Jeopardy At 50

Today, I heard an NPR story that noted that Jeopardy began on this day 50 years ago. Wow, way back in 1964. And that the current host, Alex Trebak, has been there for 30 of those years. He’ll retire after this season.

I’m not entirely certain why I became so addicted to Jeopardy. I used to watch it somewhat even as a kid, though I would mostly get angry because I knew not what any of the answers were referring to. I often asked my precosious cousin to give me some of that information, as well as everything else he knew, and would yell and act like a toddler when he tried to get me to narrow it to specific topics. Looking back, I was a very strange child. I wonder how people put up with me.

Anyway, I eventually moved to Southern Pines in 1994, and my mom met her husband a year or so later. This happened as I entered high school, and he and I began watching Jeopardy religiously. It came on at 7, and if we were in the grocery store line at 6:30 I’d become antsy. I really hated to miss the beginning, feeling I guess as I might about watching my sports teams. I had to see the whole thing.

Through readings particularly of National Geographic Magazine, I soon found that I became sharp enough to get many of the Jeopardy questions right.

I did make some hilariously incorrect responses that I’m embarrassed to admit, but whatever. I can’t exactly remember what the answer, for that is the actual Jeopardy format that prompts the respondant to say “What is…” was, but it had to do with some rare animal found in the wild. I said “What is a warewolf!” My dad still amusedly gives me grief over that to this day.

I enjoyed competing on Jeopardy teams at school too, often created as a way to get extra credit on tests and such. People wanted me on their teams, because they knew I would usually be thorough in my information gathering.

One time though, I made a big mistake that cost my team dearly. I use the word HOMES to remember the five Great Lakes. My instructor told me to name them, of course within a time limit, and I shouted “Hurron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Wisconsin!” I knew it was Superior, but the state name got in the way of my proper response.

I have considered trying to get onto the real show, but many of the ways of so doing don’t seem to be too accessible. I did manage to take a sample test somewhere, and I came out of that feeling like I knew practically nothing. Hard stuff!

I remember a few years ago that a blind guy appeared on there and absolutely pounded everyone over a five-day period. He did have a bit of a challenge remembering which categories and dollar values were still in play, which I imagine I would struggle with as well. Still, it was cool watching him blaze that trail and perhaps in some small way improve public perception of those with disabilities, and persons who are blind in particular.

I don’t watch Jeopardy as much as I did in my high school days, but I do sometimes catch it through various portals. It makes me nervous that I’m already over the hill or something, as I no longer seem as able to get the answers as regularly as I once could. I wonder though if they now place a greater emphasis on pop culture, a subject area that I’m naturally not going to be as strong in. I’m not a movie person, and while I love music I tend to follow newer acts a lot less because I can’t hear the same anymore. I suppose I should know a lot about books and authors, though.

My sister told me recently that my dad misses the days of watching that show in our way, and regularly reminisces on it. I do too, and can’t help but to wonder how it will change when Alex exits. It’s funny, but even his name and the answer structure have become cultural icons, as I sometimes hear people say “I’ll take … for 500, Alex”.

I think I will always enjoy things that ask me to stretch my knowledge beyond its limits and keep learning. Here’s to 50 more years!

Explaining The Sports Thing: or, why do I get so into something that doesn’t really matter?

My cousin and I are the only ones sitting at the table, our plates piled high with sloppy joe, mashed potatoes and baked beans. The headphones connected to our walkmen are plastered to our ears as we eat nervously.

The rest of the apartment’s occupants, my sisters and parents, are watching a movie in the adjoining living room. It has reached a particularly quiet, I think sad, scene, and everyone seems to be sitting wrapped in his or her own thoughts about whatever is happening onscreen.

Meanwhile, the game we’re listening to, the Charlotte Hornets vs. the Miami Heat, is winding down in the old Charlotte Coliseum. The bees trail by 3, and Glen Rice prepares to take the hopefully game-tying shot. This act itself comes with its own weight, as Rice had recently defected from the Heat team he is now trying to defeat, having departed on somewhat unhappy terms.

Rice receives the pass. The clock ticks through final seconds: 3, 2, 1.

Glen Rice for three!” our favorite announcer Steve Martin says. The buzzer sounds, crowd noise increases significantly, and Martin says “good!”

My cousin and I erupt simultaneously into hoops of joy and clapping. Once we calm down, we discover that we’ve upset the silence and everyone is a little concerned about what might be wrong with us. I’ve also lost my Walkman, as it’s been flung to the floor and the batteries dislodged, but at this moment I don’t care. He hit the shot!

I wonder why so many people get attached to team sports in this way? We sit on the clich├ęd edge of our seats, as if the outcome will cause us real harm of joy. And when did this sort of attachment really begin. Could it have existed before the presence of electronic media?

Certainly if you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably noticed, and perhaps been a bit annoyed by, my live tweeting during sporting events. I always work not to take it too far overboard, but for me having this form of interaction definitely enhances the experience. As a blind person, I enjoy the feeling that I’m in a sort of virtual bar with people all around who somewhat unwittingly describe exactly what’s going on to me, in addition to what the radio analysts detail.

When I first began getting into sports, my favorite was professional basketball. Specifically, I loved our Charlotte Hornets until they ripped my heart out!

Ever since, though, my and seemingly much of the country’s (US of course) favorite sport seems to be American football. Go Carolina Panthers! I’ve often wondered why this is, given its violent nature and the too-high likelihood that someone will sustain a significant injury on a fairly regular basis. In the last few years though, even my mostly non-sports-watching family will allow the TV to be dominated by this pastime on major holidays like Thanksgiving, and we can all sit around and talk strategy, wins and losses, etc.

