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Toeth's Game Show Insights
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Winning the Million at the WWTBAM "Play It!"

Thanks to some timely help (I'll get to the details), I wore confetti last night at DCA's Play It! attraction, and it felt great! The stiff competition for the Hot Seat forced me to slightly modify a friend's patented Hot Seat winning technique. Instead of going into Nintendo mode as soon as I saw the correct answer, I tried to time it like a pinball shot. The goal was to have the correct button heading down (instead of up) when Answer D appeared and the console was activated. The modification appeared successful; BarbLee was on a roll, winning three of the seven end-of-show competitions, but I managed to edge her in the last one that counted. She'll be back; count on it.

During the day, an occasional first-tier question appeared undervalued, but not much more often than has occurred on Prime Time BAM. It did not appear to me that the questions from Play It! were comparable in difficulty to the reports we have heard from SyndieBAM. I guess we'll know more in about a week. In general, though, the questions, especially in the upper tier, seemed a touch harder than those of the Prime Time version.

For the seventh and final show, I felt locked in. It was a nice feeling, and I needed every bit of it, because every time the leader board appeared, I was on top but BarbLee was right on my tail. I was just praying that the guy in the Hot Seat would miss a question before I did, because I knew that BarbLee wouldn't (I think she missed three questions in seven shows). Fortunately for me, after winning ten pins to distribute among his friends, he obliged, and I got my shot on the last show of the night.

After more than two years trying to test myself against the game, I was finally getting my chance. I knew that I'd be fine with myself as long as I played as well as I could. There were plenty of question stacks throughout the day that would have sent me home early. Fortunately, the one I received wasn't one of those.

The first half of the game is a blur. My first decision came at 8,000 points: "What is the last name shared by the four main characters on the television series Everybody Loves Raymond?" I got a little lucky there; I was looking for the name "Romano" but it never appeared. That's when I remembered that the actor, not the character, is Ray Romano. I've never watched the show so I wasn't entirely sure, but the name "Barone" started looking awfully familiar. I thought about buying time by calling a stranger, but I finally decided that extra time wouldn't help and that I had enough confidence to pull the trigger. Fortunately, in this case my confidence was justified.

After I'd survived that question, the host told us that Ray Romano was once in the audience, taking his son to the park, and he managed to reach the Hot Seat. He did quite well; the host thought he reached the 250,000 point question. It's nice to know that some celebrities can play the game for real.

Bob holds his Boarding Pass to New York to be in the WWTBAM Audience.

There was a bit of a glitch at 16,000 points. The question was: "Which of these states does not border the Mississippi River? A. Ohio, B. Iowa, C. Tennessee, D. Wisconsin." I'm reasonably familiar with that part of the country, so I answered "Ohio," paused a second to make sure I didn't hear any horrified gasps, and locked it in with a "final." To my considerable surprise, the host said "I'm sorry" and I saw yellow and green on two different answers on my console. I was just starting to relive old traumas ;-) (I lost my seventh grade spelling bee with the word "tobAggan"), when a large chunk of the audience said, "He said 'Ohio'!" After the show had run its course, the man running the console apologized to me; he heard me say "Ohio," but his fingers locked in "Iowa." Fortunately, no harm, no foul. They restored the console to its correct configuration, and the 32,000 point question: "Someone who is kowtowing is doing what?" was in my wheelhouse. I wanted to reassure my online friends, who were at the show, that the 16,000 point incident hadn't shaken me so while the host read the answers, I started kowtowing in the Hot Seat. He finished reading, I answered, "Showing submission," and moved on.

I'll brag on myself a little. I was the only person to reach 32,000 points yesterday without using a lifeline. The host, doing his job, started to ratchet up the excitement level by pointing out for the audience's benefit that I had a realistic shot. The upper tier questions give you 45 seconds to answer or call for a lifeline, and I was thankful for the extra time on the 64,000 point question: "Aardvarks are native to what continent? A. South America, B. Asia, C. Australia, D. Africa." I thought I might know, but 45 seconds is a fair amount of time to think. I realized that the word "aardvark," with the "aa" combination and terminal "k," almost had to be Dutch. That, of course, shouted "South Africa" to me, which was in accord with my initial impression. I spelled out my thinking, gave Africa as my final answer, and moved on.

