Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I see myself as being 32 instead of 22. And [laughs] hopefully happy! So...
What the coolest thing about your university?
The coolest thing about my university would be, um... We're not Ole Miss, and, uh, we're in Mississippi, which is the greatest state in the union, uh, according to us.
How did you prepare for the show?
I tried to prepare for the show as I do, uh, my classes--as little as possible. A lot of sleep. Food. Yeah, that's about it.
What are you most excited about today?
Uh, what I'm most excited about today is, uh, just seeing everything I've seen on TV, and being one of the fifteen people, uh, that's selected out of who-knows-how-many to be on the show--that's pretty cool, so...
Do you have a dream category?
A dream category for me would be anything on... the Civil War, anything on American history, anything on... Italian food... or anything... about the Air Force.
What will you do with the money you win?
What will I do with the money I win on the show? Um... Something smart, hopefully. As long as it's smart and it doesn't involve me wasting it, yeah...
What do you think of your competition?
I'm bringing the heat. [Puffs out Mississippi State sweatshirt]
[After winning quarterfinal game]
What did you think of your competition?
Ohh! See--okay. When you come in, you want the competition to be as bad as possible so you can, like, coast through it, but it doesn't work like that. It was--it was tough. Uh, it was a lot more nerve-wracking than I would have liked, but it was fun, so...
What was the turning point during your game?
Okay--the game goes by, and you don't really remember most of it, but if--if memory serves me correctly, um, there was a point where I was maybe tied with Andrew for the lead or maybe below, and I got a Daily Double, and it was only for $2,000 but I--I got it, and after that I--I think I had the lead for the rest of the game, so I think that was probably the turning point. The question was "James"--"Who is James Fenimore Cooper?" And it took me a while, but I managed to pull it out somehow, so I think that was probably the turning point.
Which categories were you happy to see on the board?
FAMOUS AMERICANS came up. Um, uh, I liked that one. I liked, uh, the senior category, A SENIOR YEAR, because it--all of 'em had "senior" in it, and the biggest one, though, was Final Jeopardy!--AMERICAN--U.S. PRESIDENTS, and my fiancée was sitting up in the audience and she later told me, was like--she--when she saw that come up, she knew I was gonna win, 'cause, if I don't know U.S.--I'm a political science major--if I don't know that category, I might as well just go home, so...
How did you determine your Final Jeopardy! wager?
Andrew, at the point, at the top had $6,000 less than me. And he had $13,000. I had 19. So I knew if he doubled up, um, he'd get 26, so I wanted to get more than 26. Uh, 'cause then if I--if I won the question, there was no way he could beat me even if he doubled up. And then, uh, Dara had $11,900, so she could double up too and beat me, so I knew I had to wager a good bit. Um, even though the, y'know, the semi--the wildcard was a--was an option, I wanted to make sure, so I just bet $8,000. I coulda bet it all, 'cause I feel pretty confident in that category, but I didn't want to risk it.
Did you do anything special for good luck?
Um... no. I'm an unlucky guy, and I only make things worse when I try to bring luck to myself, so... I just like to coast through, and, uh, whatever happens, happens, so...
Congratulations on your victory!
[After winning semifinal game]
How are you feeling?
Uh, I'm not feeling anything. I'm numb. Uh... The feeling will come back soon, and it'll be a good feeling. But right now, I'm kinda drifting with the wind, so...
Did you expect to make it this far?
My goal was to make it to the semifinals--I did that. After the first round, when I had $600 and everybody else had, like, a million, I didn't think I was gonna--gonna pull it out. But--I hoped I would--I would get this far--so... And that came true, so... and I'm--I'm happy about that.
What was the turning point during your game?
I don't know. Like... Okay, the second round, I just ran through a category, and it seemed to--to click. And after that, I wanted to catch up to Suchita, and I got both Daily Doubles, so that probably was a turning point, so that seems to be the--the theme with me, so...
Which categories were you happy to see on the board?
Semifinal match, it was, uh, U.S. PRESIDENTS. And I saw that, I was like, "I'm gonna get this one, no problem." When I saw AMERICAN HISTORY, I said, "Okay. If I don't get this one, I'm just gonna give up trivia for the rest of my life." That--that's probably the best category I could have gotten. And when the answer came on, I just wrote down right away, and felt good about it, so...
Have you perfected your buzzer technique?
Every time I start the game, I can't get that buzzer to work, and then it picks up, so... Maybe I'll--maybe I'll get off to a good start this time--who knows?
Who is here to cheer for you?
