"Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment." (John 7:24)
To any and all who watched, "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" on mostly ABC television stations today, July 4, 2016, (or on October 12, 2015, when that episode first aired) I'm sure you probably have thoughts on what you'd have done were you the contestant or the "Plus One".
You may or may not believe this, but things are so different when you're actually on television. I stood there with my son Jon, looking at the very bright lights in front of us, and the entire experience seemed surreal. In thinking back upon it, it all seems like a dream. I was so proud of Jon when he was selected to be on the show. I was surprised and pleased when he asked me to be his "Plus One". I will admit that the thought of being Jon's "Plus One" was a bit intimidating. Jon has a very high I.Q. I wondered what I would possibly know that Jon wouldn't know, unless it was 1960s pop culture or automobiles of the '50s and '60s or something like that.
I was elated to watch Jon just whip through most of the first few questions! I was also elated that within just a few minutes, he'd amassed a "bank" of $30,000! Upon being asked to join him for that difficult $50,000 question, I did not know the answer, but in that moment, my entire focus was the importance of Jon winning the $50,000. My focus was not at all the fact that Jon had $30,000 and that he could opt to just walk away with that money. I've seen many contestants on that show look at the correct answer to a question and say, "Well, I know that can't be the correct answer!" I've shaken my head and commented, "How stupid can you be?" on many occasions when I've watched that and other game shows. Never did I think I'd make the very same type of mistake! I remember being just fixated in my opinion that "it just can't be 'those who smoke marijuana'!"
People in my age group will remember the old opening sequence of "ABC'S Wide World of Sports" which included a skier completely
"wiping out"- and the audio track in that moment announcing the line, "...the agony of defeat." That's exactly what I felt the moment Jon uttered the incorrect answer that I strongly encouraged him to utter- and instantly observed his cash prize shrink to $5000. A few minutes later we were being escorted into the studio's parking lot. We were pretty quiet, and I felt absolutely numb. Most of you probably realize the show was pre-recorded. It was taped a year ago, in late July of 2015. I actually went through a difficult time for the first twenty-four hours after we walked out of that studio! It's a long story, but as a young man, I made a foolish remark that led to my brother Eddie's photograph never being taken for his graduation high school yearbook photo. It's been over forty years, but that still haunts me. At the time of Eddie's death in 1983, I thought of his classmates who'd be looking for his photo in their yearbooks, only to find Edward Stephen Baril in the "Photos Not Available" category. In my heart, I felt I'd done the same kind of thing to my son Jon. I felt that in giving Jon very bad advice on national television, I'd taken away $25,000 that he'd won, and I felt horrible about it. I felt I was not only a terrible brother but a terrible father, as well. I honestly identified with Bill Buckner letting that ball go through his legs in Game Six of the 1986 World Series! On the drive home, I began telling Jon how sorry I was. He corrected me and told me it was not my fault- that it was a game, and that he was free to take or leave my advice. Jon said he gave the famous "final answer" so the blame (if we want to use that word) is his. Jon also reminded me he was still going to receive the largest check he'd ever received in his life, so it really wasn't such a bad thing! Jon also told me his initial gut-level instinct was that "those who smoke marijuana" was the correct answer, but ultimately he was not sure. Jon's words helped a little bit, but it took a lot of prayer and soul-searching over the next couple of days for me to come to terms with the experience.
I don't mean to sound melodramatic and fatalistic! In fact, I had a "blast" visiting "Who Wants to be a Millionaire"! The people who work on the show behind the scenes are very nice. We got to meet several other contestants and their "Plus Ones" during the couple of days we were there in the New York City area. (For any of you who watched the contestant "Mike" from Cheshire, CT on Friday's show- he's almost seven feet tall- we met and talked with him, for instance.) It was a great experience which I will cherish for the rest of my life! And, I'm indeed glad Jon chose me to be his "Plus One"! That twenty-four hours immediately following our appearance was stressful and painful for me, but thank God, I did totally get over those negative and self-condemning feelings! I wasn't sure how I'd feel about watching and re-living that moment of leading Jon to give an incorrect answer, but in fact I enjoyed watching us on the show, first on October 12, and then today. Jon really did such a good job getting to the $50,000 question and was so personable and animated that it was a real joy to watch (without the stress of having to be called up and help answer a difficult question)! I thought I looked a bit old and very nervous on television, but this was really Jon's moment and not mine; and I'm fine with it, and again, very proud of him!
We've received mostly positive feedback since the program aired last October, and I also received positive feedback about it on social media today. Listen, if you ever have the opportunity to try out to be a contestant on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire", I hope you'll do exactly what Jon did and try out! And, if a friend or relative invites you to be their "Plus One" on the show, I say, "Go for it!"