25 years since JEOPARDY!


25 years since JEOPARDY! Two and a half decades since the first of my two appearances on a syndicated game show. It is one of those things that people most identify with me.

I’m not going to rehash what happened. I wrote about that way back in 2005 and subsequently. Indeed, telling about it was one of the two reasons I started the blog in the first place. But I do want to reflect on why people keep bringing it up.

In June 2023, I was at the retirement party of some teachers, including a college friend of my wife. We were at a table of people I mostly did not know. Yet someone mentioned that they heard I was on the show. Then another person asked me about it, and a third gently chastised me for not bringing it up.

People in my area have won more games than I did. A woman from my town was on a show a month before my episodes did. But I had some unique advantages.

My shows were recorded in Boston, not in southern California. This meant that WTEN, Channel 10, the Albany affiliate station showed up at the tapings, much to my surprise. And TV folks from the Binghamton area (my hometown) and, inexplicably, Plattsburgh, way in upstate NY, interviewed me before the shows aired. The reporters covering the contestants got to play some mock games, which made the stations plug MY appearances more than a player who had gone to L.A.

Someone, usually people I didn’t know, mentioned to me being on the show for 270 days straight. Then not for a few days, followed by another streak of several weeks. It was weird and nice in about equal measure.

McGuire, not McGwire

Mark McGuire was the new person who covered the local television scene for the Albany Times Union in November 1998. When I won, he mentioned Linda Zusman, a foreign language teacher from Albany, NY, who had won $12,000 on the show that aired on October 6. After Sarah Gold took home $15,001 in a show from June 14, 1999, he mentioned Linda and me. And so on.

When Mark had tired of Ken Jennings after he won about 20 games, he called or emailed me for a pull quote.

This is true: I’m SO happy I played then rather than now. The picayune scrutiny players endure from social media is exhausting, everything from apparel to missing an “easy” Final JEOPARDY!

Second chance

A friend of mine asked me whether I had been invited to the Champions Wildcard that’s been taking place on JEOPARDY recently. No, all contestants are “winners who nabbed one, two, or three wins in Season 37 or Season 38.” I’m not jealous, but I do think it diminishes the game somewhat. 

Yet I’m fine with those folks who never won being in the Second Chance tournament. They may have come up against a Mattea Roach, winner of 23 straight games, or 16-game winner Ryan Long.

Representative Roeder

One person I must thank publicly during my time on the show is Amy Roeder. She was the other challenger in my win. She played such a competitive game that I had to make a huge wager in FJ.

More importantly, she took my call the day before our episode aired. I was freaking out after having kept the results of the show secret for about seven weeks, and I needed to talk to someone. Because she was so personable, I got her number from directory assistance. She was very accommodating.

And now Amy is doing great things. She is “serving her second term in the Maine House of Representatives. She is the House chair of the Labor and Housing Committee.

“Rep. Roeder has worked in the arts for her entire adult life, both as an artist and administrator. She currently serves as an adjunct theater professor at the University of Maine. Additionally, she is a freelance business trainer and has worked with multiple local and national companies to address critical issues around communication, problem-solving, and organizational change management.

“Rep. Roeder is a strong advocate in Augusta for fair wages, safe working conditions, and expanded opportunities for all workers. She is particularly passionate about supporting small businesses and working to help Maine’s downtowns and Main Streets thrive.”

Oh, and she pointed out this intro to our episode.

The year 2020: “This hand is a foot”

Where’s my damn mask?

hand is a footUsually, I do this wrapup of the previous year. But the previous year was 2020. Like my grandfather, McKinley Green would say when we played gin rummy together, “This hand is a foot.” Meaning, “What the heck?” Or possibly something more graphic. So this going to take a while.

Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

1/1/2020 was way too long ago. I don’t remember.

And after 2020, I sure don’t intend to make plans for 2021, because do you know what plans do? They LAUGH! They mock! Then they say, “You have no control over these things!”

That said, I will finish the Raoul Vezina Wikipedia page. Unless I’m attacked by wild bears. Or oxen. Which I do not dismiss happening out of hand.

Did anyone close to you give birth?

I don’t believe so.

Did you attend any weddings?

I didn’t attend much of ANYTHING after mid-March, so no.

Did anyone close to you die?

My good friend from church Keith Barber. He beat cancer, only to succumb to some sort of respiratory infection. Since it was January, no one was looking for COVID in upstate New York. So I wonder…

My father-in-law Richard Powell, who died from lymphoma – NOT COVID – on Earth Day. I finally started watching some baseball in late October. There were some plays I knew we would have talked about, such as when the Atlanta Braves ran themselves out of Game 7 of the NLCS. And I missed sharing this with him.

