Jim: I'm an educator, an attorney, and a surprisingly good dancer for a big man. I'm the Assistant Director of the Matlock Academy, a college preparatory high school in the home of the swinging chad, West Palm Beach, Florida. I've been a member of the St. Bar of California since '95, earning both my Juris Doctor and Bachelors degrees at Ohio Northern University. I teach a number of courses to our upper division students, including Constitutional Law and Literary Criticism. Not too long ago I was recognized as Palm Beach County's Teacher of the Week, and in '99 I was named a National Endowment of the Humanities Scholar. I know a little baseball too.
Mike: Is this your first experience with a game show? If not, what other game shows have you appeared on?
Jim: One long, hot, summer, I racked up an obscene amount of mythical money from mu couch watching Sale of the Century. Other than that, 2 Minute Drill was my game show debut. I did come breathtakingly close to making College Jeopardy about a decade ago; however, and that experience taught me that the most challenging part of the audition process for a game show is the written test. That was true here. Prospective contestants for 2MD should be prepared to have a far more thorough probing in that 20 question written test than by any celebrity panelist. That sounds somewhat obscene.
Mike: Were you always comfortable in the hot seat? Were you ever nervous?
Jim: I was nervous on the plane. I was nervous in the hotel. I was nervous in the cab. I was nervous meeting the contestants, producers, technical staff, and the warm up comic. Where I wasn't nervous was the hot seat. I'm a classroom teacher, answering questions is what I do. I was certainly keyed up, but once the Drills started I never once considered the lights, the cameras, the music, the audience, or the very real possibility that I would disgrace the Jividen family name on national television. I just focused on the questions. There isn't time to do anything else.
Mike: In your four episodes, you managed to win $100,000 plus some great trips, was there ever a point that you thought it was going to be all over before you made it to the Championship?
Jim: I completely whiffed the first Drill of my quarterfinal. I missed the first question. I missed the second question. I had enough time as Nick Zito unwound the third to decide that if I missed that too I was getting out of the chair and walking clear off the set. Fortunately, it didn't come to that. I really caught a break in that game, neither of my opponents played to their abilities or I would have been bounced right there. I got on a bit of a roll in the second round and managed a fairly sizable comeback victory, but prior to that I sat silently upbraiding myself pretty violently. It wasn't so much that I had "only" won $10,000 or that I wasn't going to advance. I never once thought that I was on my way to the Championships game; any one of a couple of dozen of the Final 51 could have easily filled my slot in the finals. It was just that I had played poorly, and I didn't come up to New York to play poorly.
Mike: Did you have any kind of strategies for going through the first rounds? What were they?
Jim: I had two. (1) Survive and Advance. (2) Left to right. The first is the old Jimmy Valvano phrase about the NCAA Tournament. I was less interested in my seed or a high point total that was I in putting forth a solid effort and sticking around as long as possible. The second is the way that I approached the panel during each first Drill. I read the English language; my brain works left to right. Further, I wanted to make it as predictable as possible for the panelists, allow them to get into a rhythm and not have to guess which of them will be asking a question next. I was even able to establish eye contact, prior to the clock's starting, with the panelist whom I was going to call first for each of my four games. When the game's going right, it's sort of like knocking down jumpshots. The panelists feed you the ball and you just steadily fill the hoop. Net. Net. Net.
Mike: You probably had one of the most unique specialty categories, along with Chris Earl's. How did you come to choose the '58 Giants? Are you a big Giants fan?
Jim: One of my absolute favorite things about this experience is that my lifelong passion for all teams San Francisco is what enabled me (gratuitous self promotion coming) to become the first man ever to win $100,000 on a cable television game show. I lived in Northern California as a child and have been a Giants/Niners/Warriors fan since my grandfather took me to a night game at the 'Stick when I was 6. It was so green and so cold...I knew if adults were willing to put up with the wind and the constant losing that there must be a good reason. I still don't know what the reason is. But I've rooted for the same teams ever since. I chose the '58 team because it was the year the Giants came from New York, and I felt certain I could research it. I thought the ESPN guys would rip me apart if I took a contemporary team or athlete, but I was confident that I could access every piece of information about the '58 Giants that was available to them. That decision sorta worked out for me.
