Who doesn’t love the wheel?

wheel

BY DAN CLEMMONS

I took some time off the other week and headed to the beach with a friend. Since it was just the two of us, and his parents’ house (where we were staying) was mostly surrounded by families on vacation and residents 65 and up, our options for nightlife were pretty limited—not to mention that we were there during what was still considered the off-season. We had trouble finding restaurants that were open, let alone ones that served alcohol. But thanks to a nearby beach-themed restaurant, stocked with plenty of beer, I had one of the funnest nights I can recall between the hours of 7PM and 8PM.

After making friends with the incredibly bored bartender, she passed over the remote to the bar TV. What else do we happen to land on at 7:30PM but the show that everyone knows, Wheel of Fortune.

Now, I admit, at first I breezed right past the channel, but when I realized there were only about a dozen stations to choose from, and we weren’t permitted to turn on the sound, Wheel of Fortune won out. But I’m glad it did. We had so much fun guessing what the next letter would be, trying to solve the puzzles ourselves, and acting personally effected when someone won or lost a good deal of money.

Not only that, but if you haven’t watched the Wheel in a while, the undoubtable curiosity you experience concerning Pat Sajak and Vanna White’s ages are sure to keep the conversation flowing—which is 68 and 58 respectively if you were wondering, because I know you were.

The whole show lead us to about an hour of Wheel of Fortune online research. Using a TIME article from last year we learned all kinds of behind the scenes information, like the fact that Vanna White hasn’t actually turned any letters since 1997—”when the puzzleboard switched from manual to computerized”—and that she has never once repeated an outfit in her 6,000+ appearances on the show.

Compelling stuff, I know.

The article also says that White is an avid crocheter—probably the only indicator that she’s nearing grandma-age since she certainly doesn’t look it. She even has her own line of yarn, Vanna’s Choice, from which a portion of the proceeds go to the St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

And our newfound obsession with the Wheel didn’t end there. Later that night we even went home and played the Wheel of Fortune slot game from Betfair arcade. Having your own personal crowd cheer you on yelling “Wheel! Of! Fortune!” as you spin for your next alignment was more fun than I care to admit. Plus the game eliminates the needs to solve the word puzzle yourself—the harder part of the game for some of us. There’s much more spinning, and much less thinking—the perfect entertainment combination after a few cold ones.

Now I’m home and back in my daily routine again, but damn if I don’t still look forward to tuning into the Wheel at night.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I’m watching it while eating a microwavable TV dinner and counting out my pills for the week—last night was spaghetti and meatballs night and I watched it while drinking a beer thank you very much.

Call me nostalgic, call me a nerd, but I can’t help but feel that the classics just keep proving they’re such for a reason. Maybe it’s because after that week at the beach I spent the weekend with my grandparents, and they get really, really into the Wheel. But who cares. Guessing those dumb riddles and seeing those contestants get excited over the possibility of winning a new car or an all-inclusive trip to Fort Lauderdale is just plain fun.

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