As a side note, I think that answer was the one that really got the audience into the game. Don't get me wrong; they were supportive all along. But after I gave my 64,000 point answer, the applause for my correct answers seemed, from my perspective, to go from happy and enthusiastic to "Let's bring the roof down." I firmly believe that audiences enjoy seeing big winners, but enjoy even more seeing the game played well. I'm glad two years of mental rehearsals gave me the foundation to keep my brain turned on once I reached the Hot Seat.

I used my first lifeline at 125,000 points: "What does the acronym ZIP in ZIP code abbreviate?" I can't remember the choices; they all began with "Zone." I am barely old enough (41, if you must know) to remember the Post Office's commercials encouraging people to use zip codes. Those commercials explained the acronym, but since I haven't seen one for more than 30 years, I wanted a little more time. So after running the clock down to maximize my thinking time, it was time to Phone a Complete Stranger. The stranger asked me to repeat the first two choices, then guessed choice B. But by then, I had become more confident in my ability to rule out the three wrong choices. I answered "A. Zone Improvement Plan," and moved on.

I started laughing as soon as I saw the 250,000 point question: "By definition, what does the phrase 'de jure' mean?" The host asked me why, and I told him that I'm a lawyer. When I saw the answers, though, I stopped laughing for a minute, because the answer I was expecting, "in law," wasn't there. Fortunately, there were only two choices that were remotely close: "A. By right, D. From the jury." I took a few seconds to convince myself that choice D couldn't possibly be correct, and that choice A was close enough to the answer I expected. I gave A as my answer, and moved on.

I have my Millionaire friends, and BarbLee in particular, to thank for surviving the 500,000 point question: "In the song 'They Call the Wind Mariah,' what do they call the rain?" I know the melody to that song but not its lyrics. Nevertheless, I was pretty sure that I was not going to know the 1,000,000 point question, so I badly wanted to save my 50-50 lifeline. I ran the clock down both to maximize my thinking time and to give people as much time as possible to be helpful, and then called for my ATA lifeline. To my surprise, there was a sizeable bump, 43%, for choice C, Tess. I had ruled out choice A, Gale, in my mind for lyrical reasons, and choices B and D were well below 30%. I decided to hope that the audience knew what it was doing, and it didn't let me down. I was going to see the 1,000,000 point question with my 50-50 in hand.

Here's the story behind the story: With one exception, none of my Millionaire friends knew the answer either. But when choice C, Tess, appeared on the screens, BarbLee audibly (to them, not to me -- I couldn't hear anything happening in the audience) "Aha'd," and started pushing her C button. Taking their cue, my friends all answered C on their own consoles and also on any handy vacant consoles. I'm convinced that this concerted effort was responsible for the bump in the ATA graph.

They give you 55 seconds to answer the 1,000,000 point question or ask for a lifeline. The question was: "Who was the first foreign winner of the Boston Marathon? A. Dave Thomas, B. Harlan Sanders, C. Bob Evans, D. Ronald MacDonald." As anticipated, I didn't have a clue. I waited out my time just to be sure nothing occurred to me, and then with 3 seconds left called for my 50-50. (Someone in the audience didn't have much faith in my timing -- she urged me, with panic in her voice, to call for the 50-50. It always annoys me, when watching a football game, when the quarterback calls time out too early before the potential game-winning field goal, thereby forcing his team to survive a kickoff that should not have been necessary.)

The 50-50 left me with "A. Dave Thomas, D. Ronald MacDonald" and 20 seconds. I still didn't know, of course, but that seemed to be a very interesting pair of choices. Simply put, Ronald MacDonald seemed too stupid to be the wrong answer -- there had to be a score of more plausible bluffs. With nothing to lose but 4 pins (at the 32,000 point plateau I secured 10 pins, the baseball cap, and the polo shirt), I decided to trust my instincts. Ten seconds later I was wearing confetti.

So it'll be off to New York City for my wife and me, to watch a taping of either SyndieBAM or a fall prime time special with Regis. Disney will let me know the details when it's ready. My friends have plenty of images, both still and moving, of the aftermath because Disney was thoughtful enough to invite them into the photo session, and I have the official Disney photo to show my wife (not to mention a souvenir boarding pass, a leather jacket, and the million-point medallion).

The Leather Jacket  Golden Medallion

Reported 9/8/02
Formerly Imander's Game Shows
2002 Toeth's Game show insights,

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