My Experience

by Steven H Silver


Day One

On Tuesday, Brad brought in an antenna, but when we hooked it up, we could only get UHF channels.  An announcement was made, however, that a television would be set up in the cafeteria of the corporate offices, about a mile away, for anyone who wanted to watch from there.  I decided I would watch from the office, a decision which turned out to be good for a variety of reasons.

At 3:25, the receptionist made an announcement over the PA that anyone interested could see me on “Jeopardy!” from 3:30 to 4:00 in the cafeteria.  By the time the show began, there were about forty people in the room, many of whom I didn’t know.  It was strange standing there having people point at me and whisper “That’s him.”

What was even stranger, and I would love to have an explanation for this phenomenon, is the fact that I was more nervous watching the shows than I was when I was in California taping them.  One co-worker commented that I looked like a caged animal, jumping up from may chair as soon as I sat down and pacing back and forth nervously.

During commercials, I answered questions about how the show was taped, how I had qualified for “Jeopardy!” and, of course, what Alex Trebek was really like.  I also watched the reactions of the people I worked with.  Although everyone was rooting for me, when we went to the first commercial break with Kari Elias running a distant third (I was leading 2000-800-300 at that point), someone shouted “Go, Kari!”  They did form quick communal decisions about the contestants I faced.  Kari was seen as an underdog and they liked her.  Jason, they declared was bereft of a sense of humor and seemed a bit uptight.  Based on my experiences with him, neither comment about him was correct.

When the show came back from the first commercial, Alex conducted his interviews with the three contestants.  As mine began, WLS, the affiliate who carries the show, began a crawl across the bottom of the screen announcing a severe weather bulletin.  I contacted WLS to see about getting a clean copy, and received a video tape in the mail a few days later.

The pace of the game was surprising.  I discovered I got off to a much slower start than I remembered.  The lead didn’t change as much as I remembered and Kari did much better than I remembered.  This latter fact was a recurrent theme.  I remember the first game as being primarily between Jason and me, but Kari had a strong role.  I remember the second game as being between Allen Tatman and me, but again, Mary Friedman spent a significant portion of the game in first place.  She was defeated as much by Allen’s incredibly strong showing in Double Jeopardy  as by anything else.  For some reason, this dynamic does not hold true for my third game, perhaps because I was in third place going into Final Jeopardy  rather than second place.  I know Scott Myre had a slow start in the first round, to the extent that they checked his buzzer, and Meg gave me a good challenge in the first round, but I remember the Double Jeopardy  round as a duel between Meg and Scott.  Meg tells me that she remembers her second show as a duel between herself and Gregg Fanselau.  In reality, John Edkins was very much in the game, so perhaps it is a normal perception.

When Alex announced the categories at the beginning of the show, none of them sounded particularly familiar to me.  Even once the game began, the clues were surprises and I couldn’t always remember who managed to buzz in first and whether they got the right answer.  This would be repeated over the next couple of days as well.

When the Final Jeopardy  question appeared, only one person in the room knew the answer.  Rather than shouting it out, he whispered it to the person next to him so she could confirm that he was correct.

When I returned home, the phone was ringing off the hook.  One of the first calls was from Paul, a bartender who had appeared on the show in October with whom I had spoken a few months ago.  He wanted to officially welcome me to the club of “Jeopardy!” winners.  Both my parents and in-laws also received calls from relatives I had never met, and friends.  My parents received a call from a salesman who worked for my father more than a decade ago.  My mother also spoke to a friend of my grandmother’s who recognized me on the show.  A woman I used to work with who was home sick saw me and notified the people at my old company.  A good friend’s mother saw the show and he was berated for not letting her know I was going to be on.  I received e-mails from people I had never heard of who had seen my messages on Usenet or on my website.

Elaine, Robin and I went out to dinner.  When we got home, there were fourteen messages on our answering machine.  I also found out that my parents and sister had experienced a cable outage which only cleared as the show began.  Their cable dropped out again briefly during the commercial between the Final Jeopardy  category and the revelation of the question.