McLean High School teacher Jeffrey Brocketti can’t wait to tell everyone what he discussed with host Pat Sajak during a “Wheel of Fortune” commercial break.
When it comes to solving the hangman-style word puzzles, though, even Brocketti may draw a blank when he turns on the TV next week — a common phenomenon, based on conversations with fellow contestants.
“They don’t remember all the puzzles from their show, which sounds ridiculous,” Brocketti told FFXnow. “You’d think this would just be burned into your brain, but it’s not. So, I’m kind of looking forward to seeing the episode, just seeing how it went and does it match my memory of it.”
Brocketti, who has taught physics and astronomy at McLean High for over a decade, describes the experience of filming a show he watched as a child as “surreal.”
He applied to become a contestant “on a whim” in April 2021 at the suggestion of his wife and one of his kids. Initially, he dismissed the idea, but while “sitting around” a few weeks later, he decided it couldn’t hurt, especially since the pandemic had pushed the entire tryout process online.
After submitting the form and a 30-second video pitch, Brocketti admits he forgot about the whole enterprise until this past January, when an unexpected email appeared in his inbox: he’d been selected to participate in a virtual audition.
“The first thing I did was check the email address to make sure it wasn’t some sort of phishing email,” he said. “I thought it was a scam, and once I figured out it was legit, then I realized, oh, this might actually happen.”
Told in February that he made the cut, Brocketti set his DVR to record “Wheel” and watched each night with his family, pretending to compete against the contestants on screen with a pen as a mock buzzer.
He fell out of the routine around mid-April, though, so a backlog of over 70 episodes had accumulated by the time he was told that his episode would film at the Sony Pictures Studios lot in Culver City, California on July 28.
“I watched over three months’ worth of episodes in two weeks,” Brocketti recalled with a laugh. “So, that was my preparation. Just watch the show and play against the people on TV and try and get better at it.”
In some ways, competing in person was easier than at home, Brocketti says. Unlike on TV, contestants can always see the boards displaying each puzzle and the used letters, and after going through two dress rehearsals, his nervousness evaporated once the real game started.
However, the “flood of information that you have in your brain” made it hard to focus and fully digest the experience, he added.
Brocketti isn’t the first person to represent Fairfax County on “Wheel,” following in the footsteps of a former Chantilly Little League coach who won nearly $123,000. He encourages anyone interested in competing on the show to give it a shot.
“Just try it out, and see what happens,” he said.
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