening.

When I went to the contestant tryout in June, Ken Jennings was about 8 days into his run on the show. They have you take a 50 question test of what are supposed to be Final Jeopardy-level questions -- they never say what the "passing" grade is, but I've heard that it's about 35. Then they came out and announced who had "passed" the test, and sent everyone else out. After that, they had us play a practice game with the buzzers (it was in the studio where they film the show, but we didn't get to go up onto the stage) and told us all of us had made it onto the contestant's list for the upcoming year.

They also never say how many of the people on the contestant's list actually make it onto the show, but I've seen numbers of 50-70%. Unfortunately for me, the 2004-05 season was different. Due to Jennings' phenomenal popularity, they decided to run an "Ultimate Tournament of Champions" that knocked out about 3 1/2 months from the schedule of "normal" games. As a result, I was never called, and my dreams of fame and fortune went unrealized. Since they wouldn't have had the Ultimate Tournament if it wasn't for Jennings, I blame him.

That's why I was so excited to see the commercial for the new show "1 vs. 100". It talked about how one person will go against a "mob" of 100 people, who include valedictorians, Mensa members, school-teachers, and... Ken Jennings. It was then I knew what I had to do -- get on the show and beat Ken, one on one.

I'd be a perfect contestant. I'd be obnoxious and totally overconfident. I'd say things like, "C'mon, when are the real questions gonna start", and I'd dismiss the non-Ken Jennings "mob" members with snarky comments. Best of all for the producers of the show -- I would keep going until it was just me vs. Ken. I wouldn't be like the first guy they had, who took the money and ran with over a third of the mob still left. I'd bring the tension; I'd bring the drama; I'd bring the (intellectual) pain to anyone who tried to stop me from getting my mano a mano shot at Ken.

And then I'd have that last sig I needed on the Great Qual Card of Life.