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.

Famous people I’ve met, posthumous edition


Oddly, I found the exercise of noting 70 people in my life who have passed therapeutic. So, I figured I’d list some famous people I’ve met who have since died.

Rod Serling:  When you grew up in Binghamton, NY, in the early 1960s, Serling, born in the Syracuse area but grew up on the West Side of the Parlor City, was a big deal. The Twilight Zone television series was chockful of Binghamtonian references, from a rundown bus station to a carousel, which looked much like Recreation Park’s merry-go-round.

In 1970, I, as president of the student government, was given the honor of introducing Serling at a schoolwide assembly. Rod had been the student government leader thirty years earlier.

His favorite teacher, Helen Foley, who was namechecked in a TZ episode, wrote me a too-long introduction that mentioned him being a paratrooper in World War II.

While briefly mortified then, I understood why he came out on stage during my introduction. After the assembly, he spoke to La Foley’s last-period public speaking class, which I got permission to attend. Rod smoked incessantly in the classroom. The coffin nails killed him five years later at 50; fame doesn’t immunize one from disease.

Earl Warren: My Constitutional hero., as recently noted. I never did figure out how my SUNY New Paltz professor, Ron Steinberg, managed to arrange for his class of about 15 students to meet a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

A former Weaver

Pete Seeger: Reading my diary, I noticed I had seen Pete sing at least thrice in the autumn of 1972, including twice in one day. I estimate that I’d seen him perform at least 30 times.

When the Springboks rugby team from apartheid South Africa was scheduled to play at Bleeker Stadium in Albany in September 1981, with the approval of long-time mayor Erastus Corning II, there was a call for protests. I was at the demonstration, along with over a thousand others.

There might have been an even larger response, except it was POURING. But Pete was there, and we were standing outside the stadium getting soaked, umbrellas notwithstanding, while discussing the moral necessity to respond to racism and other evils.

Ed Dague: My favorite newsperson in the Albany market. Somewhere in the attic, I have the transcript of an April 1994 11 p.m. news broadcast on WNYT-TV, Channel 13, that I got to watch being broadcast while near the set.

Back when he had a mustache

Alex Trebek: My sense of the JEOPARDY host was that he enjoyed the show’s rhythm in the Los Angeles area—two or three shows, a meal break, then three or two more episodes.

When I saw him at the Wang Theater in Boston in September 1998, I sensed he was uncomfortable doing a series of interviews with the Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, and other media outlets. I got to watch him a lot because there was a lot of waiting around.

He was explicitly annoyed with not getting into our hotel, the Boston Park Plaza Hotel, quickly that first evening because of a Bill Clinton fundraiser, which followed a massive demonstration both against Clinton and against special prosecutor Ken Starr, who had put out explicit information online regarding the President and Monica Lewinsky. I don’t know if his irritation was political/cultural – he tended to be rather conservative – or merely the inconvenience.

Regardless, I’m disappointed I don’t have a photo with him because he was doing the bunny-ears thing with his fingers behind my back, which I saw on a monitor.

What I bought recently

J Alum Tee Shirt

My old blogging buddy Greg Burgas, who I’ve been following since late 2005, writes about what he “bought, read, watched, or otherwise consumed.”

In that spirit, here’s what I bought recently.
I mention this while, at the same time, I keep saying I’m not going to buy ANYTHING except consumables: food, dish detergent, et al. So if I purchase something, it should bring me joy, in the word of Maria Kondo.

Jeopardy Contestant Season 1-38 Alumni Tee Shirt. I was on Season 15. I recently went to an ’80s trivia night with several local Jeopardy alums. It was in honor of the birthday of Jay, who was wearing one of those T-shirts. As one customer who bought one from the Etsy site wrote, “It was the perfect example of ‘I didn’t know I needed that until I saw it.’” Incidentally, we led through the competition but lost when we muffed the final question about the first CD pressed in Japan in 1982.


Making Black America: Through the Grapevine. I recorded this on the DVR in the fall of 2022, but it remained unwatched. I waited for my wife to view it with me until July 2023. It’s “a four-part series hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., that chronicles the vast social networks and organizations created by and for Black people.”

