We might as well just get my criticisms about Jeopardy out of the way first. Number one – spastic clickers. Some use their whole body. Others violently nod their head. Even worse – the clickers who sigh disappointingly when a competitor rang in before them. Total peeve for me. Number two – when Alex pronounces anything not in English. He may be speaking properly, but it’s annoying. Number three – when Alex speaks unnecessarily between Q&A selections and the round ends without completing the board. That’s just plain unacceptable.
Aside from the above, I’m a huge fan of Jeopardy. Growing up, my family and I would watch and yell out the question as soon as possible in the hopes of earning temporary big brain bragging rights. Like most Teravainens who invent any excuse to wager against each other, my dad would inevitably create a betting pool of one dollar for each of us playing in “Final Jeopardy.” “You got a buck?” he would ask, emphasizing “buck” to instigate a competition. It was on.
Nowadays, when I watch Jeopardy with the wife on DVR, she does so only on the condition that we listen to the awkward biographical anecdotes of each competitor when we’re back from the first commercial break. For whatever reason, she loves that part. I cringe whenever I hear those awful stories without punchlines or any semblance of personality. I can’t complain, though, as long as Alex and Johnny make the cut into our DVR lineup.
Of all my interests, I pray that G shares at least just a fraction of my competitive drive. Mind you, I gave up a long time ago about competing for anything materialistic. If that’s something important to you, I already surrender. That’s not the kind of competition that interests me in the slightest. I prefer way more enjoyable contests: board games, card games, brain games, and sports.
In no particular order, the following are some of the best games ever played: cribbage, bocce, poker, Scrabble, skat, Frisbee golf, pitch, backgammon, or basically anything involving an Almanac, an atlas, or a map. There are few better sounds than that of a card deck shuffling surrounded by chairs pulling inwards and chips stacking in piles, or even just the arguments about rule interpretation between participants during a game.
I’m not sure where I developed this particular thirst for competition. Neither of my parents were anything at all like the Cobra Kai sensei or even Emilio Estevez’s apparently psychotic dad in “The Breakfast Club.” I think my folks were just way better than me at whatever we played, so I just wanted to be like them.
My mom could – and still can – blow the doors off of anyone in trivia games especially in her wheelhouse of categories regarding music, literature, entertainment, and pop culture. I shudder on the verge of any battle with her in Trivial Pursuit because she can run off four or five pie slices in a row at any given moment.
Of course, as a boy, I measured my athletic and intellectual prowess against my dad at any opportunity. I wanted to beat him at whatever we played so badly, I can hardly explain it. He wasn’t pushy whatsoever about winning. I just wanted to be on the same level as him.
Fast forward 30-plus years and the grasshopper has overtaken the master gradually in a few arenas. I write this last sentence without arrogance because the assumed advantage of youth suggests that is simply how it ought to be. However, to this day, I still have never defeated my dad in the following: chess, arm wrestling (our last battle was about 3 years ago – no joke), and racquetball.
Last week, we decided to test the waters on the racquetball front. Griswald plays pretty regularly, while I had not played in at least a year. (Can you anticipate my excuse coming on yet?) Still, I have 26 years on him. I had not yet even completed my first serve and he called some type of vague penalty against me for not striking the ball from an underhand position. I never heard of such a rule. Was he being serious, or was he engaging in psychological warfare? From that point forward, I lobbed meatballs to him and got crushed in two games, but saving face in a 16-14 pride game in our third round.
After our battle, we consulted an unbiased racquetball guru on the contested serve rule. Turns out, Grizz completely fabricated the serving rule. There were no restrictions whatsoever. I demanded a re-match. He yielded without protest.
The grudge match went down this Wednesday. Game 1 to the old man: 15 – 13. He got out to an early lead and I clawed my way back only to be bamboozled on a wily serve during game point. Game 2 to the kid: 15 – 7. Temporarily satisfying, but in retrospect, a Phyrric victory. Rubber match: the champ defends his title yet again: 15 – 11. No excuses. Age was the least of his possible handicaps, yet Clark still proved too strong for his oldest son. It was an honorable defeat.
Thanks, dad. How about another re-match? Hey, maybe we should bring Greta in on that next game…