Todd M's Blog Post
I have been a longtime fan of Wheel of Fortune, watching regularly at night when time and life permits. I do not watch a lot of game shows, but Wheel of Fortune is definitely one, and truly my favorite. I have a knack for word games and really enjoy watching and “playing” the show from home. Over the many years of watching the show, it has always been a thought in the back of my mind to be a contestant. But, probably like most people, it was always a distant thought, thinking it truly wasn’t a possibility because it’s such an extraordinary opportunity and experience. My wife has encouraged me for years that I should go try out, often as I annoyingly blurted out the puzzle long before the contestant, but a viable opportunity never really presented itself.
That idea of being a contestant turned reality in April when I was watching the show and saw a ticker that the Wheelmobile would be in my area, a mere 45 minute drive away. This was the beginning of an incredible journey, leading to one of the most memorable and fun experiences of my life. I went to the Wheelmobile event and stuck through the two days of auditions. It was during the last show of the weekend, in about the last 10-15 people called. But sure enough, my name was called. I jumped up, gave some cheers and made my way to the stage. I did my intro, played the quick puzzle (even solving it) and left the event smiling ear to ear. As I left the event, a woman kindly told me she thought they would pick me. I was hoping so and, as it turned out, she was right.
A couple weeks later I was notified of when and where I would attend final auditions. I headed down to Phoenix and competed with about 60 other people. It was a fun event, not just because it was a stepping stone to becoming a contestant, but because it was great to meet and talk with other potential contestants and learn their story on how we all ended up in the same room. There was a lot of excitement at that audition. We finished up the auditions and were told, “If you’re selected, you should receive a letter within two weeks”. From there, I waited. Mostly skeptical, I’ll admit, especially after a smaller group of people were asked to stay longer for additional play. I was not one.
It was two weeks and a day from the final auditions and I hadn’t received a letter. It was about 7:00pm in the evening and a friend text me to ask if I had heard anything. I responded that I hadn’t, but also I hadn’t checked the mail that day. It was raining that night, so I hastily ran out to the mailbox and grabbed what was there. I made my way back inside and thumbed through several envelopes. There it was, a letter with the return address from Sony! I could hardly believe it. I knew this wasn’t a consolation letter. I tore it open and read the bold “CONGRATULATIONS” that I had been selected to be a contest. I was elated! I could hardly contain myself. I showed my wife. I was in disbelief. I let my world know!
Within a few weeks I got an email telling me a tape date and asking if I could make it. I sure could! My wife and I headed out to Los Angeles. My brother flew in. Unfortunately, my kids weren’t old enough to attend the taping. It was all so exciting!
After I got my letter that I was a contestant, I really started to prep in what ways I thought would help. I watched the show every day that I could. I bought the app and played several games a day. In the end of only a few weeks of playing, I had amassed over two million dollars in winning and probably played every puzzle, some even twice, on the app. I studied the various categories and logical letters to play and never forgot that vowels are important to get.
The entire experience on game day was incredible. Meeting other contestants in the hotel lobby, as we waited to get picked up by the shuttle, was fun. Everybody was excited! We had come from all over. Their stories were fun to hear. Once we got to the studio the entire staff was great. They created a calming atmosphere that helped ease the stress and anxiety of playing this game LIVE! They were all energetic and encouraging everyone. They prepped us. They wanted each one of us to be great! They have a pretty cool job and they all did it well. A BIG thanks to them all!
My favorite puzzle category is ‘Before & After’ which I love because the puzzles are usually clever and often require a little extra thinking to make the connection. It was a big hope of mine to see this category on game day.
Every step of the way there was a little disbelief, trying to truly wrap my head around if this was really happening. But finally, stepping on the stage, spinning the Wheel, calling out letters, buying vowels, talking with Pat, seeing Vanna…it was all surreal, but it was happening. This made for the best part of the journey, one of the most memorable and exciting experiences of my life, being in that moment and actually playing WHEEL…OF…FORTUNE!!