While it addressed discrimination issues, it also lifted the sources of “Black joy,” from art, music, and literature to HBCU Greek organizations, barbershops, and beauty shops.
I was so taken by it that I bought the DVD so my wife and/or daughter could watch it at leisure.

African-Americans in the Wyoming Valley, 1778-1990 (paperback, 1992) by Emerson I Moss. I bought it solely because it mentioned my great-great-grandfather, Samuel Patterson, thrice, albeit briefly. He was a very impressive man, and I will write about him in due course. I’ve also purchased many other books, none of which I have read to date. I got the new Paul Simon album, Seven Psalms, which is very good. 

Jeopardy Masters

Beatrice and Benedict

I received this question last month from my friend Catbird.

What do you think of the Jeopardy Masters?

At the time I was asked this, I had seen ZERO episodes because I was either preparing to go to France or was there or was recovering from being there.

Honestly, I wasn’t all that excited. Seeing these same six people AGAIN was not that interesting to me. But seeing the relationships that developed among the six, especially between Sam Buttrey and Matt Amodio, was fascinating. When Mattea Roach’s father, Phillip, died at the age of 57 from a brain aneurysm, their tribute to dad was touching.

I do NOT want to see where the DDs are, BTW, and I think this is going away, except maybe on an app.

In general, I like it, but sometimes I start wondering if SONY recognizes J as its one sure thing and is squeezing every last bit of revenue out of it.

I think this may be the case. But JEOPARDY Masters had good ratings for ABC. Moreover, extending the brand made sense with the proliferation of social media with Inside Jeopardy.

 I also wonder what the story is with Mayim Bialik: After all that fuss about sexual harassment, did she get the host job, or not?

She and Ken Jennings, to the best of my knowledge, will continue to share the hosting duties.

Why does KJ get all the special (and probably higher-ratings) shows?

MB got the Celebrity JEOPARDY shows that did fine in the ratings.

Does “creepy guy” MR still haunt J culture?

The former executive producer and, briefly, host,  Michael Richards, is gone, gone, GONE.

Is she too Jewish? Is it her two X chromosomes? 

Maybe, and maybe.

KJ is better

But I contend that Ken Jennings is also better at the job because he’s a student of the show. He prepares like Trebek prepared.

The time for the host to acknowledge the correct answer still takes longer with her. She STILL doesn’t tell the contestant with a low or negative score that they can bet up to the maximum value of the clue on the board, $1000 in the first round, and $2000 in Double JEOPARDY.

And she made an egregious error in the game on May 31. in the category of Presidential Doin’s:

“Had a cold, went out to buy veggies anyway; got pneumonia, died before 31st full day on the job.” She accepted Harrison; it was William Henry Harrison, but it could have been Benjamin Harrison.

But a few minutes later:

“Made Henry Clay Secretary of State; 2 years after the White House, settled into a new House (of Representatives).” To their response of Adams, she correctly requested more information. John Adams was wrong; John Quincy Adams was correct.

One ALWAYS asks which president when it’s Adams, Harrison, Johnson, or Roosevelt. It’s JEOPARDY Hosting 101.

Is KJ  being greedy?

IDK what this means.

Sometimes I overthink things.

What’s your take on the current incarnation of J?

They’re bringing back all of the Season 39 winners that didn’t make it to the ToC to have some play-in thing so that someone WILL make it to the ToC. It diminishes the product, IMO.

I will always root against the person who’s been on for more than five days. But I still watch, and ASAP because my newsfeed often tells me info first thing the next morning.

Billy Shakes

Kelly took great umbrage regarding a ruling in the Final JEOPARDY of May 23.

“The names of these two lovers are taken from Latin words meaning ‘blessed.’

“Ben… got the right characters: Beatrice and Benedick from Much Ado About Nothing. But wait! He spelled them Beatrice and Benedict, which was enough for the judges to rule him incorrect. His wager was big enough to drop him into second place, and off the show (until he comes back for the Tournament of Champions, so all isn’t lost for Ben).”

I disagreed with him in the comments. Still, he responded that “Maybe that’s how they’ve always done it, but honestly, as a casual viewer, I still think it’s BS.”

