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I then signed for my pretty-darn-nice consolation prize, a week's vacation in Banff, Canada, and hurried out the door, along with Jen, Charles, and his girlfriend. We could have stayed and watched Robin continue her run (not surprisingly, she went on to become a five-time champ), but I just wanted to get the hell out of there. My feelings were sort of confused. I was drained, a little excited still, kind of embarrassed. But mostly sad. The game had been fun. I realized that what I wanted, actually, was to play again, to bust into the studio, lean menacingly over Robin, look her dead in the eye and growl, "Two out of three!"
But it doesn't work that way. I'll never get to play Jeopardy! again. Ever. The adrenaline began to dissipate. With my wife holding one hand, my garment bag with its five-day champion wardrobe clutched in the other, I strode out the front gate of the Sony Pictures Studios. I now had a new goal: I wanted to sleep for a very long time.
My life in South Florida had pretty much returned to normal by the time the show aired a month ago. As I gathered with about a dozen friends at a local pub, I noticed that my hands were sweating and my pulse was thumping again -- retroactive performance anxiety.
Watching myself on TV was uncomfortable but thrilling at the same time. I seemed to be scowling the whole time I was on. My friends gave me the appropriate rations of shit when necessary, especially during my deafening silence at the beginning of the game. A rousing cheer erupted after my first correct answer. Half of them laughed and half of them hid their faces in shame at my Kermit impression. And as I suspected they would, my pals let out a collective groan when I whiffed on the Hurricane Andrew clue.
My buddy Robert took a liking to the way I enunciated one of my responses in the "Six Pack" category. To this day he'll just look at me and intone, "What is the Six Million Dollar Man?"
Overall my performance looked less galling on the tube. I didn't feel as embarrassed as I had standing there in front of the cameras. Everyone agreed that Robin Carroll was a ringer and that I had acquitted myself well.
When we returned home, there were several messages on my answering machine, one from my father. His comment: If I hadn't smoked so much pot in college I might have done better on the buzzer. The last message on the answering machine was from Lionel Goldbart.
"You played very well," he said. "That girl was one of the best I've ever seen, but you looked great, you didn't miss any when it mattered." He paused. "I'm very proud of you."
Contact Ted B. Kissell at his e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org