You take the Jeopardy! test You make the cut. You, with your Master’s Degree in Estonian History and a minor in Rocket Science.
You appear on the show. But alas, while you accumulate $6,500, you place third. Do you get to keep your winnings? No. You receive $1000. Only the winner keeps his winnings. The runner-up, a recent graduate of Cretonia Community College’s Automotive Detailing Program, with an emphasis on Backseat Vacuuming, earns $2000.
Your neighbor, who attended Averagelian College but dropped out during her freshman year— the pregnancy had nothing to do with it, she insists—applies for Wheel of Fortune. She gets on. During the introductions, she tells host Pat Sajak she works in digital consulting. When pressed, she clarifies, “I do nails.”
The neighbor goes on to match your $6,500 in earnings by solving one puzzle. “Hickory Dickory Dock” she screams moments after the contestant to her right erred by saying, “Hickory Dickory Cock” and triggering the longest recorded game show audience laugh in history. Like you, your neighbor places third. She, however, gets to keep her earnings.
Now, how is this fair?
It isn’t fair. Like the Electoral College, COVID-19, systemic racism, and the blatant bias against mediocre writers like me by the Pulitzer Prize judging panel isn’t fair.
These issues keep me up at night. I pace the floor over the Electoral College. I sit on the edge of the bed worrying about COVID-19. I beat my pillow thinking about racism. Likewise, the discrepancy between Jeopardy! winnings and those on Wheel of Fortune has had me tossing and turning at 2:37, 3:16, and 4:04 a.m. I have yelled, “How is this fair?” to Jeopardy! producers during many tortured attempts at sleeping. I get no response. Apparently, the program’s producers sleep in another room.
It isn’t fair, dammit.
Oh, how I wish I could go back in time when game shows like Hollywood Squares and Concentration aired. When life was fair. Ah, those were the good old days. When Nixon was president of a Watergate-torn nation. And the War in Vietnam raged on and on. And the same racism dividing AmeriKKKa today was 50 years younger.
Ah, yes, those were the good old days.