Incidentally, while he was cremated, there still hasn’t been either a proper obituary or a service. Maybe in May 2021, on what would have been his birthday? Who knows?

What countries did you visit?

I might have visited Canada if they would have let us in. Heck, every time I went to a doctor’s office, they ask me if I’ve left the state. NYS was requiring people from many states to quarantine for a fortnight.

My passport expired in August 2020, which probably wouldn’t have happened in a NORMAL year. I do have the enhanced DMV thing, which is good for a few more years.

What would you like to have in 2021 that you lacked in 2020?

[Respondent laughs uncontrollably.] I would like to be able to leave the house without thinking about whether I have a mask with me. I’d like to be able to go to church, and especially go to choir rehearsal. Going to the movies, concerts, and out to eat. Generally speaking, going to REAL events rather than ZOOM/YouTube/Facebook events.

Not seeing the body count of COVID victims anymore. Knowing the rules at the grocery store regarding the use of bags, which changed a half dozen times this year.

What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Working the Census, I expect. Figuring out how to be a Zoom host.

Actually, it was probably calling people on the telephone. Two people per day, every day, from the spring equinox to the summer solstice, then one/day until mid-August when I started working the Census.

What was your biggest failure?

No doubt falling behind on a volunteer project. Then when I got Mr. Dithered, and I was Dagwood Bumstead, I just shut down altogether.

What was the best thing you bought?

Medical supplies. A thermometer, which my wife ended up needing to use every day. I’m oddly fond of taking my blood pressure because it requires me to sit quietly for five minutes every day. Oh, and a Delxo 3 Step Ladder, which we use a lot.

Whose behavior merited celebration?

Of course, a whole bunch of doctors, nurses, technicians, janitors, grocery store clerks, et al. working through a pandemic
People protesting, demanding justice. That would include my daughter.
The artists, writers who have documented this time.

Anthony Fauci
Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris
Alexander S. Vindman, Marie Yovanovitch, Fiona Hill
John Oliver, Trevor Noah, Seth Meyers
Randy Rainbow, The Vlogbrothers
Kelly Sedinger, Arthur Schenck
Stacey Abrams, Greta Thunberg, Jane Fonda
Rebecca Jade, Alexandria Green

John Lewis (RIP), Katie Porter, AOC, Paul Tonko, Pramila Jayapal, Lucy McBath

Ruth Bader Ginsberg (RIP)

The Lincoln Project
Amy Roeder 

Those groups of people who figured out how to take food to restaurants, feed hungry people, and keep some businesses afloat
Firefighters, especially those battling the infernos in the western US
Isabel Wilkerson, Ibram Kendi, Bryan Stevenson, Alicia Garza, The Anti-Racism Task Force at my church
The National Basketball Association – the “bubble” worked!

I’m sure there are others

Enough of this. Well, until tomorrow.

JEOPARDY! +20 yrs (7,305 days; 1043.57 wks)

I’m buds with Amy Roeder, one of my competitors, on Facebook.

It was 20 years ago today that I was in a room at my then-church watching myself on JEOPARDY! I was VERY uncomfortable with this – I would have as soon watched it alone at home – but others had talked me into this gathering.

I need not go through the blow-by-blow experience about being on the show. I wrote about it extensively when I started this blog in 2005, a serial with cliffhangers at the end of each installment, which you can read HERE. The pieces are below the links. They’re also on this site for those dates, Saturdays starting on May 28.

In fact, as I’ve noted, it was being on JEOPARDY! that convinced me that I had enough stuff to write about, at least for a little while. Since I needn’t recap this period, I thought I’d mentioned how the show has changed.

For one thing, the show does an online audition, whereas I did mine in person. The value of the board doubled three years after my appearance. They now give cash prizes to the runners-up.

The most significant change was that, starting in September 2003, a contestant who won five consecutive days could keep playing instead of retiring undefeated and showing up in the Tournament of Champions. For all sorts of reasons, I’ve always opposed the change. And for this season, there’s their FIRST-EVER TEAM TOURNAMENT! I’m not excited.

I still watch the show every day. Well, that’s not technically true. I record it every day and watch at my leisure. So I hate it when JEOPARDY! becomes newsworthy, such as a Sudden Death Tiebreaker! first in regular play.

Or when someone’s noted as an eight-time winner in a news story when I’ve only watched his fourth episode. I now knew he would win those next four games. (That happened last year with bartender Austin Rogers.) It seems that recent champions are more quirky, in the main.

I’m buds with Amy Roeder, one of my competitors, on Facebook.

