Date of first appearance:
September 14, 2001
5 games $52,599 + Corvette ($42,000) + 2003 ToC $250,000 = $344,599
Five-time champ; 2003 ToC Winner; last person to win a Corvette, most 3x5 index cards used to calculate a final wager--five.
Favorite anecdote associated with being on the show:
I don't know that I have a favorite anecdote about the show; it's more like a hundred little anecdotes:
Being introduced to an entire bank in the small town of Clanton, Alabama as “a real celebrity.”
Being stopped by a Southeast Asian man in a casino in Las Vegas who said “I see you on Jeopardy! You do good!!!”
Playing trivia in a tavern with friends of a friend and watching them slowly come to the realization during the course of the game, that I was a Jeopardy!-caliber player.
Having your buddies use my success as a conversation starter when they are trying to meet women.
My dad writing to tell me that he was wrong for having told me all of that useless knowledge would never get me anywhere.
Being able to make my mom the hit of her bridge club.
Sharing the experience of winning with a lifetime of friends. For the final game of the Tournament of Champions we had better than 130 people watching in one location.
Meeting some great people as fellow competitors.
One funny thing... occasionally I'm introduced to someone who has really done a great deal with their life... an established author, a millionaire businessman, a famous musician, etc. The person making the introductions will say something like, “Famous Person, I'd like you to meet Mark Dawson. Mark won the 2003 Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions.” And the Famous Person's eyes will widen and he'll say “Wow. You won on Jeopardy!?” It never ceases to amaze me that other people think it's a big deal.
Did being on Jeopardy! have any effect on your life?
Absolutely. Growing up I sort of had a mental check list of things I wanted to do: save the rainforest, cure cancer, establish world peace, compete on Jeopardy!
I'd wanted to be on Jeopardy! since I was 5 or 6, around 1967. I was born in Bloomington, Indiana, but moved to Auburn, Alabama when I was quite young and had no real memories of the place. In Auburn, I would watch Jeopardy! in the afternoons, and when a woman from Bloomington appeared as a contestant and won a number of games (all five I think), I got the idea that I'd like to do that too someday. Somehow I felt more connected to my hometown.
I never got around to most of those other goals, but appearing Jeopardy! and especially having some success on the show has been validating in ways that's hard to describe. Trivia has always been my useless talent that had no outlet on a par with other activities one might enjoy, such as basketball, golf, chess, poker or even Scrabble. For a trivia player, there is nothing on par with Jeopardy! It is essentially the Major Leagues; being a five time champ is like having won The Pennant. It's a feeling of success that never leaves and underlies everything you do.
If Jeopardy! is like the Majors, then the Tournament of Champions is the World Series. I don't know that my group was any different than other group gathered together for a ToC, but they were quite an impressive bunch: intelligent, friendly and competitive in the best sense of the word. In comparison with regular games, the intensity was ratcheted up by a factor of 10. Winning that was a huge rush, a ton of fun all the way through, win or lose, and all the better for being lucky enough to finish with the most points at the end.
I look forward to the Ultimate ToC for many reasons, but mostly in hopes that the competition and the competitors will be as much fun as in the past and that I'll get to play as many games as possible. You have to win to keep playing; that's why I'll play to win.
Did you do anything crazy with your winnings?
Not really. Soon after the ToC, I made my first trip to Las Vegas. I tried a number of times to give a portion of my winnings to the proprietors of the casinos there, but they kept giving it back.
I did, as promised, buy new tires for the Corvette that I'd won in 2001. They cost $1,300 bucks. Coincidentally, it's about time for a new set.
Other than that, the bulk of the money went into land, paying off my home and putting a down payment on a small place on Tybee Island, near Savannah, Georgia.
Is there anything else you would like viewers to know about you?
About me? I dunno. Though it's not specifically about me, there is something that's kind of interesting that I don't think most folks are aware of. People on the Jeopardy! bulletin board keep up with the games in far more detail than I ever could. They note everything from Alex's introductions to the wagering on Final Jeopardy!, making pronouncements on strategy and everything else Jeopardy! Over time, a number of player strategies, axioms or simple comportment have found their way into the lingo on the bulletin board, including:
• The Chuck Forrest “bounce”--a technique of jumping around the board so as to keep the competition from getting comfortable.
• Being “Ruttered”--essentially, being demolished and having no idea how it happened.
• Being “Weikled”--same as above, but having a good idea of exactly how it happened and noting what a nice and polite young man that Mr. Weikle is.
• TOM--what some have termed “Tease-Out Metric.” This factor is sort of that “a-ha” factor, that light bulb that goes on once the correct Jeopardy! question is revealed and you realize why you should have known it. The idea behind it is attributable to Jeopardy! champ Tom Kelso.
• STAYing CLAM--Kids Week player Gracie Studdard came up with this “pearl” of wisdom, when giving advice about keeping your mouth shut if you aren't sure.
• Marktiple Choice--Though I didn't name it, I did get credit for the strategy of writing down more than one possible Final Jeopardy! response, then crossing out the rejects just as the timpani sound, letting you know that time is up.
"In 2003, he became the first to win a quarter of a million dollars in the Tournament of Champions. A business manager from Chamblee, Georgia..."
2014 Battle of the Decades quarterfinalist: $10,000.
2005 Ultimate Tournament of Champions Round 1 winner: $31,250.
2003 Tournament of Champions winner (semifinalist by wildcard): $250,000.
Season 18 5-time champion: $52,599 + a Chevrolet Corvette (worth $42,000).
Mark selected a Chevrolet Tahoe as his vehicle on the show, but later changed his mind and received a Corvette.
Mark appeared on Classic Concentration on 1988-03-03.
Jeopardy! Message Board user name: MSDawson