My big break: the true story of a Jumbotron genius

I played a trivia game and my life hasn’t been the same since

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You may recognize me if you pass me on the street. See, I was on the Jumbotron at the University’s basketball game against Clemson last week.

They didn’t just flash my face up there for a moment. They didn’t show me poorly lip-syncing “Sweet Caroline.” I didn’t stand up and dab frantically for 15 seconds because I’m a 12-year-old boy who only knows one dance move. I wasn’t forced to awkwardly kiss my elderly spouse on the Kiss Cam. No, I was really on the Jumbotron. I mean, I was featured. I was highlighted. I was the star of the show. I played the “Higher or Lower” trivia game.

The “Higher or Lower” trivia game is one of the most esteemed traditions at this hallowed University of ours. For the uninitiated, the rules are simple. The answer to each question is “higher” or “lower.” A question might be something like “Kyle Guy’s points per game average: higher or lower than 17?” or “Tony Bennett’s age: higher or lower than 47?” or “Jack Salt’s chill to pull ratio: higher or lower than 2:2?”

“Higher or Lower” is one of the noblest Jumbotron games a person can play. It’s not a silly party game like the one with the ball under the three moving cups. The crowd can’t help you by yelling out, “Number two! Number two!” It’s no barbaric physical test like a half-court shot. It doesn’t require knowledge of something as useless as the prices of items at Harris Teeter. Don’t even get me started on the vacuous disaster that is the baby race. Higher or Lower is a true test of knowledge. There’s no easy way out. It’s the purest form of competition one can undertake in a basketball arena.

I was selected to play, I believe, because of the degree to which I ooze knowledge about the University’s basketball team. I didn’t have to wear a gaudy Morphsuit to attract attention. I didn’t have to grow ridiculous sideburns and wear a headband to show I’m a true fan. No, I believe the stadium intern saw — deep in my eyes, deep in my heart — that I was capable of correctly ballparking the height of De’Andre Hunter, and she picked me accordingly.

I sauntered down to the court when my time came. Calm, cool and collected. The hostess lead me out onto the floor. My sneakers squeaked on the very same hardwood that’s been home to such greats as Joe Harris, Mike Scott and the lady who flips bowls onto her head at halftime. The bright lights of the stadium washed over me. My face splashed across the Jumbotron. There I was, larger than life, finally alive. 

The hostess explained that to win the game I had to answer four questions correctly before the 30-second clock ran out. The prize — a Stauer watch and the unending love and respect of everyone in the arena. 

Three, two, one, go.

“Number of opponents held under 50 points this season — higher or lower than 7?”

Easy money. Our defense is totally freakin’ sweet. “Higher!”

“Correct! De’Andre Hunter’s height in inches — higher or lower than 80?”

Ah! The ol’ height in inches question. I knew this was coming. De’Andre is 6 feet 7 inches — 79 inches. “Lower!” 

I was two for two. I was on fire. This was going to be easy, I thought. 

“Number of 1000-point scorers in U.Va. men’s basketball history — higher or lower than 50?” 

“Higher!”

“Incorrect!”

Uh oh. I was rattled. 

“Number of letters in Mamadi Diakite’s name: higher or lower than 14?”

I’d love to say that I answered this question easily, seeing as Mamadi Diakite’s name was spelled out on the Jumbotron, right there for all to see. I could’ve just counted the letters. It would’ve been a breeze. I did not do this — I was rattled. “Higher!” I said, immediately regretting the answer. The clock ticked down to 10 seconds. The hostess kept rolling. 

“Distance in miles from Auckland, New Zealand to Charlottesville, Virginia — higher or lower than 8,000?”

Uhhh. “Higher!”

“Correct!”

There was time for one last question. I had three correct. It all came down to this. “Jersey number of former player Jontel Evans — higher or lower than 10?”

Jontel Evans. A blast from the past. The guard in the early Bennett years. But here’s the thing — I’m from Charlottesville. I’ve been going to the University’s basketball games since I was a kid. I remember the dark years. I remember Jontel Evans. Jontel Evans wore number one.

“Lower!”

“Correct!”

The crowd went wild. I know what a wild crowd looks like — I was here when we beat UNC last year and when Marco Anthony hit a three pointer at the end of the Clemson game to get everyone half-off Cane’s. When I won, the crowd went wild. The stands were shaking. One of the cheerleaders fainted. No one in the building will ever forget what happened. As I strolled off the court, fist in the air, the “Good Ol’ Song” echoed from the rafters. My buddy Isaac broke down in tears.

It’s been a week since my epic performance and it’s already become clear that my life will never be the same. Being a star is exhausting. One of the cashiers at Rising Roll asked for my autograph. The paparazzi cornered me while I was studying in the music library. I had to lock myself in a practice room to get them to go away. TNT offered to boot Shaq off Inside the NBA and put me on the show in his place. I unfortunately was forced to decline the offer due to irreconcilable differences with known Tar Heel sympathizer Kenny “The Jet” Smith. 

They say that in the 21st century, anyone can be a star. Any kid with GarageBand can make a hot beat. All it takes to be a Vine star is six seconds and some funny faces. I believe I’m living proof. One day, I was just a kid sitting in the eighth row of the student section, ready to watch some stupendous pack line defense. Now here I am, still sitting in the eighth row of the student section — forever etched into the lore of our august institution.

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