Winning one game on JEOPARDY! is better than not winning at all, or not getting on at all. No, I can’t go back. But I still have the VCR tape transferred to a DVD. Oh, 12 surprising things you didn’t know about ‘Jeopardy!’ all but one of which I was aware of.

JEOPARDY! plus 15 years

Put ‘Em in Order: “Oklahoma statehood, California statehood, Nebraska statehood.” What’s your guess?

What’s made relating the game information so much easier than when I first wrote about it in 2005 is my discovery of something called J-archive, which archives JEOPARDY! games, including mine. So you can read every question and the order in which it was selected.

In game 1, it was the fifth question before I can finally answer a question, even though I knew three of the previous four.
The category was The Brady Bunch. “Unlike his horse, his sidekick, Pat Brady isn’t mounted for display.” I ring in first: “What is Roy Rogers?” It should have been WHO, but it’s still correct.

At the first commercial, it’s Tom $800, Roger $1100, Amy $1900. However long the commercials are at home is how long there are in the studio. Jennifer had to re-powder my forehead because I was “shiny.

So we get to Old Testament Women, one of the categories I expect to do well in.
$100- Delilah, which Amy got.
$200- for reasons unclear, I said Delilah! I KNEW it was Bathsheba but the brain just picked up Amy’s response.
She asked for OT Women for $300 and I’m still literally shaking my head, beating myself up for this gaffe. The mortification finally passed and I did get the $500 clue.

The score after the JEOPARDY! round, Tom $2100, Roger $2000, Amy $2800. Alex says, “Roger, you’ll go first in Double JEOPARDY!”

The categories are Brahmins, The Untouchables, Television, Put ‘Em In Order, This Is Your Life – Woodrow Wilson, and Literary Crosswords “M”. Well, television should be OK, and maybe Wilson, but this is not looking great.

I start with Television for $200, get Frasier. Television for $400-the first of the two Daily Doubles! And it’s a Video. Score Tom $2100, Roger $2200, Amy $2800. OK, if I bet enough, and get it right, I can take the lead for the first time! I can say, “I held the lead once!” I bet $1200.

Jason Alexander (from Seinfeld) says on screen: “This actor co-starred with me on a sitcom called “E/R” before starring in the medical seies “E.R.” So what do YOU think? I actually watched the earlier show, which starred Elliot Gould, and I also read about it in People magazine after the latter show began.

“Who was George Clooney?” “You guessed right,” Alex said. It wasn’t a guess.

Amy started taking off, getting several responses. I managed to get a couple in Crosswords, and three under Wilson. I put some Popes in order for $400. Then I pick the $600 clue in that category. It’s the OTHER Daily Double!

With the furious back and forth, I was genuinely surprised to find that I was leading: Tom $4100, Roger $7400, Amy $7000. Put ‘Em in Order: the category made me nervous. It could be ANYTHING. I bet a conservative $1000. “Oklahoma statehood, California statehood, Nebraska statehood.” What’s your guess?

One thing I knew: California became a state in 1850, the year after the Gold Rush. Oklahoma became a state in the 20th Century, actually 1907. When did Nebraska become a state? I said, “California statehood, Nebraska statehood, Oklahoma statehood.” That was correct. Nebraska become a state in 1867.

At the end of Double JEOPARDY!, it’s Tom $5100, Roger $9600, Amy $8400. The Final JEOPARDY! category is World Capitals. During the commercials between Double JEOPARDY! and the Final, you have to make your bet. The Final JEOPARDY! clue was: “This city was known as Dong Kihn, and to the Europeans as Tonquin.”

For five seconds, I have no idea even what was being asked. Then I look at the two primary words in the clue Tonquin and Donkin. If you blend them together, you get Tonkin. Tonkin Gulf. Where’s that? Vietnam. And what’s the capital of Vietnam? And all that processing took about 10 seconds.

Tom writes, What is Hanoi? Correct. He bet $1000 and now has $6100. Amy wrote, “What is Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City?” Wrong, no longer a world capital. Then my response is revealed: “What is Hanoi?” At that moment, it didn’t matter what I bet. I stand, poker-faced. $8000, added to my $9600, for a total of $17,600! When my bet was uncovered, there was an audible gasp in the audience; I just exhaled.

I got tremendous applause, more than I could have imagined. There were reasons: 1) I was told by an audience member that WTEN brought a busload of people with them to see the show 2) both of my friends, Judy and Karen, were telling people sitting around them, “Hey, we know him, go root for Roger.” And they DID.

