I told you that Lila Michaels, the contestant coordinator for Tic Tac Dough, was a ball of fire. Here’s how her son, legendary sports announcer Al Michaels, described her:
“She was a combination of Phyllis Diller and Joan Rivers … She was hysterical and did things other mothers didn’t. She told dirty jokes. The other mothers weren’t like my mom.”
That was clearly true. After I unwittingly said that her son was my second favorite baseball announcer, Lila forgot all about protocol and procedure and told me she wanted me to appear on the next episode of Tic Tac Dough.
It was a very simple game based on tic tac toe. Each of the nine squares in the grid contained a different trivia category. Players took turns choosing a square and attempting to answer a question from the category found in that square. If he answered it correctly, that square was filled with his X. If the other player answered it, the square was filled with her O. The categories shuffled after each answer and changed position on the grid. Just like tic tac toe, you had to answer three questions “in a row” to win the game.
Let’s say one of the categories was “History.” When the categories shuffled, that category might end up in the upper right hand corner of the grid. But when the categories were shuffled again, it might show up in the lower left hand corner. Or anywhere else on the grid. But as the contestants answer questions and X’s and O’s are added to the grid, there wouldn’t be enough squares left for all nine categories. Some of them were eliminated. You never knew which of the categories would remain on the grid after squares were eliminated and categories were shuffled.
I won the first two games I played. I didn’t just win, I freakin’ dominated. Kicked some game show butt. I was the Tic Tac Terminator.
Then came game number three. The one I had to win to walk away with the big money.
The worst thing that could possibly happen happened. One of the categories was “Baseball.” Now I just happened to know everything about baseball. I could tell you who won the American League batting title in 1929 and what his average was. I could tell you the starting line-up of the 1962 San Francisco Giants and how many games they won that season. Clearly, I would have been far more successful in life if my brain had been filled with useful information instead of meaningless baseball trivia and stats.
You may wonder why it’s a bad thing that my favorite category came up.
Because I completely forgot about the simple strategy of winning tic tac doe. Instead of trying to get a full row of X’s, I chose “Baseball” wherever it landed on the grid.
At one point I had two squares in row and could have easily won the game and the big bucks simply by getting the third one. But when they shuffled the trivia categories around the grid, “Baseball” ended up where another X wouldn’t help me. Didn’t matter. I went for it.
Wink Martindale, the host of the program, gave me a very quizzical look and said, “Interesting strategy, Jim. Let’s see if it pays off for you.”
Of course, it didn’t. It was the strategy of an idiot. The method of a moron. It gave my opponent the opening he needed and he eventually got three squares in a row while I was off chasing “Baseball” no matter where it went. It was like pursuing a beautiful woman when you know she will eventually ruin your life. (Call me a slow learner, because I’ve also been guilty of that a few times.)
Was it stupid?
Tic Tac Duh.