If it was all over but the shouting for your humble correspondent, there were any number of others back home – family, friends, and total strangers – who had no idea as to what had transpired. And believe me, there were more than a few who really wanted to know. As tempted as I was, though, I did not divulge anything to anybody outside of my circle of phone-a-friends. Beyond the nondisclosure agreement that I had signed, I did not want to inadvertently spoil anything for anybody out there, even through hearsay knowledge. And, I guarantee you, the cat would have been very much out of the bag had I slipped up. Not so much as a hint, even – no, especially – to the kids
As it was, the buzz was growing. People were talking, the local paper was in contact with me, there was mention made on the radio…this was big news in a small town. I had seen it happen to David Coulthurst a few weeks before, and now it was my turn. There were more than a few congratulatory phone calls, and wherever I went for work, people had heard and were offering me their best wishes.
And I so wanted to tell them what had happened. I wanted to tell them that, if they were going to watch especially because of me, not to bother wasting a precious hour from their lives for nothing more than a few fleeting seconds of my face on the screen. In an odd way, I felt loved, and I knew that I was going to be letting an awful lot of people down. But, of course, I could say none of this – and not just because of that agreement; I also felt it to be a matter of honor. It was not just about me; there were also countless others just like me…dedicated viewers of the show, who tuned in for the show itself, for the drama inherent to the game. And, signed agreements aside, I could not spoil that for them.
It was now Tuesday night, December 12. I watched Andy Aaron make his run to the quarter million mark before the buzzer sounded. And then, the teaser listing the next night’s contestants. And, not thirty seconds after the show ended, another phone call from another friend.
While my own personal drama was playing out, though, there was another much larger drama being played out on a much larger stage. The 2000 presidential election had been hanging for the past month, playing out like a high-stakes soap opera. And there was breaking news that Wednesday morning: Al Gore was going to make a speech that evening, presumably to concede the election. Clearly, this was going to be something that was going to be carried live by network television. But when?
Meanwhile…another phone call. This time, the caller identified himself as Glen Moberg – the news director from Channel 9 (the station that carried Millionaire locally). I was a bit busy at the moment…could I call back in a few minutes? No problem, he said, and so I did. The first thing he informed me was that there was the possibility that the show might be bumped by Gore’s speech…details had not yet been released as to the timing of the speech itself, or how it might affect the program. He also asked whether I had made the hot seat. In this case, I felt it entirely appropriate to let him know I had not done so; this would affect his decision as to how he would utilize his resources on a busy news day, I was sure, and I felt it only right to help him out. There were then a few interview-type questions, and it was back to work.
As it turned out, the speech was scheduled for 8 PM Central time…immediately after the conclusion of Millionaire; Al Gore knew better than to mess with Regis Philbin. We did not bother with a party for the show; as much as I wanted to have one in spite of my misgivings, I was simply too busy to make it happen. So we watched from home, like everybody else…but with a reporter from the local paper present. I did what I could to answer her questions during the commercial breaks; when the show itself was on, I turned my attention more to the TV. The disjointed manner in which the show was taped, along with my tendency at the taping to focus on the moment rather than on the Big Picture, caused me to forget a lot of things – particularly the questions that were put in play – between tape day and the airing of the show, and I was as curious as anybody to see how it ultimately turned out. Soon enough, though, the show ended, the reporter went on her way, and the curtain rang down.
And, after the show, exactly one phone call – from my sister. Still, there were the congratulatory greetings as I encountered friends, acquaintances, and occasional total strangers in the days to come. And then, there was an incident – actually two, as they were interconnected although taking place separately – involving a couple of kids from the local youth hockey program, both the same ages as my boys. One of them – the type who went to hockey camps year-round, a top-notch player at the time (which carried a lot of cred in a hockey town like Mosinee), who was very good, and knew it – came up to me, and talked to me for the first time in his life. His greeting to me? “You really choked”. Without missing a beat, I replied to him that I had, indeed, choked…but that I still had a chance to get out and play, and had a very good time regardless of the final score, if you will. And then, a couple of days later, a different kid. One who seemed to be involved in the disciplinary process in school from time to time…a good kid at heart, really, but one who just always seemed to end up in trouble…”Mr. Gliniecki??” I turned around, and it was him. “I just wanted to tell you that I watched your show, and that I was really proud to see you on there.”
More often than not, winning is not the only thing.
So…if I had to do it all over again, would I do it…knowing that I would come ever-so-close to a dream, only to have it turn to dust? Well…to be honest, I did not “come close”. I lived the dream…and hell yes, I would do it again. In fact, I have tried time and again for another opportunity, auditioning for Millionaire, Jeopardy, and The Chase. To date, things have not panned out, and I have no illusions as to my chances in the future. Still, though…to not try at all guarantees a chance of zero. And the whole of the experience – what I have tried to express throughout this series of posts – was such that I still feel as though I have only very partially been able to convey the essence of what it really was. If the opportunity ever presents itself again, I will jump at it. Oh, yes, I will. To all of you…whatever your own dream may be…go for it, live it, and love it, whatever turns it may take. And thanks to all of you for following along with my own dream here. As for me, for now…the next Jeopardy test is just a few weeks away. Dreams always start somewhere.