Continued from Saturday, July 30.
Some people from my church, with assistance from folks at work, were planning a JEOPARDY! watching party for Monday, November 9. I could have refused, but it seemed ungracious. For some reason, I am almost as nervous about this as I was as I was being on the show; totally irrational, I know.
Unfortunately, two of my co-workers were laid off on the Friday before, and they were understandably not that interested in the party. Luckily for me and three of my colleagues, our jobs were saved. (Two others had already found new jobs.)
Sunday morning, the day before the show aired, I called Amy Roeder in Merrimack, NH. She was very helpful in putting things into perspective. Her friends who had been at the taping gave her a hard time about giving Saigon rather than Hanoi as the Final response, but I thought it was impressive that all three of us got the right country. I told her she was a great opponent, and that if she weren’t so close in score to me, I wouldn’t have bet so much, and therefore wouldn’t have won so much.
We also talked about the consolation prizes. Tom had ended up in second place and won a trip to a resort in New Jersey. (No commentary needed.) Amy, in third, got a credit card with $2500 on it. She and I agreed that she got the better deal.
The day of the show, I went to work for a half-day, then went over to the Channel 10 studios to watch the feed for the show that comes in about 1:30. I had arranged this beforehand, but no one seemed to know I was coming, though they eventually did let me in. I was SO glad to have seen the show before the party.
At the church, there were about 35 people. I was seated in the front, just to the left of the set. At the first commercial break, I made a point to go to the bathroom and not make it back until after my gaffe in OT Women.
After it was revealed that I won, I could answer all of those questions people had wanted to ask, many of which I’ve addressed, but also questions I thought were odd, such as:
“Did you know the categories beforehand?” “No.”
By the time I got home, I had over a dozen messages. My sister Leslie in California must have sent a huge e-mail distribution telling people that I was going to be on (and apparently suggesting that I lost, from my non-committal response to how well I did.), for she forwarded congratulations from people I did not know.
The next day total strangers talked with me on the street about my JEOPARDY! win. And this went on for the next 35 days.
That second night I was on my mother called me at 7:30, letting me know that she was sorry that I lost. The shows aired at 7 pm in Charlotte. The show aired at 7:30 in Albany. I never saw the second show until several days later.
Even after that 36th day, when no one commented, I got lots of comments, especially at a January 1 wedding I DJed and a Midwinter’s party I attended.
Almost immediately after the show aired, I received letters, at least six, wanting me to buy their 45s and LPs; I must admit that I never wrote back. One guy, though, wanted me to identify some half-remembered songs from his childhood. I didn’t know most of them, but I did give him a lead to the song with the lyrics “Open up your heart and let the sunshine in.”
Oh, I can’t forget the parting gifts I received, over a two-month period: a case (12 large cans) of sweet potatoes (they were quite good, actually), OTC vitamins and other products including Centrum, a rather lovely lap blanket, a US Search coupon to try to find anyone in the United States, Pop Secret popcorn, and TWO hair curlers (!), which I didn’t need and gave away. I also got a home version of Wheel of Fortune, not JEOPARDY!
In January 1999, I got engaged to Carol. On St. Patrick’s Day, I received a check (FINALLY!) for $17,600.
A couple of days after we got married on May 15, Carol and I flew to Barbados via New York City. I never realized how far south Barbados was. We spent money to park the car at the airport, spent money on the speeding (Are we gonna die?) cab ride from the airport in Barbados to the resort, and we spent $26 to get out of the country (some sort of fee.) Everything else we needed to do was paid for: the hotel, the food, the drinks, the ride back to the airport; all courtesy of my second-place finish on JEOPARDY! For some reason, we even got bumped to first class on the return flight.
Since that time, JEOPARDY! has abandoned the prizes in favor of $2000 to the second-place contestant and $1000 for third place, I believe because of the logistics involved with the prizes; I had to call a few times before our trip was booked.
For a time, I made a point to call Albany-area winners. I talked to one guy named Greg who had won $3400, and he was disappointed; he thought he’d do better. I said, “You won, and that counts!” But I stopped when I called another guy and I got the sense that he thought I was a stalker.
I was amazed that people continued to recognize me, no more so than in October 1999, 11 months after the show aired, and I was at a conference in Florida when some folks I had never met from the Department of Labor in DC recognized me.
My pal Dave, used to head the Albany YMCA before he got kicked upstairs to the administrative side, went to a comedy club in Boston in 1999 or 2000, and in the entryway was a picture of three people, one of whom was me. It turned out that the performer was Amy Roeder, my worthy opponent on the show.
Winning on JEOPARDY! is a peculiar phenomenon. It’s epitomized in this story:
I was at a party talking about my work as a librarian. I had recently done a question about alpacas and I noted that they are much nicer in temperament than llamas. However, a woman I knew said: “You Don’t Know What You’re Talking About!”
I believe she thought I was suffering from Male Answer Syndrome, where a guy will ALWAYS have an answer to every question, no matter how little he actually knows, often stating opinion as fact. Then wife Carol let it be known that I was on JEOPARDY! “Well, maybe you DO know what you’re talking about!” Answering a question as a librarian, someone with a Masters degree in Library Science didn’t cut it, but an appearance or two on a game show did.
There are people to this day who expect that I know stuff, even if I don’t, which is definitely a double-edged process. All in all, though, it’s good to be able to put on the resume: “JEOPARDY! champion.”
Hope you enjoyed this little trip down Memory Lane. Now when people find out that I was a JEOPARDY! champion, as they did at a reunion last month, I can tell ’em, “Just go check out my blog!”