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My summer Jeopardy blues

By Gloria Diaz

Check out Gloria's Blog — Edge of Gloria!

Fort Wayne Reader

2004-08-16


With more free time on my hands than I could imagine this summer, I decided to take aim at a goal Iíve had for years: trying to get on Jeopardy! With a few clicks of the computer mouse, I snagged an appointment at a contestant search in Chicago.

With about three dozen other Jeopardy! hopefuls, I sat in Festival Hall, outside room 328, located at Navy Pier. My fellow contestant wannabes were overwhelmingly white, male and middle class. We sat or stood silently, but as test time approached, the quiet nervousness gave way to chatter about the show, and talk soon turned to Ken Jennings. At that time, he had been wiping the floor with the other contestants for nearly a month, draining the Jeopardy! coffers at a rate of approximately $30,000 per game. (That average has increased since then.) Iím sure the number one concern of the people taking the test that day besides passing the exam was the having to go up against Jennings, who looks as lethal as toast, but apparently knows everything there is to know.

Before actually taking the test, we were able to ask questions about the show and got some pre-quiz coaching via videotape from the man himself, Alex Trebek.

Playing along at home is one thing, but taking the test is quite another. The questions, (er, answers I mean) are along the lines of $800 and $1,000 level clues of difficulty. Of the 50, we had to get 35 of them right, and we would never know our scores or which ones we got right. We had eight seconds to answer each question, which flashed on the screen just like on television. No, we didnít have to phrase it in the form of a question, we just had to write down what the answer was. I felt fairly confident, but realized there were about five clues that had me totally stumped. Those, along with answers I thought I knew but probably didnít, ruined my chances for getting on the show this next season. Those who passed the test would get to play a mock game of Jeopardy! with the staff, to see how well they played and what their personalities are like.

I tried to prepare for the test, but since I had no idea what was going to be asked, it was impossible to know what to study for. There are standard Jeopardy! categories, such as "U.S. Presidents" and the "Civil War," but thereís no guarantee any questions relating to those topics will pop up. And then thereís ďThose Darn Etruscans,Ē an actual Jeopardy! category, and chosen by my fellow test-takers as being their nightmare topic, along with opera.

I didnít pass. I kept my Jeopardy! souvenir pen I took the test with, as well as the pink form listing five topics we would discuss with Alex, should we be lucky enough to get on the show. In no particular order, my topics were: thinking I was being abducted by my orthopedic surgeon, being thrown out of a church for taking pictures, my night in the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus, getting a year-long straight A-plus average in spelling in sixth grade, and writing this column.

As of this writing, Jeopardy! is on hiatus, and Jennings finished out the season with more than a million dollars. I imagine he hasnít given up his day job, where he doesnít earn $30,000 a day, but I envy him being able to walk away from it, if he wants to. But the next time Iím eligible to take that contestant quiz, Iím going to give it another shot. Yeah, itís probably futile, but if I get on the show and win some money, it might make that English degree of mine worth it.

Especially if one of the categories is Dumb Decisions Gloria Made in the 1980s.

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