But the second game, about 20 minutes later, did not go nearly so well. After the first round, I had but $600, while Jim had $2,700 and Robin, $2,900, after I got the last question of the round incorrectly. I got only 2 right in the Double JEOPARDY! section, both films of the ’40s. I just couldn’t get in. After a while I started to root for Jim to stay close to Robin; the score at the end of the Double JEOPARDY! round was $2200 for me $5500 for Jim, $9200 for Robin.

I have virtually zero chances of winning. But I get Final JEOPARDY! right, they don’t, I end up in second place, which was a trip to Barbados, which I eventually used on my honeymoon with Carol. Then I sit in the audience, watch a third show, and am melancholy I think I would have done well with those questions.

The seven weeks between the taping and the airing of the show are the worst, with people prodding me for the results. The day before the show aired, I called Amy Roeder, and commiserated together.

I watched the show in my church’s parlor with about 50 other people. It was slightly mortifying.

Every day for the next 35 days, and indeed for most days for the next six months, someone who was a total stranger would recognize me and congratulate me. Just when I think it was dying off, a new wave of folks would remind me they saw my appearance. I was fascinated that when I was in San Diego in September of 1999, 10 months after the show aired, some women from DC recognized me.

Winning on JEOPARDY! means that people think I’m intelligent. I’m probably no smarter than I was before, but I am perceived as such.

As recently as August 2013, people in my office have introduced me to other people as “our JEOPARDY! champion.”

I’m still in touch with Amy Roeder; check out her blog. Still use the lap blanket I got as a consolation prize.

All in all, it was a great experience. I’m still talking about it in no small part because someone will introduce me to another, saying, “”Oh, Roger won on JEOPARDY!” and the second person will say, “Tell me about it.” So I do, here.

30 Day Challenge: Day 26-A Picture From One Of The Greatest Days Of Your Life

I wrote about my JEOPARDY! experience extensively, starting my first month of blogging; in fact, writing about the daughter and writing about JEOPARDY! were the only purported reasons I even started the blog.

Hey, nothing in the instructions said it had to be a picture of me!

Above is a picture of Alex Trebek, host of a game show called High Rollers, which I would occasionally watch 30+ years ago. But more to the point, he has been the host of the game show JEOPARDY! since 1984.

To be honest, I’m not sure if that picture of him is from the day I was on JEOPARDY! But it WAS from one of the programs that was filmed in Boston, and the two weeks of programming in Boston was filmed over a two-day period, five shows per day, so I have a 50% chance of it being from the day I was taping, though not necessarily the episodes.

It’s not the suit he wore on the first episode I was on – I don’t remember what he wore the second show – and it’s not what he wore on this 1998 Teen Tournament reunion episode, either.

As I have noted, there was a big story in the local (Boston) paper the day after I taped my episodes, seven weeks before they aired.

Chance at fame for $100, Alex
Boston Globe – Boston, Mass.
Author: M. R. Montgomery, Globe Staff
Date: Sep 19, 1998
Start Page: C.1
Section: LIVING
Text Word Count: 827

Abstract (Document Summary)
“It’s the show, not the host,” he demurred. And it may not be false modesty: The 3,200 citizens roared for the new “Jeopardy!” set, for the assistant producer who warmed up the crowd with some practice contests, for the show announcer, and even for a camera shot of themselves. Alex Trebek got the same wild applause as “Boston, a great city,” and “Meet our contestants.”

Yesterday’s first taped show will air Nov. 9, and 15 million Americans will get to see Amy Roeder of Merrimack, N.H., match wits and unadulterated trivia with defending champion Tom Schellhammer of New York City, and Roger Green of Albany. The results are technically a secret (does anyone bet on “Jeopardy!” broadcasts?). With the whole 1950s game show scandal business hanging over their heads, the “Jeopardy!” staff takes serious measures. Contestants for a taping are selected at random from the pool of entrants just before each game. The winner, who will return, is, as they said, “sequestered.” Asked why, a representative of the show said they don’t want to let anyone aid, abet, help, or otherwise enhance the winner’s chances for the next game.

I’d LOVE to get copies of those two pages from the Boston Globe, each with a picture of Amy and me; the third person in the first shot is Tom, and in the second, a JEOPARDY! producer. Anyone in Boston with access to the Globe microfilm? Short of that, I could just buy a couple of pages – they run from $74.95 (unframed 11×17) to $169.95 (framed 18×24) each.

I wrote about my JEOPARDY! experience extensively, starting my first month of blogging; in fact, writing about the daughter and writing about JEOPARDY! were the only purported reasons I even started the blog.
Part 1
Part 2

Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10
Part 11
Epilogue, when I write about discovering myself on J-ARCHIVE – hey, there’s a picture of me! -and realized I had misremembered certain events from less than seven years earlier.

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