Jim G's Blog Post
Ok, so my amazing family watches some part of WOF every night. I have two sons who both play baseball, soccer, and basketball. They also play the piano so needless to say we are running around every day of the week getting them to and from all of their activities. To make the scenario even more crazy, I coach the soccer team of my older son and baseball teams for both of them. I also teach and assistant coach baseball at an area High School – Del Norte High School within the Poway Unified School District here in San Diego. Go NIGHTHAWKS!
You may be thinking right now, “What does all of this have to do with WOF?”
Well, in between all of that listed above, we make time for WOF whether it be all of the show or getting home just in time for the final puzzle. It’s a family thing for sure. I can even remember watching back in the day, when I was a youth, contestants buying prizes with their winnings.
So as busy as we are, my wife Kelley always has her ears out for an opportunity to try out for the show. The travel bus has been to San Diego, we have gone up to another town together, she has gone up to other cities to tryout, she has sent in video auditions, and then one day she asked me if we could try out for the show together after she received an invite, that followed one of her video auditions, to attend another tryout here in San Diego.
I went…the rest they say, is History.
- Meeting Pat & Vanna
So early in the morning Vanna made an appearance to the contestant room. You always hear that fame can change people and make them snooty or whatever…well, of course, I had never met her before which makes it obvious I would not know what she was like prior to the fame BUT Vanna was SUPER nice and encouraging to all of us contestants. Meeting her, like most of the day, was a very surreal experience. Making it even more special, the contestants, who were all teachers, all could not believe that she would take the time to come over and say hello. It confirmed with me that if we take time out of our busy lives and talk with each other, we would realize that most people are good and we have a lot in common. Thanks Vanna for taking the time!
As contestants, we did not meet Pat until the show taping began, well that is how I remember it anyway. As stated above with Vanna, Pat was super awesome. Pat has an amazing way of making you, the contestant, feel at home and comfortable. His ability to create that feeling allowed us to settle in and just play the game. Do not get me wrong, we were all nervous and being in front of people is what we do as teachers. However, this was different. Reflecting on the day immediately following the whole experience if very hard to do. I didn’t remember much of anything. I knew I had solved some puzzles and I knew I had won a dream trip. I remember Pat coming over and telling me I had won a trip to Hawaii and I just couldn’t believe it since I have never been there. Another small interaction with Pat I remember was during one of the puzzles, a crossword type puzzle, “Presidential Firsts” it came around to me and there were a decent amount of letters on the board. I remember asking for a “J?” and I used a tone that inferred I had no idea what the puzzle was but with “ohn” being revealed the “J” seemed the right ask. So, with a similar inflection in his voice Pat replied, “yes?” It made me laugh to myself because it reminded me of how I reply to my students in the classroom when they say things with the same inflection. As the puzzle progressed, I knew what ended up being the 4 Presidential First Names but for some reason got stuck on Lyndon and instead of solving, I missed the next letter call. Oh well…BUT as when we watch the show at home, it always pleases my family when there is a balance of winnings amongst the three players and me making the mistake allowed for the contestant down the line to solve the puzzle and add to her total, creating a more balanced set of winnings for our show.
- Special highlights of the game
As I stated above, the show was a blur immediately following the end of it. I took some time to try and remember all of the puzzles. The one thing that eased my mind during the show was being able to solve the first toss up puzzle, “Mississippi Delta.” Once that was under my belt, I felt good. I cannot remember if I picked up any prize wedges but I do remember solving two toss ups, winning a trip to Hawaii – “Impressive Swimming Pools” was the puzzle and after all was said and done I was the big winner heading to the bonus round…I still cannot believe it all happened.
So, I get to the bonus round and Pat reminds me of my prizes and winnings up to that point in the show. We had briefly discussed how I have never been to Hawaii and that I was super excited to be going sometime in the future. That brings me to a pretty crazy story. The day of the taping I was super busy. I run a youth baseball summer program for neighborhood kids and it was the last day. With WOF being a once in a lifetime opportunity I left the program in the hands of my assistant coaches, who are more than capable, but being the type of coach I am, I felt a little bad about missing that last day especially because we had spent the previous 6 weeks together. But hey, WOF=once in a lifetime, so off I went. By the way, I didn’t want to tell anyone why I had to miss the day because I didn’t want to risk jinxing the experience. Another aspect of this was I was originally scheduled to leave the next day for my first ever trip to Hawaii with my entire family including my parents who had generously gifted me the trip as part of turning “OLD.” (a birthday gift). However, some unavoidable circumstances arose, and the trip had to be cancelled.
