A senior from Emory University...

Eric Betts

Where do you see yourself in ten years?
I nin--in ten years, I see myself as a writer--a newspaper, a magazine--some type of journalist.

What are you most excited about?
Today, I'm most excited about meeting Alex.

Do you think your major will give you an advantage in the College Championship?
Uh, I'm a creative writing and journalism major, so... probably not. Um...

Do you think Alex Trebek would make a good college professor?
Alex Trebek would make a great college professor.

Show your school spirit and tune in!

2009 College Championship first runner-up (semifinalist by wildcard): $50,000.

21 and from Eufaula, Alabama at the time of the College Championship.

Eric Betts Blog Entry 4
Aug 21, 2009

As I’m sure you can imagine, I was pretty excited about getting into the finals. By that point, this Jeopardy! thing was old hat. I felt I had the feel of it down. What I didn’t count on was fatigue. It takes a staggering amount of concentration to play a game of Jeopardy! — the best comparison I’ve so far come up with is that it’s like taking the SAT in 20 minutes. By the end of our final game of the Finals, I was exhausted.

The problem with appearing on Jeopardy! is that once you’re done on the show, you’ve got all this trivia up in your brain with nowhere to use it. Trivially speaking, I’ve peaked. Sure, I can go try to win burgers at pub trivia nights for the rest of my life, but that will probably just end with me embarrassing myself by continually reminiscing about my Jeopardy! experience.

After the show was over, myself and I think nine of the other contestants all went out to dinner and hung out for the evening. This was good, because it seemed to prolong the Jeopardy! experience. It was bad, because since Patrick wasn’t around, they tried to make me pay.

The friends and family I have told have been uniformly pretty excited about it. (Two exceptions: my close friend from back home who realized that was more money than he makes in a year, and a professor at Emory who teaches 19th century American literature and is — understandably — a little upset I missed Henry David Thoreau in Final Jeopardy!) Those I haven’t told have been trying to get it out of me since I got back.

Even though I did win $50,000, I’m still trying to find some kind of employment for the summer. (That’s a hint to all the Atlanta readers out there.) Now though, I don’t particularly need to find full-time work, so I’m thinking of using my extra free time — while I still have extra free time — to start writing a book.

Eric Betts Blog Entry 3
May 12, 2009

Alex was nice enough to tell me during the quarter-final post-game chat that he thought my $15,000 put me in second place out of the non-winners who had gone so far. He ended up being right, but even when neither of the losers of the fourth game passed my score, I was still nervous that someone had gotten their math wrong or neglected to tell me about how much money someone else had. I think I only inhaled again when they said on the air that I got one of the wild cards and was going to be a semi-finalist.

Once I did find out I’d made the semi-finals, my nerves went away. I guess being fourth out of four and only making it by $400 gave me an “I’m lucky to be here” feeling. I felt certain that everyone else I was competing against were better Jeopardy! players than I was, so I thought I could go out in the semi-finals with head held high.

I was infinitely more comfortable playing the second game than I was the first, partly because I had been there, done that, and partly because I swapped my grip on the signaling button so that I was ringing in with my index finger, rather than my thumb. The only question I remember from this game was the Final Jeopardy! question, which I knew the answer to not, as you might think, from four years of Journalism classes, but from about 90 viewings of The Great Escape while I was growing up. Thanks, Dad.


Eric Betts Blog Entry 2
May 7, 2009

The first thing you notice about the Jeopardy! stage is how much smaller it looks in person than on TV. I watched the first two minutes of Tuesday night’s show after our first day of taping, and even then I was struck by the disparity between what I remembered from earlier that day and what was on the screen in front of me.

I’ll admit it, I came into this Jeopardy! experience fully prepared to be anti-social. Why, I figured, would I want to make friends with these people whom I was only going to see for two days anyway, and whom I would be competing against during most of that time-frame? Of course, it turned out that they were all great people, and the vast majority of us went straight home and found each other on Facebook.

If you’re reading this blog on the Jeopardy! website, then that probably means you’re only one or two clicks away from seeing some of the interviews and promo spots that we filmed for the show. If that’s the case, then I urge you, go look at everyone else’s. You have fourteen options to choose from that are not mine, and I would greatly appreciate it if you would exercise your right to choose one of those. You see, I was the first person out on the set for promos and interviews, it was still relatively early in the morning, and at that point I still had some illusion that I could appear on television and still keep some of my dignity intact. The level of pep they asked of me was nearly impossible to muster at that hour of the day, and the effort it took to try and compensate for that I’m sure led to some pretty embarrassing material. So go on, look at all the others, but spare me your scorn.

I’m not sure I was ever properly introduced to Alex Trebek. He seems like a nice fellow though.

Everyone always says that the hardest part of appearing on Jeopardy! is working the signaling button. I’m not sure I understand where they’re coming from; it’s relatively simple — you just push down — and it handles like a dream. At least until the other contestants start trying to buzz in to, then it gets more difficult. I spent most of the rehearsal game trying to figure out which of my fellow competitors I’d like to compete against, and which ones I’d be in deep trouble if I were slotted against them. I then immediately forgot those assessments.

