"Competition of the Week" story # 9

Grand Rapids, Michigan           September 30, 2001

(In one of those strange program quirks, "Competition of the Week" 7 came after "Competition of the Week" 11 and not after "Competition of the Week" 6. This did not happen because I donīt know how to count; no, the unfinished "Competition of the Week" 7 was postponed.)

And so, we move on with our lives.
     Weīve already observed that my life in Michigan is an ever-conscious tallyboard of close rivalries versus my brother, my best friend, and my best friendīs wife. Michigan, in comparison to some places in the world, can be a rather competative place.
     Take my friend, Jason, for example. An extreme example of what capitalism can do to a person. Jason is constantly comparing his progress along the American "rat race" to his friends and other people, he takes joy in pointing out where heīs superceded people, and he sometimes sleeps beneath a poster of money. I openly ride him for this.
     He tracks to the penny what his friends owe him, and he despises losing to them and, otherwise in his friendships, heīs always negotiating and trying to get the better of friends. Though he looks like a scrawny weasel, heīs tough to beat in tennis, ping pong, street ping pong, or most things. But, on his other side, heīs a lot of fun, heīs funny, and heīs very creative.
     In our leisure time, we invent games. "Tootsie Jumble" places three competitors on their knees, volleying around a ping pong ball with the palms of their hands around a central fan that blows up and wreaks havoc on the ball. Itīs a great time. We also play existing board games.
     Early during my eighth week in Michigan, we got together at his apartment to play Balderdash. Jasonīs not-so-competative girlfriend, Michelle, and a friend named Chris Koenz joined in. His cat, Harvey, just watched.
     Balderdash is my favorite board game. The competitors are faced with a strange, uncommon word. Such as, for example, "balderdash." Each competitor creates a false definition of the word, the submitted entries and the correct definition are all read anonymously, and everyone tries to guess the correct one. Points are awarded to those who guess correctly or convince others to guess their false definitions.
     We were playing a version of the board game that included - in addition to "words" and their definitions - categories for: "people" and their famed accomplishments; "dates" and their events that happened; and "acronyms" and what they stand for.
     One round, I announced the mysterious subject for the category, acronyms: "G.M.B.A." Within eight minutes, everyone handed me his entry. Reading them aloud for the people to choose from, I came to: "Entry # 3: Gay Men and Boysī Assication." "- Michelle" was written after this false entry. At first I didnīt understand her spelling, but now I get it.
     In a later round, Jason announced a date for us: "May 7, 1968," or something. In keeping with his cheap, money-grubbing personality, Jason rationed to us only the smallest triangles of paper to write our definitions on. Cradling his cat, he read aloud from these little triangles. "Entry # 2:" he said. "In Woodhock, Pennsylvania, a train derails in an effort to dodge a flock of sheep." - Michelle.
     Without hesitance, Jasonīs free laughter berated his girlfriend. "Wa wa wa!" he laughed. "... a train derailed to dodge a flock of sheep!"
     Later, Chris Koenz was reading entries during a "people" round. "Entry # 4:" he continued. "An engineer who singlehandedly caused a train to derail in an effort to dodge a flock of sheep." "- Michelle" was attached to the entry, but it had been written by Jason as a gest. "Wa wa wa," he laughed, and Michelle left.
     Michelle was now in bed, but making fun of her silly play couldnīt be stopped. Balderdash transformed into "Michelle-derdash," and the three remaining guys competed to write the stupidest definitions.
     The game went on to the final round. The word needing a definition in this round was "octoroon." I received about eight small triangle entries, and most of them were attributed to Michelle.
     "Entry # 2:" I read. "octoroon - a word, rare in that it contains four oīs." - Michelle (written by me)
     "Entry # 3: octoroon - Jason is a miserable, penny-pinching, paper-pilfering, pussy-pampering pansy, and an octoroon is something you eat." - anonymous (me). Jason laughed and wanted to hear it read again.
     "Entry # 5: octoroon - a house with six sides." - Michelle (Chris Koenz). Before I could read this, though, I rolled around in the cat hair, my face red, uncontrollable laughter spurting out like a sprinkler for five minutes. Maybe Chris Koenz had played Michelle-derdash before?
     "Entry · 7: octoroon - a six-sided figure." - Michelle (Jason).
