Choosing the right…..word

hand made wheel of fortune game wheel

Jonah Rauch

hand made wheel of fortune game wheel

Jonah Rauch, Writer

Patrick Leonard Sajak has been the host of the game show “Wheel of Fortune” since 1981. In 2019 he ended up in the Guinness Book of World Records, holding a record for the longest game show host of the same show, and having just turned 75in October, he still has no plans to step away from the big wheel any time soon. Being the host of a game show for around 40 years may seem like it’s as easy as talking about all of your nicknames in high school, however it is anything but, especially in one of the more recent episodes.

On December 21st, 2021, an episode with a controversial ending aired when a contestant named Charlene Rubush from Las Vegas, who had already won a trip to Saint Lucia, as well as $16,500 in cash and prizes, seemed to have solved the bonus puzzle correctly but still did not win the prize. The reason she did not win is because she began to vocalize the puzzle solution, “Choosing The Right Word,” but took a four to five second pause before saying “Word,” therefore costing her an Audi Q3.

The puzzle the contestant was trying to solve: “choosing the right word” (Wheel of Fortune TV show screen shot)

Disgruntled Wheel fans took this to Twitter, as well as Alex Jones, Jeopardy Tournament of Champions winner, expressing their outrage over what they thought was a valid win, considering Rubush quite literally chose the right word before the ten second buzzer sounded. The company that manufactured the car, Audi, decided to take matters into their own hands, explaining that they were going to give the exact same car model to Rubush, claiming that she was a winner in their eyes. It is very sad to see a contestant on this beloved game show lose to a technicality rule, but a lot of new fans these days do not understand that not only have the producers of “Wheel of Fortune” been technicality sticklers for years, but that Pat Sajak, despite being the host, has no control over the rules.

This is not the first instance of contestants losing out on fabulous prizes due to technicality. There was an instance back in 2012, a contestant named Renne Durette solved the puzzle “Seven Swans a-Swimming,” but left the G off during the pronunciation, ultimately costing her the round. A few years prior, during season 25, contestant Brian Shaika incorrectly solved “Lively Calypso Band” by adding an A before the word “Lively,” despite it not being on the puzzle board. About a week later, Becki Burrell would give the infamous “Gleaming White Sand Beaches” missolve, costing her $33K plus, and a trip to the Caribbean. These are only three examples of technicality rules, another being adding “and” to a crossword puzzle, but when each one of them happened, Sajak was nothing but supportive and sympathetic with the contestants that lost out on prizes for such a simple error. Sajak explained in his graduation speech at Founders Classical Academy in Texas that contestants sometimes end up making simple errors, mainly due to nervousness, and that he has never made fun of anybody for mispronouncing something or said something silly in the entire time he has been hosting the show. Long-time fans know that he would never refuse to give away a prize unless the contestant did not win it legitimately.

Host Pat Sajak showing what the contestant would have won, but didn’t due to the technicality (Wheel of Fortune TV show screenshot)

Once again, Pat Sajak himself does not make the rules to the game for the show he hosts, but there are some instances where leeway has been provided. The toss-up puzzles in the beginning of every episode provide about two seconds of leeway. In a married couples episode during season 36, Carmelo and Emma Mannino correctly solved “Cozy Nook,” but Carmelo said it so quietly that Sajak had to ask him to say the whole thing.

There are several more instances like this, some of which were posted on Twitter by former contestant Robert Santoli from 2016. It goes to show that it is very easy to make mistakes, and being overcome by nerves is something that is very easy to do, and can happen sometimes.

Wheel of Fortune is still one of the best game shows in existence, especially because it attempts to showcase this, even if in the spur of the moment, the wrong thing may slip out, or in this case, a word might not pop into your head at the speed of light. Pat Sajak is an excellent game show host, and a great person for continuing to promote good morals such as mistakes helping us learn, and to continue moving forward and never kicking ourselves for our shortcomings.

hand made Wheel of Fortune with Talon space (Jonah Rauch)

While many Twitter users are upset over something that seemed very unreasonable at the time it occurred, there will always be people like that. The most wholesome people however, are the ones that can understand the perspective of both sides of a problem, something Sajak has done for years hosting Wheel, and I’m sure will continue to do as he remains the host for as long as he’s able to.