The Game

The worst part about being on Jeopardy! is waiting in the green room for your chance to go on. Nobody tells you what order you go on, so you’re literally just sitting in the back playing cards or watching movies Every time the door opens, your heart leaps up into your sinus cavities and swallowing gets very difficult. It’s one of the more nerve-wracking experiences of my life. I’m probably going to be a mess before my wedding or the birth of my child or anything like that.

I remember walking out of the green room for our game (the third one that day), seeing the audience in their seats, seeing the set all lit up for us, and then from that point on, I remember almost nothing of my first Jeopardy! game. I think it’s a defense mechanism I’ve developed over the years: whenever I get very, very nervous, my memory just turns off, and I have no recollection of how the actual event I was nervous about ended up unfolding. I remember only two questions that I answered the entire time, and only one additional one that I think Greg got right.

I do remember my logic on the final question; our category was Washington D.C., and in my mind the question was going to be about the original planner for the city, whose name (Pierre Charles L’Enfant, thank you Google) I couldn’t remember at the time. So I decided not to play for the win, and to hope that $15,000 (if I answered correctly) or $14,200 (if I didn’t) was enough to get me in with a wild card.

Of course, that meant I was sweating bullets for the next game.

Eric Betts Blog Entry 1
May 4, 2009

My name's Eric Betts; I'm a senior creative writing and journalism major at Emory University, which means I'm graduating college with exactly one marketable skill. I've always wanted to be a writer, at least once I realized that ninja and superhero weren't feasible career options. I figured I'd just be a journalist of some kind, as that seemed to be one of the steadier writing gigs. That's not really the case anymore. I spent this past year though working on a longer project — an essay compilation about the Waffle House chain of restaurants — for my senior honors thesis at Emory, and had so much fun with that that I'm looking forward to writing another book in my spare time.

I grew up in Eufaula, Alabama, a town of about 14,000 people in the southeast part of the state. Geographically, Eufaula is about a quarter of the way up the state, right on the Georgia border. More tellingly, it's an hour drive from there to the nearest movie theater, which means I read a lot and played a lot of sports as a kid.

I thought I had blown the online test. I've taken it once before, a couple of years ago, and felt infinitely more confident that I had done well then. I knew more of the answers for sure that time; whereas on this last test, I felt like I was making too many educated guesses, and that some of those guesses had to be wrong.

I don't remember very much of the auditioning process. There was a lot of nervous energy involved, I do recall spending the entire mock game bouncing up and down on the balls of my feet, and I could tell you — though I won't — each of the questions I missed on the written test. I almost felt guilty when I got to the audition. Our location was in Atlanta, and all these people from all across the Southeast had driven for hours to try out, and I just sort of rolled out of bed and drove twelve minutes to get downtown. So I had that going for me, which was nice.

I remember exactly what I was doing when I got "the call" telling me I was going to be on the show, but that's because I was slogging through a paper on Ulysses that would take me most of the rest of the night to finish. I suppose that had a staircase been handy I might have run to the top of it and stuck my arms in the air, Rocky Balboa-style. Since one wasn't, I just kind of paced around my room and said "thank you." I think the contestant coordinator who called me — Glenn, for those interested — was disappointed with my lack of reaction, but I'd like to see you try getting excited while you still had a paper on Ulysses to write.

The first person I told was Emily Gilbert, a lawyer here in Atlanta who plays trivia at the same restaurant as my friends and I every Tuesday. She had been asking me for weeks if I had heard anything about Jeopardy! yet, so to get her to stop, I told her she'd be the first to know. I remembered that I said that for whatever reason, and so I sent her an e-mail before I was even off the phone. I don't know if I've ever had any "tell everyone you know" news before, so I was a little slapdash about calling people after that. I think it took me half an hour to get around to calling my parents. (Sorry, Mom.)

There was talk of a training regimen being worked out, by some of the other people at trivia, but I'm not sure what happened with that. Instead I just looked at U.S. presidents and world capitals and British monarchs. Shakespeare too; apparently I didn't read enough Shakespeare growing up. (Note to reader: I'm playing it cool, here. I studied much more than this, in all kinds of different subjects, but would rather you not know in case I don't do well.)

Eric appeared in the following 4 archived games:
#5695, aired 2009-05-15 Eric Betts vs. Patrick Tucker vs. Laura Myers 2009 College Championship final game 2.
#5694, aired 2009-05-14 Eric Betts vs. Patrick Tucker vs. Laura Myers 2009 College Championship final game 1.
#5691, aired 2009-05-11 Scott Menke vs. Ariella Goldstein vs. Eric Betts 2009 College Championship semifinal game 1.
#5688, aired 2009-05-06 Eric Betts vs. Elyssa Browning vs. Greg Lichtenstein 2009 College Championship quarterfinal game 3. Ask Alex #17: College.

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