My fiancée is here, and, uh, my friend, uh, I met in ROTC who goes to University of Wisconsin who's here too, so...
What will you do if you win the $100,000 prize?
Something smart, hopefully. I don't know. We'll say something smart and so I stay out of trouble, so...
Congratulations on your victory!
[After winning College Championship]
How did you feel going into the finals?
I really wanted to, uh, just have fun and relax. I wasn't worried about winning or anything like that, because I knew we were gonna get $25,000. So I just wanted to play. I think that's probably what all--all three of us wanted to do, was just to play the game. So... that--that was pretty much the only thought I had.
What are you feeling now?
I don't really know. I'm numb--it--it'll sink in eventually, but it hasn't yet, so...
What are you going to do tonight?
Uh, I gotta go to sleep. At some point, I've got to get to bed, because I'm tired, but, uh, other than that, I just... safe travel home and enjoy it. That's pretty much it, so...
Remind us how you plan to spend the $100,000 prize.
I said me and my fiancée were going to go to Vegas and let it roll on craps. I need to put in a disclaimer from my fiancée. That is not what's going to happen with this money. Um.... it's gonna go--a lot of it's gonna go to the wedding, and the rest of it, save it, so...
Describe your Jeopardy! experience in one word.
Awesome? I guess that works.
What advice do you have for aspiring contestants?
Sign up for the test. Join--go to jeopardy.com, join the mailing list, sign up for it, take the test. I mean, I didn't--when I took the test, I had no idea this was gonna happen. I just wanted to--to get on the show. But it dodn't--so, none of this would have happened had I not taken the test, so... that--that's the best advice I can give, just take the test.
Congratulations on your victory!
2010 Tournament of Champions quarterfinalist: $5,000.
2008 College Championship winner: $100,000 + a trophy.
22 and from Tupelo, Mississippi at the time of the College Championship.
Jeopardy! Message Board user name: JBeachum
Joey's First Blog Entry
Posted May 2, 2008
For the longest time I have been a fan of Jeopardy! and other trivia shows. I suppose as a child I developed a need to know anything and everything, and so I read everything I could get my hands on (including the Encyclopedia Britannica more times then I care to remember). I started watching Jeopardy! from a young age and got into it and would jump at the chance to quiz and be quizzed on my amassed wealth of random knowledge. While other kids would play Chutes and Ladders and board games of that type, I would always want to play Trivial Pursuit. To say I was a bit of a nerd growing up (and still am at heart) is a bit of an understatement, to say the least.
I am a senior in political science at Mississippi State University as well as a cadet in Air Force ROTC, and over the past four years I have continued the habits of curiosity that I began as a kid growing up. Imagine my surprise, then, when I went to the Jeopardy! website and saw that they were offering an online test for college students. I thought, "Hey, I like Jeopardy! and I'm a college student. " I clicked the submission form and waited.
On the day of the test I was in a night class. Fortunately it was one in which my attention was something less than required. While the other students were discussing something (I have no idea what it was), I was taking the test, answering questions and typing furiously in the midst of class. Fortunately I don't think anyone noticed, not that I would've cared if they had. And, of course, I hit Wikipedia as soon as the test finished to see what I missed. I guess I did better than I thought at the time, because in November I was invited to go to Nashville to audition. My reaction?: "Sweet."
My fiancee and myself traveled to Nashville and spent the weekend, and one morning I awoke and traveled to the hotel to audition. I usually don't get nervous at anything, but this was Jeopardy!, man. How can you not be nervous about that? And I remember the audition staff telling us to "Smile!", and "It's a gameshow, people!" and "Be happy you're here!". I think for the longest time they were by far the happiest people in the room. We got the message eventually, though. To future contestants: Smile. Be happy. You're going on a gameshow, after all.
The only bad thing about the audition was the fact that we were told we wouldn't find out about the results until March. March. From November to March is a timespan lasting four months. When you're waiting to see if you're going on Jeopardy!, that's a looong time. So I was intrigued when I received a call from Jeopardy! while in class(go figure). As soon as class was over I returned the call as quickly as I could...and no one answered.
You can imagine the frustration, I'm sure.
But my call was rapidly returned and after answering a few questions regarding my eligibility as a contestant (which led me to believe - temporarily - that the call was nothing more than a quick legal check for all potential contestants), I was told that I, for some reason, was accepted as a contestant in the College Tournament. The only thing I really, really remember from that conversation was the huge, stupid grin I had on my face. That, and an unexplainable urge to breakdance (not that I know how). I immediately called my parents and then my fiancee and told them the good news, then just walked around and took it all in. I was going on Jeopardy! Dang.
