The Greatest

Chaos in Print

Tonight, I was in one of those nostalgic moods where I felt like reliving my glory days. I dug around in my closet, until I found a humble audio tape labeled 3/21/96. In my first two years at college, I taped my radio show to send home for my parents to listen to. I quit doing it during my third year because I couldn’t afford the tapes anymore, and my parents just weren’t listening. But, I was fortunate to be taping the show on the night of March 21, 1996. In my opinion, that night I did the greatest radio show I’ve ever done. I can’t explain it. I remember going up to the station that night to do my show. When I noticed that the record player was working, and I was able to find that first pressing of the Star Wars soundtrack on vinyl, I just knew everything would be going my way that night. I kicked off with the theme from Star Wars on a scratchy old record, and everything just went my way. The day after that show, with all the compliments I received, I was convinced that I was the greatest. I have done many things in my life to try and relive that feeling of being the greatest.

Right now, I am obsessed with that game show, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. I drive my mother nuts with that show. Every night the show is on, I watch. And, 9 times out of 10, I get the answer right. I shocked my mother one night by correctly answering every question from the $100 level to the $1,000,000 level. I turned to my mother and said, “I told you I could do it.” And then there was the time when the $1,000,000 question was “Which of the following authors was born as Howard Allen O’Brien?” My mom was stumped. The contestant was stumped, and walked away with his half a million. But, there I was at home, with nothing but my gut hunch. I went with my hunch, and stunned my mother by being right. It’s Anne Rice. Of course, all this success soon went to my head, and now whenever I correctly answer a question, I scream out “I AM THE GREATEST!!” So, when the Canadian version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire was announced, I knew it was time to put my money where my mouth was.

I checked the CTV website religiously, waiting for them to announce the 1-900 number. When they did, I ran upstairs and put it on speed dial. Then, I went back and read the rules of the contest. In order to win, you needed to get five rounds of fastest finger right. I could only call once a day. That’s cool. I am the greatest, after all, so I knew one call would be all I need. The country would be split into six geographic regions, and I was in the middle of the largest: Prairies & Territories. That’s OK. Not daunted yet. Now, whenever I correctly answer all five fastest finger questions, my name gets put into a draw. Then, my name is drawn, and I win! In my region. Then, my name gets put into a second draw, and is drawn from the winners of all regions. So, even if I was the greatest, I had to survive two random draws. Suddenly, I flashed back to speech of Two-Face’s on an episode of Batman: “Chance. Everything depends on it. Whether you’re born or not, whether you die or not, whether you’re good or evil.” But, I knew that I could send out enough good vibes to win both draws. After all, I am the greatest.

Soon, the day came. The phone lines were open, and it was time to make my first call. I dialed the 1-900 number. I got this whole speech from Pamela Wallen about how I would be charged $2 for the call and such forth. Then, thing were turned over to that digitized voice asking for my gender, birth date, and last 4 digits of my social insurance number. I entered all that information diligently. Then, the computer voice droned on about the rules. Yadda, yadda, yadda. And then, it was time for round 1! My first fastest finger question: “Put these four words in order to form the name of a folk singing group: 1) Paul 2) Peter 3) Mary 4) and.” This was the fastest finger. Time was running out. I panicked. My panicked mind said “This is easy! I know this group! It’s Peter, Paul, Mary, and!” I entered that as my answer, and it was naturally wrong (it’s Peter, Paul, and Mary, for those who don’t know). I was in shock. How could I have panicked? I am the greatest. So, next day came, and it was time for me to call again. Again, I panicked, and entered the wrong answer. Day 3. Again, I panic and enter the wrong answer. What was wrong with me? Is it possible that I am not the greatest?

Finally, around day 5, I started wising up. My panic was working against me. So, when the computer voice droned on about the rules before the game began, I would close my eyes, breath deeply, and enter a total state of relaxation. First fastest finger question. I aced it. Second one. Easier than the first. Third one. Hey, I’m on a roll! Fourth one. Damn! Geography! The bane of the Millionaire contestant! I washed out. But, I made it farther than I had before. Perhaps I am the greatest after all. Next day, another chance. This time, the third question was a sports question. Damn! Sports! The silver bullet for this werewolf! But still, I was doing damn good. The days began to roll by. I would consistently wash out in the third or forth rounds. But I knew that all I needed was to get to the final round just once and I would be the greatest.

The final day came. I knew that it was now or never. The first, second, and third questions were easy. Then, the forth one: “Put the following rulers of England in the order of when they took power, starting with the earliest.” My jaw dropped. I was stumped. I made a valiant attempt, but bombed. Perhaps, I wasn’t the greatest after all. A few days went by and it wasn’t before long that complete statistics were published in the paper. Apparently, 759,937 people called in to play the game and become a contestant. Of that number, only 3741 got all five questions right. I pulled out ol’ Betsy (my graphing calculator) and crunched the numbers. This works out to 0.5%. This means that out of everyone who called in, only 0.5% were good enough to get all five. As Mark Twain once said “When you find yourselves on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.”

So, my worst fears were confirmed. I was not the greatest. Only 3741 people get that honor. But who knows? Perhaps it was just simply their turn. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my short time here on this earth, it’s that we all get out turn at being the greatest. For some, it happens when they kiss the Stanley Cup, or win Olympic gold. For others, it may be their wedding day, and the knowledge that, out of a whole planet, their spouse chose them. There are those who’ll get it on a game show. For me, it was March 21, 1996. We all get our turn, and someday, it will come around to us again. We all know how to recognize it. You just wake up in the morning, and everything seems to be going your way. Whether by luck or grand design, things just click for you. But, until that day comes again, there is one thought that I will forever cling to.

We are the greatest. Never doubt that.