Mike: Have you taken any of your ESPN experiences yet? If so, what were they like and what do you have to look forward to?
Jim: Nope. I won a trip to like a dozen bowl games, but I was unable to go. Broke my heart too, as I sat here in balmy South Florida on New Year's Eve watching the Independence Bowl get buried in a foot of snow. I'll be heading to Bristol this summer, and the ESPY's are right around the corner. I just talked to the tuxedo place tonight, as a matter of fact. I think it's fair to say I'm looking forward to hitting Vegas relatively hard. Please don't tell my students.
Mike: Inevitably, a contestant will miss a question when under the gun that he could have answered otherwise. Was there anything specific that you missed that made you want to hit yourself?
Jim: You give me too much credit for self control. I have the bruises to prove it. Getting anything wrong just burns at my soul, so it drove me bonkers to watch the shows and see all the missed questions. I am cringing right now thinking about my saying that Spike Lee was the voice of L'il Penny. However, I save my "Jividen is dishwater dumb" thoughts for my performance in the finals. My round wasn't bad really, but I booted two easy Notre Dame questions and somehow...somehow managed to convert Mosi Tatupu's name into "Tatupi". That botch cost me two points and ended my tournament. I'm bothered by that only because I have no idea why a name that I absolutely know came from my mouth in that way. In the big picture though, I view every dollar I made on the show as, in large part, provided by the fickle finger of fate, so I ain't complaining.
Mike: What was it like meeting all the panelists?
Jim: It's funny how quickly my thoughts turned from, "Wow, I'm going to be on the same show as X" to "Dammit, why won't X read faster?" I don't think I sufficiently appreciated anything at the time. Watching the shows, I got an enormous amount of pleasure seeing Steve Garvey give me a standing ovation and remembering how Gary Carter turned to the audience after my very first drill and said, "Now, there's a guy who knows a lot about baseball." Everyone associated with the show was great. Kenny Mayne, Michael Davies, Andrew Golder, Jen Kelly, the entire production and technical staff were just terrific with whom to work. Moreover, I got to meet a lot of great guys. I've kept in contact with Chris Earl, even appearing on his radio show in Duluth, and I hope we'll remain friends. I just spoke with Willy Gibson a couple of days ago actually; he's a heck of a nice guy and a good champion. My memories of this show are wildly positive.
Mike: Before we wrap up, I just wanted to say congratulations on a third place finish. This is quite an accomplishment! What can you say to someone who might want to duplicate your performance in a future tournament?
Jim: Thanks, Mike. Appreciate it. Beyond the thoughts I've already offered, I'd tell people to prepare. It's the teacher in me, I suppose. I think you can study for anything; even if the only thing increased is your level of confidence, preparation won't hurt you. Get the ESPN Almanac. Buy the CD Rom. Watch tapes of the shows. If you're able to get on the show, you certainly know your sports, I think the goal of your preparation should be to move as much of your accumulated knowledge as possible to the front of your brain. It's a name recognition show, fundamentally. You have to know very little of the obscure or the record setters and more of the regular, every day, Ron LeFlore-like athlete on whom they're going to test. Something I was never able to do was slow down a little bit. I went through Drills like my hair was on fire, finishing 15 second early, 20 seconds early. Watching the shows as they aired, I think you have a little more time. If you can gather yourself and not be quite so worried about every second it might work to your advantage. And be nice to the contestant coordinators. They're good people.
Mike: I really appreciate your taking part in this interview. In closing, is there anything you'd like to say about the show that wasn't covered?
Jim: I'm looking right now at this issue of TV Guide which proclaims Two Minute Drill as the 33rd greatest game show of all time. To me, this is remarkable, considering we've only done 26 episodes. To have played a decent sized role in a show that's already made a mark on television history is more than I can wrap my mind around. I've had my picture in Sports Illustrated, my name on an actual ESPN bracket, and more local media exposure than even I cared for. And, if there was ever any doubt, I will never once question the amount of time I've spent thinking about sports during my life. Every late night college basketball game I stayed up to watch, every radio call in show host I abused, every top 20 list I made out, every baseball game of which I kept score when I should have been doing something more productive... Turns out I was being productive. And the check cleared too. It's been fun, Mike. Enjoy season 2.
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