     It was a good thing Michelle wasnīt present to hear this. Although, she wouldīve been around to learn the real definition for octoroon. "Entry # 4: octoroon - a person with seven white great-grandparents and one black one." How handy would that knowledge come in!
     Michelle - and her vast board game knowledge! - was present later that week. Her and Jasonīs apartment was the lucky host for exciting "Competition of the Week" 8: Scattergories. Chris Koenz wasnīt present, but the experienced "Comp of the Week-er" TJ came looking for his first competition win. Jason played Scattergories, but he declined to enter or be eligible to win "Competition of the Week." He does not support "Competition of the Week," nor any of my writing. But - ha ha! - heīs in my story anyways.
     The board game, Scattergories, gives its competitors a list of twelve "cattergories" each round. The cattegories could be "Famous Actress" or "A Vegetable" or "Sports Team" or any broad subject. A random letter, such as "B" or "C" or "L," or "M," is chosen, or "O," and the competitors have two minutes to write examples that begin with this letter and correspond to the category. Or "P," it could be. Or "F." Or "N" or "I."
     Or "S," too, for example.
     Points are given for each good answer - though, if two people write the same answers, they get crossed off.
     Critiquing your opponentsī answers for appropriateness and validity becomes important, because you canīt just let someone write something stupid.
     One infamous Scattergories supid answer had come on New Yearīs Eve, 1999. Jason and I argued against the answer validity of "Ernie and Bert," which one competitor had written for "Famous Duos" under "E." We argued that the duo was always known as "Bert & Ernie" and couldnīt be reversed. Finally, Jason reached the climax of his frustration, and he pointed in the face of his competitor and yelled:
     "Shit-bull! Shit-bull!"
     ("Bull-shit" reversed!) Jasonīs point was well-made. No points awarded for "Ernie and Bert."
     In the first round of the latest Scattergories, we already had some good debates. The letter randomly chosen was "W." For the category, "Things That Are Cold," Iīd written, "Walrus."
     Jason and TJ huffed and puffed, and disputed my answer for a while.
     Jason argued, "Itīs warm-blooded."
     But, TJ argued, "To be cold, it would have to be a penguin or a polar bear or something." A "T" or "J" could also be one roundīs random letter too, TJīs name helpfully pointed out. TJ, for what itīs worth, even seemed to have a slight tan to him, even in winter. Maybe he was an octoroon?
     Maybe not. But, TJīs argument really only served to strengthen my case. A walrus was certainly cold like a penguin. 1 point awarded for "Walrus."
     That same round, Jasonīs answer and mine were disputed for the category, "Ice Cream Flavors." When you think about it (and I have), "W" doesnīt start too many ice cream flavors. Jason had come up with, "Watermelon;" Iīd written, "White Chocolate." He confessed heīd never seen watermelon ice cream, but I had seen white chocolate ice cream, in Brazil.
     No points awarded for "Watermelon." 1 point awarded for "White Chocolate." And, one big Scattergories point awarded for the traveller whose progress in the "rat race" was that of a rat with no legs. While I was out, travelling, filling my brain with new possible Scattergories point-getters, that poor sucker, Jason, was doing nothing but filling his pockets with lots and lots of money. Ha!
     Iīd filled all twelve categories with answers that round. I had ten points. TJ had 8. Jason, 7. Michelle, 5. My lead didnīt slip through the next two rounds.
     In round four, the letter "F" was chosen. We jotted our answers and read to compare. For the category, "Leisure Activities," the three guys put things like, "Fishing" or "Football" or "Frisbee." We asked Michelleīs answer.
     MODERN ODDYSEUSī GUIDE TO ALWAYS WINNING # 7 - If you canīt think of anything intelligent to write, write something stupid. The worst thing that can happen is people are gonna laugh at you. Michelle responded:
     "Frying Pork."
     What the heck kind of a leisure activity was that? We laughed at her. No points awarded ... tsk, tsk ... for "Frying Pork."
     Hanging out with Michelle is fun. But, the fun came to an end after round five. I held a firm lead, making ... "Competition of the Week" 8īs winner: me! Though Jason wasnīt actually in the "Competition of the Week," he did finish second in the board game.
     Behind me, ha ha! Better luck to you in the "rat race," bud! I got your watermelon ice cream right here!

Later. - the leg-less, cheese-less rat, Modern Oddyseus (4-3).

Addīl stats. No-points-awarded stupid answers:
TJ - 3
me - 2
Michelle - 7

Jason (a non-"Comp of the Week-er") - 4

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