I’ll take “It’s Harder than it Looks” for $2000, Alex!

…Or “I put myself in JEOPARDY!”

On the Jessamine County academic quiz team...in high school...with hair...

Ever since I was a teenager and a regular player of Trivial Pursuit, people have said, “Wow, you should be on Jeopardy!”  I was on the academic quiz team in high school.  Of late, I’ve played Cranium and dominated.  In bars I’ve played electronic trivia games and done VERY well, winning rounds of wings and drinks.

Clearly, I know a LOT of trivia.  To me, this is not a trivial thing.  I know the exact minute The Titanic sank and which actress has been nominated for an Oscar the most times without winning.  “Useless information?”  I think not!  But who am I to say?

A dear friend at Christ Church, Jeanne Howard Roper, is a Jeopardy alumna from the Art Fleming days.  She cheered me on, “You should try out for the show.”  On my second try at the online test, I was invited to go to the regional competition in DC.  I had SO much fun at this event, I felt even then that I had already arrived.

Then…

The call came from the Jeopardy producers, “We want you to be on the show!”  My heart skipped a beat or two.  “What have I done?” I said to myself after I hung up the phone!

Everyone was very excited for me.  I honestly relaxed into the idea of going on national television to put my skills on the line.

I’ll never forget that first morning when I stepped onto the elevator at our hotel in Culver City with my garment bag slung over my shoulder.  We were told to bring a change of clothes should we win.

As I stepped off the elevator and walked into the lobby, I saw several other well-dressed people standing in a cluster, also carrying garment bags.  “These are my people!” I thought.  And they were!  For the rest of that day and the next, I got to know some amazing people, all of whom had come to Hollywood for the same reason.

With some of my fellow contestants on my first day

As that first day evolved, it began to feel like an episode of “Survivor” – our group got smaller and smaller as the hours passed.  Who would make the next cut?

We were told, “Have fun!”  and “You’re not playing against each other.  You’re playing against the board!”  I kept these in mind as I waited for my turn to come.

I wasn’t clear how much of winning on Jeopardy is due to luck: which categories are on your board, finding the Daily Doubles, and even who you compete against!  Based on the luck of the draw, I was held-over to the second day of taping.  Which gave me a chance to meet another group of contestants.

What else did I learn?  There were a few things that weren’t 100% clear to me before I arrived in Hollywood:

  1. Nine million people watch Jeopardy on any given day.  Gulp!  Johnny Gilbert told us this fact during our rehearsal, several times…
  1. When you’re on the stage, thirty minutes seem to go by in thirty seconds!
  1. Intense pressure and bright studio lights can erase your long-term memory.
  1. When people give you the advice, “It’s all about buzzing in first!” they forgot to remind you that you should know the answer before buzzing in!
  1. If you don’t get at least one Daily Double, you probably won’t win…

Bhibha Das is an amazing player who knows not just how to play but also how to take serious risks.  She’s also a fun person to spend the day with, watching all our new Jeopardy friends compete, all the while, whispering answers to each other in the stands.

As we stood next to each other on the stage, I could feel her intensity and energy.  She was there to win!  It seemed like an eternity before she came up with that Daily Double answer, “Host”!  When she got it right, there was NO catching her.  (For the record, I did NOT know the answer to her DD, and I might have gone home early had I found it!)

Waiting in the Green Room

The actual taping of the episode is a bit of a blur.  I felt as if I had stepped into some kind of time warp.  I think, to some extent, I know what it’s like to travel to the Olympics and compete in a sport you seem to have spent your whole life training for, only to be out-performed by a star athlete in a matter of minutes.  Everyone assumed I’d win big bucks.  People are nice that way!  Instead I learned, once again, an important lesson:  how to be a good sport!

Everyone loves a winner.  They love people who win big bucks even more!  But what do you say to the one who comes in third?  Yes, I got the bronze for the evening, but it truly was an adventure I’ll never forget.

Am I sorry I didn’t do better?  Of course.

Did I have a wonderful time?  ABSOLUTELY!

What did I win?  A free trip to Hollywood, with a little left over in the end.

This was the opportunity of a lifetime.  It was nothing short of a chance to win life-changing money, and I love the fact that I got the chance to compete.  When I think of the monumental brains that have filled that studio, I am humbled.

What else do I need tell you?  Just this: the producers of “JEOPARDY!” are simply exceptional in how well they run the show.  Who can’t love Maggie, Robert, Corina and Glenn?  If you’ve ever thought of trying out for the show, DO!  You’ll be in good hands!

Oh, and I’ll never forget the name, “William Peter Blatty”…

A great moment for me while touring Hollywood: putting my hand in the handprint of DeForest Kelley, my favorite of the original Star Trek cast. I did a LOT sightseeing that day. What fun!
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