Final Jeopardy! – The End of the Story

When we left the Jeopardy! try-outs in Pittsburgh, the staff told us that if we were selected for the show, we’d probably hear from them within the year.  IF!  Being that I live my life just hoping nothing bad happens, I was not expecting to get the call.

I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that I did get the call.  Surprised the heck out of me.  I had about two months to try to cram in all the little bits of knowledge I thought I might need. I studied atlases, memorized the presidents, and played computer Jeopardy! over and over.  Big Daddy made the plane reservations.  We were both going to visit California for the first time together.

You’d think with all the gazillions of dollars the Merv Griffin enterprises has, they would spring for some of the travel costs.  We are, ahem, the stars of the show, along with, of course, Big Alex.  In October 2000, airfare travel was pretty expensive.  But had they called me the next year, after 9/11, I probably wouldn’t have even gone.  At that time though, I would have paid just about anything to compete on my favorite game show.  This was one of the very few things on my “bucket list.”

At first, I let myself think how cool it would be if I could actually earn enough money to pay for our addition, and even get professionals to do the work that Big Daddy planned to do.  But at some point, reality started to set in.  I could really make an ass out of myself!  I thought about the people I’d seen on there that gave a ridiculously stupid answer.  I envisioned standing there in shame with a negative $2000 and not being allowed to compete in Final Jeopardy!  What if I froze up and just stood there for the entire show like a deer staring into the headlights?  OMG.  What had I gotten myself into?

So I studied even harder.  I only told my immediate family and some people I had to tell, like the woman that was going to haul my kid to soccer practices while we were gone and the volunteer coordinator at the Middle School so she could find someone else to take my work shift.  I started praying not to win, but only that I didn’t make a complete and utter fool of myself.  I did not want to make news headlines as the stupidest person ever on a game show, or have SNL do Jeopardy! parodies of me.

They tape an entire week’s worth of shows in one day.  The radio in our hotel room was playing U2’s “It’s a Beautiful Day” while I was getting ready, and it was a gorgeous day.  I met up with the other contestants on the studio parking lot, each of us holding a couple changes of clothing in case we were lucky enough to be competing in more than one show.

The staff was very friendly and made us feel comfortable.  They had light refreshments for us in the green room, and a makeup artist powdered our faces.  We got to sit in the audience and  watch the contestants called up before us.  Whew!  There was at least one episode where I would have looked like a blithering idiot.  Thank God they didn’t call me for that one!

A few of us were still left for the afternoon tapings.  They gave us vouchers for the studio cafeteria and we all tried to eat.  I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I hadn’t been getting increasingly nervous.

I finally got called up.  I had sat with my competitors at lunch and thought it might be a fairly matched game.  I was put in the middle spot, and given a box to stand on so we would all look about the same height.  Once the game started, my brain kicked in and I have never felt so focused in my life.  Things I forgot that I even forgot popped into my head like I’d just learned it that day.  The trickiest part is that damn buzzer.  If you hit it before the lights go out, you’re locked out.  But if you’re not quick enough, you get beat out.  When there are so many questions you don’t know, it’s really frustrating when your neighbor rings in first on one of the questions you do know.

I can thankfully say, without a doubt, my prayers were answered!  I did not make an ass out of myself.  Unfortunately, I should have kept praying to win!

I answered 13 out of 14 questions correctly.  The only one I missed was a stupid Daily Double.  But I didn’t give a stupid answer.  I just couldn’t come up with anything.  I was in the lead several times, and was still in the running even after I missed the Daily Double.  I could have answered more if the nimble fingered dudes on either side of me hadn’t rung in first.  But I did get to ring in with the right answer once or twice when one of  the guys  gave a wrong answer.

Once again, my big mouth was my downfall.  We’re playing Final Jeopardy!, you know, where you wager first, and the music plays while you write down your final answer.  A dozen different names go through my head before, half-way through the music, I hit upon what I believe to be the right answer.  I start writing as fast as I can because I know time’s almost up.  The music is still playing, but my pen quits writing.  I’m pissed.  I feel ripped-off.  They better fix this.

So Alex reveals the answers.  I blurt out that my pen quit writing before I was finished.  (If I hadn’t opened my big freaking mouth, they would have never know the difference).  My answer was right, but my “N” at the end looked more like a small “n.”  If I hadn’t said anything, I’m sure it would have slid on through, but since I didn’t “finish,” I was relegated to third place.

At the time, they just gave crappy prizes to the runners-up instead of cash.  Due to the guy on my right being some kind of expert on obscure American artists, I wouldn’t have won the cash prize anyways.  Second prize was a trip to New Jersey.  Um, I’ve already been there–a few times too many, so I wasn’t too upset.  So I have a few souvenirs from the $1000 gift certificate I won, along with my picture of me and Alex.

Several months ago, middle son J found this really cool site with Jeopardy! show archives.  It’s a recap of the entire show, complete with the answers we gave and the prizes we received.  If you know my name, and you want to see if you could have beaten me, here’s the link to the archived shows:

Type my name in the search box and it will give you the number of the show.  Just don’t tell me how bad you would have whooped me!

Alex & Me

Alex & Me

13 Responses to “Final Jeopardy! – The End of the Story”

  1. 1 Paula April 28, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    Wow, and what a cool archive, It’s funny when they say triple stumper. I may have done alright with the questions on paper but would have bombed with the buzzer. I’m not that quick on my feet. You did a great job, so few people over all could have even competed. I’m glad we finally got the story.

  2. 3 robinaltman April 28, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    You are soooooo cool! Love it! I’m so proud, I feel like your friggin’ mother!

  3. 5 Evenshine April 29, 2009 at 10:35 am

    Awesome, and how cool to have been so very close to Monsieur Alex (though he appears less than enthused). HE knew you should have won. The buzzer seems to give lots of people problems. I always see them pressing madly like a person waiting for an elevator. Go YOU!

  4. 7 Cyndi April 29, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    What a great story and picture!! You did just fine, I would have bombed. I kept picturing Rosie Perez in White Men Can’t Jump when you were describing your studying. 🙂

  5. 8 Chrissy May 1, 2009 at 10:58 am

    You did great! Better then I ever would have! Did Oldest Son ever tell you that until I looked closer I thought that was just a pic of you & Big Daddy? Hahaha! Boy did I feel silly when he corrected me! Haha!

    • 9 mamaneeds2rant May 1, 2009 at 11:22 am

      Haha. Don’t feel bad. My mom, who watches Jeopardy every day, has seen that picture on my TV stand for years, AND actually lent me the dress I wore, said the same thing about a year or so ago. Now I understand why I didn’t notice when Big Daddy shaved off his mustache after 20 some years.

  6. 10 Chris May 6, 2009 at 10:03 am

    Jason? Working? In the Army? Let me tell you, when I was in Iraq, I really got to hone my StarCraft skills.

    • 11 mamaneeds2rant May 6, 2009 at 10:12 am

      Well, they DID make you put in long hours of doing nothing. Kind of like Congress. Oh, but then they get scads of money for doing nothing. I would never want to imply our wonderful wonderful military is ANYTHING like Congress. And–you just lucked out where you were.

  7. 12 Kraughne May 30, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    That picture of you two is awesome, I must admit. Trebek is just the coolest guy…he speaks seventeen languages.

    • 13 les May 30, 2010 at 11:18 pm

      Well, thank you! I’m glad they gave us those souvenir pictures. Unfortunately for me, though, it was one of the biggest prizes I got from the show. I would have enjoyed it a little more had i gotten a big wad of cash to bring home…

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