So I asked a list of former JEOPARDY contestants, who are not casual viewers, the question. I mean, I know this like I know that in baseball with two outs the run does not count if the batter is put out at first, EVEN if the runner crosses the plate before the batter makes the out. It just IS.

The responses:

Of course, it was decided correctly.

Absolutely correct. It wasn’t that it was a spelling error…he changed the name.

Decided correctly. Changed the name AND the pronunciation.
The ruling was correct. That’s how Shakespeare spelled it, so you can’t allow any variations. If you do, where does it stop?
Agreed – as soon as it showed up, I said out loud, “No, that’s not right.” I can see if he hadn’t spelled it with the ‘k’ at the end, but adding a ‘t’ makes it a different name.
Given that the show has also noted the decision was correct, I stand by my thoughts on this.
Conversely, I KNOW Kelly could have answered this item: Stephen Sondheim composed most of the score of “A Little Night Music” in 3/4 time, also known as this dance “time.”
It was one of 23 clues that were Triple Stumpers on June 7, 2023. No one answered them correctly. It WAS painful.
BTW, “What is waltz time?”

Cheese and Onions

All You Need Is Cash

This post was birthed by one blog post, one discussion about cheese and onions, and one television show.

The blog post is by Arthur. He wrote about three songs that went to #1 in 1983. He notes, “The idea for these posts is loosely based on a series of posts Roger Green did as artists turned 70.” Knowingly or not, it also parallels me noting the #1 hits in various years ending in 3 in 2023; I’ll tackle 1983 in September.

Arthur picked three songs. Maneater by Hall and Oates he likes more than I. I much prefer the previous three #1s by the duo, Kiss On My List, Private Eyes, and I Can’t Go For That.

On the other hand, we find the lyrics of Africa by Toto insipid. Yet I like the song, especially when done by others. Here are  42 covers of the piece.

Arthur discusses the stupid copyright claim launched against Men at Work’s Down Under. As luck would have it, I discussed this back in 2010. I wrote that I didn’t think the “swipe” of the song Kookaburra “was substantial enough to be a copyright violation.” Now, Led Zeppelin, for instance, did some heavy lifting of songs, mainly from blues artists, most of whom were black.

The Rutles

My wife prepared some pizza using a prepackaged thin crust with tomato sauce, cheese, and onions. I said, “Cheese and Onions, just like the Rutles song.” She didn’t know what I was talking about.

Back in 1978, in the Saturday Night Live timeslot, there was a faux documentary of a fake rock band called All You Need Is Cash.

As IMDb noted, the film “follows their career from their early days in Liverpool and Hamburg’s infamous Rat-Keller to their amazing worldwide success. A parody of Beatlemania and the many serious documentaries made about the Beatles.” The Wikipedia page details the Rutles phenomenon.

There was a soundtrack of 14 songs which I bought on vinyl. I loved it. And I didn’t think they violated copyright on the LP collection. For instance, Cheese and Onions was a mashup of Across the Universe, Sexy Sadie, Mind Games, Across the Universe, and A Day In The Life, complete with the antithesis of the latter’s extended ending.

I particularly enjoyed Love Life. While rooted in All You Need Is Love, I thought it was different enough, with the reprise of Hold My Hand replacing She Loves You.

Get Up and Go, in the movie, not on the LP, but present on the 20-song CD John Lennon said was too much on the nose compared with Get Back, and I totally agree.

Nevertheless, despite having received Lennon’s and Harrison’s blessing for the project… Neil Innes “was forced by ATV Music to credit some of the songs to Lennon–McCartney–Innes.”

This is…

A recent Final JEOPARDY category was the 20th CENTURY EPONYMS. The clue: A 1940 headline about this included “failure,” “liability when it came to offense,” & “stout hearts no match for tanks.”

Much of the JEOPARDY fandom thought this was impossible. For one thing, many didn’t know what an eponym was. I’ve learned that since I used to read record reviews and saw an artist’s “eponymous first album.”

Others thought one would have studied European history to get it. I remember the answer from high school world history.

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial