Game Seven Recap...  Mark Dawson

[Readers note: a portion of this recap is excerpted from a letter that I had
previously written to Alan B. and shared, in part, with Kathy C. I promised to include it here and do so, no matter how it affects my public image (if I have one).]

As I try to compose my thoughts about Semifinal #2, I still can't get Semifinal #1 out of my head. I am so glad that I only casually watched the game when it was live. I concentrate so intently on a good match that it wears me out almost as much to watch one as it does to play one.

With the first tape-day's nervousness out of the way and after dinner & drinks with friends, I thought I would be able to get some decent rest, but see.... at home, I don't have cable, so almost anything on cable seems interesting to me. Actually, I did get to sleep at a reasonable hour, midnight-ish, with no snoring sister and no party in the next room, so I have no complaints. I was happy to awake before my alarm at around 5:30. As I figured it, being on an East Coast schedule gave me the advantage of extra time in the morning to get myself mentally ready. I knew that I could not afford a repeat of my mid-game meltdown from the game I had taped the day before, if I wanted to win today. Dear reader, this in no way suggests that I believe that I would have scored even one additional point in my previous showing. That game was all anyone could ask for, and all three of us qualified for the Semifinals. Unfortunately that out-of-body sort of too-much-sinus-medication sort of haze woke up with me. My mind was so
busy thinking about what could have been, would have been, might yet be, might not be and all sorts of future and past possibilities and outcomes, that I could not focus on the here and now. I spent the morning trying every trick that I could think of to work myself into a positive groove, including spending half an hour on the exercise bike to burn off nervous tension, followed by a long hot shower for relaxation. Nothing was working. I don't suffer from pre-test anxiety, but this must be what it feels like. Anyway, just as I was getting out of the shower, I started loudly singing old songs, songs from my youth, like "Lean on Me," by Bill Withers and "A Pirate Looks at 40," by Jimmy Buffett. (Cheesy, I know, but it's the truth.) I felt a sudden numbness as beta-endorphins flooded my brain and I knew I had found the key. I had found my center.

Whatever would happen that day would take care of itself, but I knew at that
moment, that I would bring my "A" game, that win or lose, no matter who I was stacked up against, I was gonna have fun and make the most of it --- no regrets.

This is a bit of a secret, but before I went down to meet everyone for the
shuttle ride to the studio, I took the opportunity to quickly check through my notes on important occurrences that had happened in the month of May. I had noticed that such topical matters sometimes come up as Jeopardy fodder.

When it came to my draw, I was disappointed to get Alan for much the same reasons as Brian was to get Mark Brown in the first game. Plus, Alan and I had been the alternates in the 2001 ToC and on top of that, if you haven't heard it already, he and I graduated from high school the same year from schools separated by less than 15 miles. I even knew some of his elementary school friends from my days at Mount de Sales, in Macon, Georgia. Actually, the day began with the possibility of an "all-Georgia" final, as Eric was in the mix as well.

On the other hand, I was elated to get the opportunity to share the stage with Jill. I was impressed with her and with her game play (too few people recognize that Jeopardy is more than a free-association exercise). She is very intelligent and extremely savvy, and, though not the most aggressive of the fifteen ToCers, she would never beat herself. Before the tournament I had estimated Alan and Jill to be the most accurate of the competitors and would try my best to follow suit. If I was going to lose to either, I would have been happy for them and would have rooted for them in the finals (after all, if you are gonna lose, you want to lose to the eventual winner, right?).

I've droned on and on about the pre-game. As for the game itself, it was my
first time in the dreaded middle podium, and I have to say that I loved it. I
was able to watch both of my competitors and the game. I felt very involved in every play. The game was a seesaw battle between Alan and I, with each going on runs and Jill picking up pieces here and there, keeping her head in the game, until she made a strong move late. I lucked up by being presented with an entire category devoted to May and though I would likely have known those clues without study, it is much easier to be first on the buzzer when you don't have to think about your response. I also recall that at one point I was so desperate to buzz in on something... anything.... that upon being shown a picture of Stella McCartney, I asked the question "Who is Vera Wang?"(Jill quickly picked up the rebound and would have saved me a good deal of embarrassment and some points if she'd have rung in a little more quickly! I mean really!) Maybe that's not as funny as Kyle's "toilet paper" or Max's soiling "the sheets," but I sure felt like an ass. As for the "Royal Dutch Shell" response, my problem was that I didn't understand the clue. I mean, what do you call Shell Oil? Well, "Shell Oil" of course. It seemed self-evident under the lights and pressure of the moment. It wasn't until I began saying "What is..." that my subconscious (or divine intervention) caused me to utter "Royal Dutch Shell." That was not a planned response; it just came out. I have an MBA in International Business and it is certainly a piece of information that I know, but I had no idea that I was going to say it.

We were all in the game at the end. My strategy, from first place was simply,
bet to win. Our Final Jeopardy clue was difficult, but gettable. I started with
North America, forgot that New York was named for the Duke of York and not the region itself , then moved on to South America. "Rio..... no, Sao Paulo is larger..... hmm..... Sao Paulo." I wrote that down, then started on Asia, avoiding Africa, thinking its cities unlikely choices. I thought of Ho Chi Min City and wrote that down. I started on Europe, and as the tympani signaled the end of time, crossed through Ho Chi Min City.

Later, Alan complimented me on my air of confidence during the game. I must admit that my self-assurance was simply a game that I played with myself. I pretended that I would be confident and that made me confident. In certain situations, the reality you choose is the reality you get.