While working on last week’s story about the Washington Nationals’ Opening Day doldrums, I learned that the greatest American Monopoly player of all time lives among us.
Dana Terman, a Nats fan now living Gaithersburg and who grew up in Montgomery County, won the U.S. Monopoly Championship in 1977 and 1979, and was the runner-up in 1983. Terman also placed second in the World Championships in 1980.
Is that neat or what?
Back then, when everything everywhere was better, winning the national title in Monopoly was a really big deal.
Parker Bros., the owner of Monopoly in the game’s heyday (it’s since been acquired by Hasbro), would go all out for the competition.
For his winning the U.S. title, Terman and his parents were flown across the pond on the Concorde, as Parker Bros. bought up every seat on the supersonic trans-Atlantic jet that at the time was the height of traveling opulence, before everybody was scared away from the big, fast bird by one lousy crash in 2000.
He was a guest on Tomorrow, NBC’s latenight show hosted by Tom Snyder in New York, and closer to home was also interviewed by Baltimore wunderkind Oprah Winfrey (before she was Oprah).
“I didn’t know who she was,” says Terman, 55.
He even had a necklace named after him, the Dana Hotel/Motel Necklace, which was a silver chain with a Monopoly hotel attached. It’s still available.
“I found out later the jewelry designer thought the Dana Terman who played Monopoly was a woman,” laughs Terman. “I contacted her and told her I’m not a woman.”
The Washington Post wrote several feature stories on Terman’s gamesmanship.
Sports Illustrated ran a piece on the U.S. champ’s run toward global runner-up status in 1980.
The most driven contestant was Dana (Terrible) Terman, 24, a chunky, curly-haired car salesman from Wheaton, Md. Terman had finished sixth [in the World Championships] in 1977, and he had vowed not to fall short again.
He studied the trading habits of the various nationalities represented in the tournament, and he memorized statistics so that he “wouldn’t have to think about probabilities any more than Willie Mays had to think about catching a fly ball.”
Terman psyched himself up relentlessly. On the plane he read 1000 Ways To Win Monopoly Games. He wore a T shirt that announced I’M MONOPOLY MAD, and while other competitors ate six-course dinners and put-putted around on motorbikes, Terman fasted and jogged. “The Greek ideal,” he said. “A sound mind in a sound body.”
The Monopoly world championships, back before Hasbro ran the show, were held in exotic worldly locales like Monte Carlo and Bermuda.
“Now they’re in Las Vegas,” says Terman. “It’s just not the same.”
Nah, it ain’t.
Does anybody still play Monopoly?