This Week's Contestant
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You know that one person in your life that you hate playing games with? The puzzle nerd with his head constantly in a crossword puzzle or a Sudoku? The uncle that always seems to know the answers before the question is asked? Or the best friend that can often times solve the puzzle with only three or four letters? Well, in my life, that person...is me.
My wife says watching Wheel of Fortune with me is annoying. My grandmother used to think I somehow "must have seen this before" when I would solve a puzzle while we watched Wheel. Despite the constant needling, I always heard from my family and friends "Matt, you'd be great on that show, if you could just get on Wheel of Fortune... ". That was all I needed to hear! I filled out the application on the WoF website a few years ago, and never thought much about it after that. I knew my chances of actually getting on the show were slim to none! That was until early September when I got an email stating that I had been invited to an invitation-only Wheel of Fortune tryout in Boston. At first I thought the email was a fake (as do most contestants, I bet), but I confirmed the validity of the email, and reserved my spot at the tryout. I knew I would need to miss a day of work, but it's only an hour from here to Boston, and besides... how many chances does someone get in life to try out for the world's most popular game show? At the very least, I knew it would be a once in a lifetime experience.
The tryout day finally came and I was terrified. I was so nervous, I managed to back into a basketball hoop with my wife's new car, as well as make two wrong turns on my way into Boston. I hoped these weren't bad omens for the rest of the day's events! I arrived at the Lenox Hotel, and proceeded to the ballroom which, to my surprise, was already filled with at least 40 people when I got there. After we all settled in, and our contestant coordinators took note of our first names and where we were sitting, we started to play some mock WoF games. I was called on twice, and despite not getting the opportunity to solve a puzzle, I was as enthusiastic as I could possibly be. Laughing, smiling, and clapping for the others... anything to show how excited I was to be there!
Halfway through the audition, they passed out a written test. There was 15 or 16 WoF/Hangman type puzzles listed on the paper. It was our job to fill in as many as we could in the allotted five minutes. Some of them were easy, and some were pretty tricky. I'm thankful my brain was working at full capacity that day, as I was able to complete every puzzle on the test. The contestant coordinators collected the tests, and left the room to grade them. After about 15 minutes, they returned to the room, and told us that now was the tough part... about half of us would get to stay and play more, and half of us would be sent home. I really felt like even if they didn't get to see much of my enthusiasm on display, I had proven that I was a good puzzle solver, and that HAS to count for something, right?? You never know what they're looking for in a contestant, or how you look through someone else's eyes, so I was still nervous about what would happen next. They started calling names of people who would be asked to stay. Each time a name was called, it was Amy P., Sharon S., Richard T., Dorothy B., but still no Matt R.! I was starting to feel a little defeated when the second to last name called was mine! Hot damn, I had made it to the second part of the audition!
The second part was more like a real game of WoF. We stood up, 6 contestants at a time, and played more of America's favorite game show. We clapped, we called out letters in our loudest, clearest voices, and we even simulated spinning the big wheel. After each group played their game, each person was asked to say something about themselves. This was my least favorite part, as I tend to be a nervous talker, but I had rehearsed what I was going to say, so I think it came out pretty smoothly. After the audition concluded, we were told that if we were selected to be on the show, we would get a letter in the mail in two weeks. I left Boston really really wanting to get that letter, but at the same time knowing that my chances of being on WoF were still pretty slim, and no matter what, I had had a ton of fun that day... and even got a souvenir "I auditioned for Wheel of Fortune" pencil!
The waiting process was a killer. I tried to put it out of my mind, but like I said, I really wanted that letter! I auditioned on a Thursday, and exactly one week later, I got a call from a contestant coordinator saying they WANTED ME TO BE ON THE SHOW!!!!! The poor woman, I must have said "Are you serious??" and "Shut up! For real??" to her at least a dozen times! I told my wife when she got home, and she was so excited and so loud my son said "Mommy, can you stop? you're kinda freaking me out." Imagine how much screaming she would do if I won on the show!! Tune in on Thursday, December 15th, to see if the excitement continued in Los Angeles!