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Is Michael Waltrip Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? No.

January 27, 2010

So I’m plopped down on the couch, flipping channels, when I land on CMT. They’re playing re-runs of the game show “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader,” which airs on FOX and is hosted by Jeff Foxworthy. In the pre-show spot, they advertise not only that it’s celebrity week on the show, but it’s the special “NASCAR Celebrity Week.” I’m trying so hard to fight off a tangent right now. CMT, Jeff Foxworthy, and NASCAR all involved in the same event? My opinion on each of the aforementioned entities is strong enough to fill a marble tablet (college ruled). For now, I will save my rant for another day and stick to the topic at hand.

I’ve seen the show before. Being a trivia junky, I was instantly attracted to a show that advertised the cutoff for contestant knowledge  to be grade five level. You could call fifth grade the apex of my academic career. But that’s neither here nor there. I had a sneaking suspicion that Michael Waltrip was, in fact, not smarter than a fifth grader. He did not disappoint.

Granted, I was not expecting the eloquence of a Nobel laureate, nor the wit of a syndicated columnist. Michael Waltrip didn’t get an academic scholarship to Princeton. He didn’t spend his nights fighting the Asian students for a cubby desk in the library during the wee hours of the morning. This man drives a one-ton object at speeds in excess of 180 mph around a circle, hundreds of  times. Waltrip has endured a few wrecks himself, but none could be as bad as the high-speed crash that was his answers to two of the questions on this show.

The first question, which I believe came from the category “2nd Grade US History” read as follows: “Dedicated in 1922, this Washington, DC memorial has the Gettysburg Address inscribed on its’ south wall.” George Washington. No. The Washington Monument. Cue fork dropping from mouth. Cue stunned crowd. Cue priceless look from Jeff Foxworthy. Foxworthy became famous on the wings of his jokes about rednecks, which always began with “You might be a redneck if…”. Well, you might be a dumbass if you don’t know which president delivered the Gettysburg Address. You didn’t know about the battle of Antietam? OK. Couldn’t remember the name of the Union guy that burnt down half the South (Sherman)? OK. Couldn’t remember where Lee surrendered to Grant (Appomattox). That’s fine. You weren’t a history major. But for Christ’s sake man, the Gettysburg Address? I didn’t think he could do any worse.

Now, for the bonus round question. With a correct answer, contestants can multiply their winnings by a factor of 10. The question read something as follows: “The Aksum Empire were traders who thrived between 4 BC and 1 AD and were based on this continent.” Now, I admittedly wasn’t 100% on this one, but I made a reasonable guess, which actually turned out to be right. The words that proceeded to come out of #55’s mouth were equal parts shocking and depressing: “Well, Jeff. I woke up knowing all seven of the Continents this morning, but now I can only think of five. I think it’s Antarctica. No, maybe Europe. Eh, I’ll go with Antarctica.”

Sweet Mother of God. A thriving civilization in ANTARCTICA? Were they an empire of Penguins? Did they thrive off the flourishing seal trade?! NOTHING AND NO ONE LIVES IN ANTARCTICA. It’s cold there. Really cold. All the time. People can’t live there. Never have. I mean, part of me wants to know what his thought process was, but part of me is so terrified of what that process might involve that I think I’m better off living in ignorance of it. Thankfully, Foxworthy felt sorry for the charity, and directed Ricky Bobby toward the correct answer. “Africa. People live there, right?” Holy shit.

At the end of each show, if a contestant goes out early, he or she must admit on camera that they aren’t smarter than a fifth grader. “Hi, my name is Michael Waltrip, I’ve won the Daytona 500 twice, but I am not smarter than a fifth grader.” Thanks for clearing that up.

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