The Fragile Dream of the Game Show

One of the most important traditions in my life is not grand or auspicious by any means. In fact, it is so mundane I’m not sure it even counts as a tradition. In truth it is probably more of a habit, but has had a powerful impact on my life nonetheless. Every weekday at six in the evening I try to sit down and watch Jeopardy!. The syndicated game show is such a fixture in my life I actually feel a little bit guilty when I miss it.

I have enjoyed watching Jeopardy! for as long as I can remember. As a result, it has been a life-long dream of mine to actually appear as a contestant on the show. It is a dream that blends the usually disparate traits of ambition and laziness. Jeopardy! provides the opportunity to make a fortune from the ability to answer trivia questions. For me, this essentially equates to making lot of money without actually having to do any work. Going on Jeopardy! is probably the closest thing in the real world to encountering a sphinx, the mythical creature that provides rewards for answers to riddles.

There is always the time of year when the Jeopardy! producers are looking for new contestants to appear on the next season of the show. For several weeks, viewers have been encouraged to take the on-line quiz to qualify for the show. This would be a chance for me to make my dream of acquiring riches for free into a reality. Then again, it might dispel the myth of Jeopardy! I have built up over the years and leave me with nothing but the reality I already have.

I have always told myself if I were to appear on the show, I would completely dominate the competition. After all, I know a lot of trivia, and I do pretty well when I watch it on TV. But providing answers in the form of a question in the comfort of my own home is a far cry from doing the same under the stage lights with the studio audience and Alex Trebek providing extra pressure. What if I went on Jeopardy! and didn’t do well? What if I choked and ended up with negative points? To appear on Jeopardy! only to lose would be like discovering Santa Clause is real but is an accountant, or getting to visit Narnia and finding out the animals don’t really talk.

There is the chance that appearing on Jeopardy! would forever ruin the game show for me, regardless of whether I win or lose. Half of the fun of Jeopardy! is wondering what it would be like to be on the show. Once a contestant appears on the show, they can never return. To actually be on the show would strip away that wonder. No amount of money earned from winning would be able to buy back the dream of appearing on Jeopardy!.

This makes me wonder if some dreams are better off being left as they are. They could be ruined when they are made into a reality. Dreams are more useful to us as distant points on the horizon to aspire to, rather than things we can achieve, hold in our hands, and possibly throw away. We should still try to achieve our goals, but keep in mind if we turn all our best dreams into reality, we might be left with only mediocre ones to keep our brains busy and our spirits going. Like replacing Jeopardy! with Wheel of Fortune.