ok, it has been six days, and i think i can finally think mostly straight again.
if only to forever document it for the purposes of my own memory, i am going to run down the end of last week:
by thursday evening, i was sure i had not won. i felt fairly confident that they would call the winner before the air date to give them a heads-up, and when my phone had not rung by about 6 p.m., i was pretty devastated. so i poked around the internet, seeing if i could find anything posted by the other semifinalists suggesting they HAD won, but didn't find anything like that, either. i was exhausted enough that i actually slept pretty well.
so friday comes around. rachael ray's show is on in tampa at 2 p.m. we had learned that it was on at 10 a.m. in orlando and washington dc, in each of which i have plenty of friends that could tip me off. then pam saw that it was on at 9 a.m. in miami, so i refocused my targets. i sent e-mails to everyone i know down there asking if they would be home, or at least near a tv. no one was. apparently, 9 a.m. is a popular time to go to work and/or take kids to school. i had no idea.
luckily, john devine had an idea: call bvs. he's retired! so i called bvs and asked if he was near the TV. not only was he, but it was on. luckily, that day's tennis or golf game hadn't started yet. he flipped over to the show and when they got to the announcement, held the phone to the TV. i heard banter, then i heard my name, then i heard rachael, then i just started giggling and heard not much else.
i immediately set my facebook status to "jim webster won!" and my e-mail started popping, my home and cell phones started ringing and my facebook wall started filling up. it was amazing.
at about 10:20, i was IMing melanie in dc, because it was about to be on there. then at like 10:33, instead of trying to keep up with IMs, i just called her, and listened to it again. i caught little more than i did the first time, because of the giggling and a not-great cell reception. but it was still nice to hear it again.
we finally got to work about 11:30, which is a little late on a friday, and my desk was decorated in pink and pig. there were photocopies of pigs all over the desk, pink streamers hanging from the ceiling and a flying pig, which i think is staying. there was a crown with a pig on it, a picture of mario that said "i can't wait to cook with you," and a sign on my monitor that just said, "OINK."
before i saw this, i wasn't sure if i would get any work done that day. after i saw that, i was pretty sure, no.
when the show finally aired in tampa, i was at my desk. a bunch of people huddled around the TV next to my desk, and scott keeler, one of our photographers, was sitting next to me. i tried to look around a couple of times to see who all was around, but i was finding it impossible to retain information. so i just sat and started watching. then i started to hear the sound go up on multiple TVs, and i saw groups huddled around the newsroom. i was later told this was happening all over the building.
so they come back from commercial, and i am actually starting to get nervous. and i know i won. but mario starts talking about the contest and the sponsors and such, then they start talking about "we have a champion." "a CHAMPION?" i think it was at this point i got all ritchie blackmore and may have actually left my body so i could watch the whole thing from a different vantage point. i think i was still ok with it all when mario said, "jim webster of tampa, florida." but it was when he started talking about how they made the dish, how much they liked it and what a good idea it was that i started shaking. it seemed 100% impossible he was talking about me at that point, and i was numb.
when it was over, i didn't know what to do next, so i just got up and started shaking hands, hi-fiving and hugging anyone in sight. later, there was cake, which, apparently, you can get a cake with a pig on it from publix with remarkably short notice.
i didn't get much done that day, as it turns out.
once we gave up pretending that i might accomplish work, we left and met a bunch of friends for dinner at MJ's, which is one of my new favorite places. pam and i went there the night after i had spent the day canvassing for votes in ybor, and had given the waitress some of my cards. she gave one to the chef, who came out and talked to me and seemed very excited about the deal. dinner was great. it was awesome hanging out. i think my favorite part was listening to jeremy analyze the announcement. he and i had discussed the rationalizations supporting me the night before, and he said that mario had pretty much supported everything we said in his announcement. also from jeremy: "it wasn't that mario liked your concept. it wasn't that he liked your execution. mario liked your concept AND your execution." that cracked me up.
and when becky said, "does mario know that he was talking about your food the same way we talk about his?" that was cool, too.
i got home, and there were about 40 more e-mails and 10 more facebook posts. it was nuts. i feel bad that i haven't responded to each yet. but i hope to.
on saturday we went to orlando and i met ronnie at tom's show. we made plans to try to arrange a get-together so i could cook for everyone.
i have a million more details i want to mention, but i'm already positive this post is too long for anyone to actually get through. so i'll cut it off now and try to do another soon.
thanks again, everyone.