anford “Sandy” Argabrite ’82 always enjoyed watching trivia game shows but never thought he would end up on one until he became a winning contestant on “Best Ever Trivia Show.” The show, which premiered on the Game Show Network on June 10, 2019, features three contestants who compete alongside renowned Trivia Experts such as Ken Jennings, Muffy Marracco and Raj Dhuwalia. Argabrite competed on the show on Aug. 19 and beat out the other contestants by a wide margin, correctly selecting nine out of 10 correct answers and going on to compete one-on-one against a Trivia Expert in the final round. In the opening round, Sandy went toe-to-toe with (Jeopardy record-holder
) Ken Jennings and was the only contestant to get all correct answers, matching Jennings.
How to Play
The show is divided into three rounds and a final “Ultimate Trivia Challenge.” In the first round, one contestant gets to choose the topic and the Trivia Expert. A contestant's correct answer is worth 50 points if the chosen Trivia Expert got it right, and 100 points if not. The second round operates similarly to the first round, except the chosen Trivia Expert secretly submits an answer first, and then, without disclosing their answer, states how confident they are in their answer. Based on the Trivia Expert's stated confidence level, and their own knowledge, the contestants may either use the Trivia Expert's answer, sight unseen, for 200 points, or try to select the correct answer themselves for 400 points. This round lasts for a maximum of three questions; the contestant with the most points at the end of this round wins $1,000 and plays the "Ultimate Trivia Challenge,” during which they will compete against the final Trivia Expert for a chance to win $10,000.
It all began when
I had tried out for one or two other shows primarily because my wife wanted to try out for some game shows. So I went along with her, just to sort of see what it was like. They sent me a link and they said, “Hey, we are recruiting players for this brand new game that's going to be called the Best Ever Trivia Show and we’re going to have five best trivia Trivia Experts in the entire world, competing first alongside with you, and then they compete against you in the end.” They got some really heavyweight people together for it, so I said sure. I did the first quiz, and it was sufficient to get me to the second round, which was a timed quiz where they give you 20 seconds per question, and you have to answer seven of these in a minute and a half. So they want to test your ability to operate under pressure and see how accurate you can be. And then about a week later, I got another email saying, “Hey, we want to interview you now.”
So we did a Skype interview for about half an hour. And one of the producers was checking for whether we were presentable and enthusiastic. So she liked what she saw. And so they contacted me and said, “Come on down for the show.” The process was fascinating because you spend four or five hours waiting in a room. There are no telephones or any communication allowed outside of that room with the contestants. And this was all put in place because of some of the scandals associated with the quiz shows where people had cheated, so they're very cautious about ensuring that you don't have any access to anything. So we just had a puzzle that we would repeatedly put together and take apart. Then they do a test run where they bring the contestants into a room to do a practice run of the show. And then they send you back to your room, where you wait until they come and say “Okay, it's time for you to go.”
I had only prepared a little bit. And when I say I prepared, all I did was watch a couple of trivia shows, but it was no more than three or four trivia shows. I didn’t do any studying, open any books or go online and do any practice. I didn't believe that it would make a big enough difference. And I have small kids and a full-time job. So I have plenty of other stuff to do without adding another thing to my list of projects.
I was most nervous when I was about to walk onto the stage. They don't let you see the actual stage, nor do they let you see any of the stars. So you're standing in this hallway with wires going everywhere, and people walking around. You can hear the buzz of the audience, but you can't see anything, so you don't know exactly what's going on out there. Once I went inside, I was still nervous until we got through the first question because you don't really know how it works. Am I going to hit the right button? Is my brain gonna freeze? When I walked in, I had probably waited for over four to six hours. We had gone over practice questions, but there was really nothing else to do. By the time I got out there, a lot of the nervous energy dissipated, but I still had a little bit at the very beginning.
It had long been an unspoken dream
just to meet Ken. I had no idea when I tried out for the show that I might compete against Ken Jennings. They didn’t tell me that he might be one of the Trivia Experts. And then when I arrived on set, and the word spread that Ken was onsite, I started hoping that I would be able to meet him. It didn’t enter my mind that I might play against him. When we walked on stage and I saw Ken, my heart skipped a beat and I wondered if I would be the one to select the Trivia Expert. I was immediately focused on picking him, and picking him in a way that showed my awe and respect. Because I was closest to the audience among the contestants, I got to select the category and the Trivia Expert. When I started matching him question for question, I had a feeling of “this is once in a lifetime,” but I didn’t allow myself to lose focus on the game.
The most difficult round was by far the first round. There were questions that I had no right to get correct, meaning that I had never studied topics like the periodic table of elements. There was a question asking about the chemical symbol of tin. As a political science major in college, that was not something I had ever studied. And you have to go with your gut instinct, where you just pick whatever you think is the right answer, without really thinking about it. The logical answer would have been silicone, or something like that which had the letters SN in it. For no reason whatsoever, in the back of my brain, I just said I think it's tin. People have asked me afterwards how I knew that if I didn’t know the periodic table of elements. It just came into my head. Then they asked questions involving conversions between Celsius and Fahrenheit. I was lucky in the sense that I had lived in an area where Celsius was used, so I had some understanding, but certainly not enough to be able to do quick calculations in my head to figure out what the answer was. So it was a guess, and I got lucky. And then I guessed on another question afterward. So the first round was by far the most difficult for me.
The easiest round turned out to be the second round because it was about birds. I have a five-year-old and a seven-year-old, and we watch a lot of nature shows. So I knew the answers to the questions on what is the only bird that can go 200 miles an hour, simply because I had watched a TV show in the last six months that talked about the peregrine falcon. And it was the same with the question about the bird with the largest wingspan in the world. Because I had watched those nature shows two out of three questions I got right.
When I started coming in the lead, at first I was very pleased and excited because that's a dream of mine. I’ve watched a fair number of trivia shows, such as The Chase, and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. And I just enjoy the mental stimulation of competing alongside the contestants. But a secondary thought went through my mind when I had gotten through the first round, and then the second round. From the very first question, I was either tied or in the lead the whole way. The quick thing that ran through my mind when I got to the last round was, it would make a terrible story if I lost it at this point. I've done all that I can do and...this is a great story so far. And I really wanted to finish this way.
Sandy Argabrite successfully beat out his fellow contestants through three rounds to compete for the Ultimate Trivia Challenge. While he was not the ultimate winner of this final round, he still walked away with $1,000 and a great story to tell.