My Experience

by Steven H Silver


Against Goliath

Before I knew it, our game was underway.  I’m afraid I can’t really give too many details, mostly because the game is something of a blur.  I’m looking forward to seeing it when it airs because I couldn’t tell you what the categories, answers, or questions were.  I do know that Jason proved amazingly adept at finding “daily doubles.”  Fortunately, I seemed to be a match for him when it came to handling the buzzer.  During the first round of “Jeopardy!”, the lead went back and forth between us several times.

“Jeopardy!” is filmed in real time.  When the show goes to a commercial break, the contestants stand around on the set, talking to each other or to the crew.  Jennifer rushes onto the stage to touch up make-up as needed and a stagehand brings a tray with water cups for the contestants.  During the first commercial break, I told Jason he should focus on deciding which car he would choose when he won the game (Five time winners receive their choice of four cars in addition to their cash).

When we came back from the first commercial, Alex Trebek began his interviews.  We had to supply the “Jeopardy!” staff with several topics which Alex could discuss with us ahead of time.  Before the show, Grant came up to us and showed us the note card Alex would receive.  Each had our name, hometown, job description and three topics of conversation.  Grant had highlighted the first topic, and confirmed it with me, noting that Alex occasionally deviated from the cards.

He did not deviate, but asked me about the Sidewise Award.  I explained what the award was and gave a brief description of what alternate history was.  Alex then surprised me by asking for an example.  Our contracts specifically prohibited us from promoting products unless in response to one of Alex’s questions.  Of the four winners so far, the most typical alternate history was probably Harry Turtledove’s How Few Remain (1998), so that is the one I mentioned.  During the next commercial break, one of the contestants and three of the crew members asked me for the name of the book and author again.

Going into Final Jeopardy , I found myself in second place in a game which was reasonably close.  I felt comfortable with the category, but merely bet enough that I would ensure myself a second place finish if all three of us answered the questions correctly. 

The category was “Famous Scientists,” and the answer was:  Upon his death in 1727, he left several manuscripts on the occult.”  I quickly wrote down “Who was Isaac Newton.”  Kari also got the answer correct and it was just a matter of waiting to see how much Jason won by.

When Jason answer was revealed, “Who was Bacon?” and I realized I had won, an expression of shock came over my face.  I can only hope the camera was on me to pick it up.  Although I knew I had won, when Alex came up to me and said, “Congratulations giant killer,” it took me a moment to figure out what he was talking about.  I won $7,400.  Interestingly, as the second game began, I realized I had no idea how much I had won.