by Steven H Silver
Because “Jeopardy!” is on in Chicago at 3:30 in the afternoon, I rarely get to actually watch the show “live.” Beginning on June 5, I began to tape the shows. I wanted to see the person Jason would beat and, of course, I wanted to see Jason’s games.
Also on Monday, June 5, I received a phone call from Marc Dadigan, an intern for Pioneer Press, publishers of the Northbrook Star, a local weekly paper. Each week, they run a short background, with a photograph, of a Northbrook resident. These articles are about two hundred words. We spoke on the phone for about twenty minutes and arranged to have a photographer, Joe Cyganowski, drop by my house on Tuesday at lunchtime to take the picture.
Joe was waiting for me when I showed up and came in. Glancing around the house, his eye fell on our bookshelves (the one feature everyone seems to comment on) and he asked me to pose leaning against the ladder. When I spoke to my wife later in the day, she asked if the picture had been taken in front of the bookshelves. The next day, I received a call from a friend who works for Pioneer Press, he thought he had noticed an error in the column and wanted to double check. It was an error, and was excised before the article appeared in Thursday’s edition. Nevertheless, Elaine and I counted four or five factual errors or misleading statements in the article in its final form.
On Thursday, Jason was challenged by Doug Souleyrette, a student from the University of Kentucky who I had been in touch with. Although I knew the outcome before the game started (as well as the Final Jeopardy question, since Doug e-mailed it to me), it was a good game and one of the closest games Jason played. Despite Doug’s strong efforts, Jason went into Final Jeopardy in an untouchable position. I had sent Doug an e-mail of support about his game, although it was a little difficult to figure out what to say. “Good luck,” was inappropriate since the outcome had been decided three months earlier. Also, I knew what the outcome would be. I settled for commenting that I looked forward to seeing him and how well he was able to do against Jason.
As I mentioned, I had a meeting on the evening in which Jason won his third victory. I was a little surprised to find myself bombarded by a series of questions, not about Alex Trebek or my own appearances, but about Jason. Of all the contestants I met, of course, I feel as if I knew Jason least, which is rather ironic, given that by dethroning him in his fifth game, I am rather linked to him. Most of what I knew about him came from watching his shows and the fact that during the taping, my family sat next to his mother and wife in the audience and had a chance to talk to them. My understanding is that he is not only exceedingly bright, but also a very nice person.
One friend mentioned that all of Jason’s victories to that point were “easy” victories, meaning that Jason had enough going in to Final Jeopardy that it didn’t matter whether he got the answer right or wrong, he would win. I didn’t mention that his performance on Monday’s show would practically equal his combined performance so far. In any event, I disagree with the characterization of those as easy victories. Jason managed to win his first four games in the Double Jeopardy round, a feat which I feel is more impressive than the come-from-behind victories which I managed to pull off on my first two days. He did it by a combination of knowledge, luck, and astute wagering, the three things which are necessary to become a “Jeopardy!” champion. Had I shown a little more aptitude with the final trait on my third day, I would have continued to reign as champion.
Over the weekend, I tracked down Jason’s e-mail address and sent off an e-mail similar to the one I sent Doug, expressing my admiration for his playing in his first three games and commenting that I remembered few of the details of our own game (I remembered few categories, specific questions, etc.) and was looking forward to seeing the actual game itself. I also sent out e-mails to the people in my address book reminding people of my appearance and placed notices in some select Usenet groups in which I participate.
On Monday, I made plans to watch Tuesday’s show at my parents’ house. They take care of Robin on Monday and Tuesday and, although Robin would most likely be napping during the show, I thought it would be fun to watch there. However, those plans were shunted aside when my boss suggested we set up a television at my office to watch together. Unfortunately, the television we had does not have an antenna, being used exclusively for video-tape training, and we weren’t able to pick up the WLS, the ABC affiliate which carried “Jeopardy!”. I was back to watching at my parents’ house until another manager, Brad, said he would bring in an antenna.