I guess that longtime junkies like myself and more recent suplicants who have folded themselves into the sports-watching universe have realized is that cheering on this sort of athletic competition allows us to get at some primal pleasure that is deeply embedded in being human. We can get a pure rush of adrenaline, have reason to swear, throw things, and otherwise blow off steam as a game reaches either a favorable or unfavorable conclusion.

Whatever the reason, I think sports represent one of the best forms of escape we have available. So if I rib you about your team, remember that it’s all in fun. And please note my law that requires that you pull for the team in the city/state/region in which you were born. No Cowboys or Skins fans allowed in North Carolina!

I think the most fun I’ve ever had at a sporting event was when I attended a Bobcats/Celtics game in Boston. This was 2005, so the Celtics hadn’t yet gotten into championship form. I was so dismayed when Paul Pierce hit the winning layup that I yelled at passing fans as we made our way out of the arena. Catching our team on the road definitely gave me a stronger sense of pride in my hometown, though.

Do you enjoy sports? Have you ever been to a game. One where your team was playing away?

This topic inspired by one of my favorite writer friends on Twitter. Feel free to suggest other stuff you’d like to see me talk about, as I work to produce regular posts. Thanks.

Christmas Vacation 1: The Party

Well, this has been as good a vacation from work and holiday season as I could have expected. I am sad that there remain only three more whole days before I must return to the routine that has defined my existence for the better part of a year, but hopefully I will feel revived for having this experience.

During this last week plus, I’ve ridden in several cars, a Greyhound bus, an Amtrak train, and a Southwest Airlines plane. Now that’s the kind of travel I long for nearly all the time. Since everything preceeding my Tampa trip, which happened from this Thursday till Sunday, is basically standard; I’ll give a quick sumary of that. Then I’ll cover the trip in greater detail, perhaps in more than one entry.

Last Saturday, the 21st of December, gives me kind of a Florida preview weatherwise. In fact, it probably ends up being a better weather day than I even saw once traveling down south.

After making a fairly short journey to Fayetteville by bus, (Audio from aboard, I arrive and am taken to a small town near Lumberton to celebrate the second straight Christmas party with one of my good friends. Before leaving the Ville, we stroll along and do some window shopping, where I and the individual who has come to get me acquire trinkets for the gift exchange.

Because I am hungry, I opt to get two burrito supremes from Taco Bell as we make our way toward the country. Then, I sit outside chattering with my cousin and a couple of other folks around a stone picnic table at our host’s house while many others go back out to do some quick shopping. We marvel at the openness of that area, and how it doesn’t really block the incessant winds as a place with more buildings would.&lt

We stay out there till the rest of the party returns, then make our way inside where we remain for the rest of the day. Other than participating in the affore mentioned gift exchange, I eat a meal of spaghetti with meat, meatballs, and sausage balls. I also enjoy some homemade peanut butter type cookies from the host.

At the wrap of that evening, we took a couple of fun photos of us all, some being silly and some just sitting in neat rows on the couches and chairs. I think you should be able to see the one I posted on Facebook there. I enjo myself at this gathering, mostly just catching up with people who are becoming and some who had already been firm friends.

Sunday is another early riser, though I have managed to sleep well on the couch after having weird dreas. This time, my cousin, his wife, and I head to another rural town of Pinebluff, where my mom, next eldest sister, and some of my nieces and nephews reside.

Well actually, we first go to First Missionary Baptist Church in Southern Pines to attend service there. As they often do, our pastor opts for a fairly short, uplifting Christmas cermon. He mainly talks about the idea that we should find ways to cheer ourselves up during the holiday season, even if it involves bouncing around to some jazzy Christmas music. I am all for that, mainly feeling pleased that I have found ways to avoid the loneliness that often does plague me at this time of year.

I spend the following week in Charlotte, mainly because I need the transportation flexibility to ensure that I’ll be able to get to my flight on Thursday afternoon.

On Monday, my cousin and I watch bowl games and commiserate about life for most of it. My cousin then accompanies his wife on Tuesday to her parents’ house for a party. During this time, I decide to try and catch a differet movie from one I’d ever seen, taken from a rather comprehensive collection of described content. I pick The Book of Eli, but eventually shelf it as there seems to be endless violence and I am unable to understand the point. It’s a post-apocalyptic thriller in which someone is trying to hunt down and recover some important text that will save humanity.

Tuesday night is given to going to another party, this one a dinner breakfast that another of our longtime friends usually hosts. I post Audio of me unwrapping a gift I got from this party, which I now believe is a set of handcuffs. I can’t say I know what the meaning behind that is, but it gives us a good laugh.

Wednesday, Christmas, is a simple affair. We all have breakfast around the table, then head into the living room in my Aunt and cousin’s place for the gifting gathering. My youngest male cousin gets some nice stuff from his parents and girlfriend. I think my older cousin and his wife get something for nearly everyone, hooking me up with an iTunes and an Amazon gift card. And yes, I will do something for them. My aunt and uncle also help me with some dough to help with trip expenses. I, on the other hand, give to the charity that has helped me a lot in getting from that failed graduate school experience to where I am now, the Community Empowerment Fund. Their primary mission is to assist people who have become or are in danger of experiencing homelessness. I dig this. And I think I should promote the nonprofit organization that is doing research and working to strengthen support for those with my disorder, the Norrie Disease Association, to whom I shall give also. Being a board member of myself, I am well aware of the work we are trying to do.

I go with my Aunt to dinner at some other family members’ house, where I again eat only to capacity as I had on Thanksgiving. Then I just sit and take in the NBA games amidst the swirling mass of humanity.

And that’s about all for this entry. I will chronicle the happenings of my nice, relaxing Tampa vacation in an upcoming post.