By now, most of you have either watched or heard about my performance on ESPN's Stump The Schwab. For those who haven't, here's a quick and dirty recap, before I reveal its inner-workings:
I beat the other contestants in my particular episode, which was my initial goal. ESPN paid for nothing in terms of travel and lodging, so actually coming out of this in the black was a relief. Unfortunately, I was no match for The Schwab and his minions in the Schwab Showdown, and was thus denied the opportunity to continue on my quest.
I have to thank my friend Colleen, by the way, for allowing me to sleep on her couch for 3 nights. Not only did I get my first exposure to Harlem, but I saved who knows how much on Hotel fees.
As for my "big day", it was quite long. We had to be at the Lower Manhattan studio at 10 am to get ready for this show. In their desire to get this show "in the can" as expeditiously as possible, they were doing 3 episodes this day. We had been assigned our fellow competitors, but then the shows Lawyer-type made is draw lottery balls out of a hat to determine which time-slot we had. Naturally, I ended up on the final show of the day, scheduled to begin shootin around 5 in the afternoon.
No problem, right? I'll just watch the other episodes being shot. Wrong. Fearing that we might be able to divine what categories would be presented to us by watching these prior tapings, we were sequestered in the "Green Room" with some VHS tapes of late 90's cinema. I use the term "Green Room" loosely...it was more like 2 couches, a 13" TV, and small window. I guess "Minimum-Security Prison Cell" would be more accurate.
Nonetheless, I finally got around to seeing Swingers, all the way through, for the first time. Sad that it's taken this many Jon Favreau-pounds-gained for me to just now see his finest work. After several hours of waiting, not being allowed to study my copious notes, and a showing of L.A. Confidential (great movie), they were ready to send us into the Belly of the Beast.
I hoped to get a chance to exchange pleasantries with Schwab, and even Stuart Scott (maybe even find out he isn't the jock-sniffing poseur that he portrays on TV), but that didn't happen. This really just seemed like a thing both of them wanted to get over with so they could go home. I can't say I was too surprised.
In my college days, I was a TV intern, and worked around many personalities who seemed to take their job for granted - even though there were thousands of viewers, and small-market broadcasters, who would take their place in a nanosecond. Eventually, I guess it all just becomes work, regardless of what you do.
Finally on set, we get the show rolling. I had a notebook with about 150 pages of potential categories, so I felt very prepared. Then, we get the first category in "Leading Off" from Stu:
"Name the 16 players who had 10 or more sacks in the NFL last season."
Well, there's a category I wasn't expecting. I'm first, too, so I go for the most obvious answer...
Me: Michael Strahan
That's great. Still blanking on who to go with next. Why didn't I think of this one? The guy next to me misses, then Schwab and the big dude from Chicago name guys I wouldn't have thought of. Sweet...my turn again. I feel so lame going for names even a casual football fan would think of...
Me: Simeon Rice
Shwew...that's already two more than the guy next to me. I end up being the last contestant left, and I'm looking to go obscure (i.e. a Falcon). I can't remember who had more sacks though...Patrick Kerney or Rod Coleman.
Kerney, Coleman, Kerney, Coleman, Kerney, Coleman...
Me (aloud): Patrick Kerney
Great, I can't even remember stuff from my favorite pro team, I'm screwed!
Miraculously, that turns out not to be the case as I scoot through to the next round, take out my reaming competition, and move on to the Showdown. Once there, I get the distinct pleasure of mentioning my Alma Mater on the air.
The Question: "What 3 time ACC Coach of the Year came out of retirement in 2006 to take the head coaching job at College Of Charleston?"
My Answer: "Former Appalachian State Head Coach Bobby Cremins."
In your face, Georgia Tech! Although, I did enjoy Lethal Weapon 3's run to the Final Four back in '90. So, thanks for that.
Really, the first two questions in the Showdown couldn't have gone any better for me. The first question was from the category involving Baseball Mascots, and I honestly had the thought "I wonder if they'll ask one about the former Montreal Expos' mascot, Youppi!?". Sure enough, he/it was the answer to the first question.
After that, though, I don't think it could have gone any worse. I blanked the rest of the way, and got a few strange looks from the Schwab when I missed. I wanted to smack the look off his face, just to take him back to High School for a moment, but thought better of it. Besides, how many 28 year-olds do you know can even remember that Wendell Tyler played for the Rams (or who he was), even if it's the wrong answer?
I went pretty meekly. Along the way, though, I learned a few things:
A) I'm too racey for ESPN Classic. Early on in the show, Stu asked me about a particular streaking incident I was party to in college. I completely blanked that I had written that on my application, in a shameless attempt to get on the show. I guess my description of how I protected my...uh... future children (upon taking a nasty fall during the incident) was a little too vivid. Thus, it was edited out.
B) The editors ostensibly also thought I was a Red State xenophobe. The 2nd category in Round 1 was "Name the Final 16 Teams in this year's World Cup". We killed the category...and when I gave my final answer, it involved the States' arch-rival in soccer. My actual reply was "As much as it pains me to say it - Mexico." What made the air was me saying "Mexico". Me saying what I said is basically like a Michigan fan being forced to answer about who won the 2003 Fiesta Bowl.
Apparently, though, the post-production folks were worried that a Mexican-American viewer might be offended...the largest group in this country that is acutely aware of the aforementioned rivalry. Between this and the Streaking story, they succeeded in editing much of my personality out of the show. Kind of ironic, since ESPN has a track-record of including too much personality in their other shows. Boo yah!
C) The Schwab may know alot, but he appears scared of College Football. Considering his Yankee upbringing, it's no shock. I think I'd avoid Hockey like the plague if the tables were turned. I still find it interesting - considering that one of the producers confessed to us that the writers for the show are running out of categories for the "Leading Off" round. It's a subject that certainly would have helped me alot.
So, I come back to Atlanta $1,000 richer (Less the cost of airfare and food. Thanks, ESPN!), and secure in the knowledge that I don't know as much about Sports Trivia as The Schwab. I'm actually glad that I don't. I'd have to think it might affect my social life just a smidge if I did. As one of my female friends put it - "I know how to Stump The Schwab...ask him how to pick up chicks!"
Of course, his wife might have something to say about that.