So, with the trip being cancelled, I was able to attend the taping of the show as a contestant and as a contestant I was fortunate enough to solve the prize puzzle which was a trip to Hawaii. Two things you often hear are: 1. When one door closes another door opens and 2. Things happen for a reason. The whole scenario, the more I think about it even as I write this, was amazing.
After all of that, off to the bonus round it was…
- The Bonus Round
Going to the bonus round was, like everything else, unbelievable! Prior to going of course, you get to choose a category. My wife always likes phrase but sometimes those puzzles come up and I think to myself, “that is not a phrase, who says that?” So not being able to recall the three categories even now as I am writing this, I do remember what I did choose…”In the Kitchen.” Now, in my family I do all of the cooking – Breakfast, make lunches, and Dinner – I do it all daily, so I felt comfortable with items found “In the Kitchen.” I could tell Pat was surprised that I chose that category, but I did not feel comfortable at all with the other choices.
While you wait for the final puzzle opportunity, producers go over all of the ins and outs. They have individuals there to observe you practicing the spinning of the smaller prize wheel so that they ensure that everything is on the up and up with no “funny business.”
I spin the Prize Wheel, I pull the envelope and hand it to Pat. We walk to the “spot” and I look at the board. The puzzle comes up and there are three words…RSTLNE run their course and I cannot remember anything but seeing the letters E and R somewhere in the puzzle but I cued in the second word. It was three letters and the first letter was E. I knew the word was EGG so I didn’t want to call the G as one of my consonants but rather go for something else that could help me with the other words. I think some people go into the final puzzle with a set group of letters to call. The suggestion from the team that is there to keep you from freaking out was to really look at the puzzle and then make your choice. So that is what I did. I looked at it and remember calling a C, M and an A but not the other consonant.
All of the producers and the whole contestant team tell you to speak loud, slow, and clear. The key to me was slow. So, Pat repeated the category and gave me the 10 seconds call. My brain was moving superfast and my heart was POUNDING! I still couldn’t believe I was there and in the final puzzle. S-L-O-W-L-Y I began to speak, and the key is to say the answer in one fluid expression otherwise you do not get credit if it is segmented or you says words that end up being disjointed. I spoke, “Microwave Egg…” and I had no idea what that last word was. I guess natural instincts took over and my mind recalled subconsciously all things related to eggs. I credit my education and life experience and maybe even some late night infomercial watching with what came out of my mouth…”Poacher.”
Where did I pull that from? The truth is I do not know, and the word poacher just came out. So, this amazing day comes to an end with me solving the final puzzle. Pat says let’s look in the envelope and the new season minimum cash prize was there. I saw it and walked away from Pat somewhere into the set in utter disbelief that whole day had even occurred. My family came running out there to greet me and we ended up doing some awkward and silly high fives but shared great hugs and kisses.
The whole experience was truly, as they said to us, a once in a lifetime experience.
I want to thank all involved from my assistant coaches who covered my summer program on that last day, so I could go to the taping to all of the WOF staff and personnel.
Special thanks to Teddy Angeles, Jackie Lamatis, Shannon Bobillo, Alexandra Reeves for making all of us contestants the most prepared possible to be successful on the show and the make-up team of Sandy and Patty who, as good looking as I think I am (HA!) took a long time to make me camera ready. Thank you to Pat and Vanna for being the professionals you are and the level of comfort you brought to all of us. I will remember all of you and everyone else who made that day so very special. With all of your talents, it is no wonder that Wheel of Fortune is such a long lasting and special show that cements a place in television history.
Final thanks to my wife, Kelley, and my two sons for all of their support and love. I love you!
With Sincere gratitude,