My close encounter with Mac McGarry

A couple weeks ago, Mac McGarry passed away at his home. Here’s a summary to know Mr. McGarry: he is a D.C. Legend. He has hosted a few shows before going on nearly a 50-year run as host of It’s Academic, a quiz show for high school students in the D.C. area. I never been to the show, but I was so close.

I joined the It’s Academic team in my Senior year. Immediately, I would know I would be an alternate as we had two all-around guys, a guy who knew geography and math, and a guy who knew math and science. I was the guy who knew sports and some useless knowledge. I knew I was the fifth guy and the fourth person, the alternate, would be on the show. My middle brother was on the show as the alternate, but the team didn’t perform well. Our team lost as well, but not as bad.

I was on the team because in some tournaments, they require four people on the team in some tournaments that vary from serious to fun. I mostly participated in the fun events. My father took me to all the events and one time, we got lost to a tournament in Arlington and almost entered in D.C. (by the way, this was an age where we use paper maps instead of GPS) and my father almost snapped because we almost cross the border like it was Mexico.

Earlier in the year, I intend to freeze and mess up my answer. In practice rounds every Thursday, I always answer the questions quick and correct. I was Charles Barkley’s swing. Later in the year, I got better answering questions and felt comfortable. Maybe it was the competition or maybe it was the atmosphere or I just needed experience.

Random Flashback: the old Newseum in Arlington held a current events game show for high school students when there was a field trip and participated twice. My teams were very bad, but somehow, my team got 2nd place in my freshman year and won the whole thing in my senior year, although I was the only person to get almost all of the right answers in my team and felt embarrassed. This is why I have a quick trigger on the buzzer.

Two events I remember most from that year. One was the State Championships when in one of the questions the questioner messed up a little bit and we answered correctly given in the card. Instead, the judges didn’t give us the point and gave it to the other team and eventually didn’t advance because of the questioner’s stumble. The person gave us an asinine answer of why we didn’t get the point. The other was my favorite tournament: the South Lakes tournament, where most of the questions were pop culture and sports, my neck of the woods. Our team felt confident and basically went undefeated. In one of the games against a team who knew literature a lot, I buzzed on a question and guess the author and eventually got it right. I was shocked by it and got congratulations…from the other team for getting a literature question right (for the record, they were genuine, not sarcastic about it). Our team advanced to the next round and our opponent: the team that knew literature we met earlier. The questions during the 1st knockout round: mostly literature questions and we got killed and our team knew it. I remember my last question ever was to name MLB managers of their teams and I was happy that was my very last question I answered.

Mac McGarry’s death brought back the memories when I had the most fun in high school. Although I didn’t meet him in person and never appeared on his show, it felt like I was part of a special group and he opened those doors. There will be never be a Mac McGarry again.

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