I can't say I've done anything out of the ordinary to prepare for the show. I could probably study a few random topics (I've always been weak in Shakespeare), but the best approach for me is to go into it with the expectation of having fun and doing the best I can. Studying and preparing would probably make me perform worse merely because I would be thinking about it too much - and as anyone who knows me knows, I think too much as it is. And, ironically, I haven't watched a single episode of Jeopardy! since.
Why jinx it? Best just to smile and be happy. I'm going on a gameshow.
- Read Joey's next blog entry on May 5
Posted May 5, 2008
My first impression of Wisconsin: "It's cold."
I'm from Mississippi and we don't handle cold weather very well. When I left it was 70 degrees; when I arrived it was 40, with a significantly lower wind chill. Not the best first impression of Wisconsin, but it wasn't that bad. The hotel room was warm anyway.
My first meeting with the contestants was in the lobby of the hotel, right before we shuttled over, and I was relieved to see that they were all really cool people (a theme I'll be repeating throughout this). We headed over to the Kohl Center and upon our arrival we were introduced to our hermitage: the Green Room.
Let me explain. The room where we waited and would come to spend many waking hours over the weekend was the Green Room, a waiting room/makeup room for the contestants to hang out and (nervously) relax. This day, however, we didn't stay long there; instead we made our way to the stage and began a long but pretty interesting process of interviews and promotions.
While the Big Ten contestants were interviewed repeatedly, particularly Ms Suchita Shaw (no one particularly cared to interview the Mississippian), the rest of us got to know each other a bit better and came to discover that we were pretty cool people. This isn't surprising; you put a bunch of college students together and they'll invariably have fun. Although, you wouldn't expect a bunch of students to get along as well as we did in a competitive game-show environment, but that's what happened.
I do have to say one thing, though, and I'm sure the other contestants will agree: Alex Trebek is awesome. He is very relaxed and is a pretty funny guy, believe it or not. Plus, he is very knowledgeable and has this aura of wisdom that makes sense for a Jeopardy! host (he has a degree in philosophy, after all). Meeting him was definitely a highlight for a Jeopardy! fan.
...Using the buzzer, though, not so much. I don't know if this was just me, but I couldn't for the life of me get that thing to work. During the rehearsal game I think I answered maybe one or two questions total. While I was over there struggling with getting the thing to work (you have to time it just right with the lights running on the side of the board) the other contestants seemed to have it down pat. My immediate thoughts: "This sucks."
All things considered, the first day was pretty tiring but was very interesting at the same time. I mean, how many people get to see how a game show works? When I stepped on the stage for the rehearsal game I got the sense that yeah, I'm on Jeopardy!, which made the day worth it. I went to bed that night looking forward to the rest of the tournament, not knowing what it would bring. But no matter what the result, that first impression of being on Jeopardy! after years of watching it from home was amazing.
- Joey's next blog entry will be updated on May 8!
Posted May 8, 2008
I woke up that Friday, got in the shower, dressed, said goodbye to my fiancée, and made it to the Kohl Center with the rest of the contestants for the first day of filming. I could tell that everyone was anxious, if not nervous, even though we all tried not to show it. But as we arrived at the Green Room and began the long and tiring process of waiting, the upcoming contest began to loom over all of us as the minutes ticked by.
Now, I consider myself a pretty calm and laid back guy most of the time. And for the most part, I was during the competition. But the time I was most nervous during the entire thing was during those initial hours waiting for the first game. For the first quarterfinal round, we filmed five games throughout the day (three at 2pm and two at 6pm). For those of us who were lucky enough to get in the first couple of games, the wait was mercifully short. But I was in the third game, and we (myself, Dara, and Andrew) sat there for what seemed like an eternity just biding our time, waiting for our shot. This wasn't nearly as bad as those poor guys and girls who had the last two games, though; they had to somehow eat dinner (!) while anxiously awaiting their turn.
When my name was finally called, and we made our way to the stage, I smiled and couldn't stop smiling. This was Jeopardy! I was on stage, standing behind a podium, for Jeopardy! I had waited my entire life for this opportunity, and standing there with buzzer in hand, looking at the crowd, I couldn't believe it. I still don't, not even now. And when Alex asked the first question, all the nervousness I had felt up until that point went away.
I honestly can't remember a whole lot about the first game. I remember bits and pieces, specific questions here and there, but to be honest, most of it went by very quickly. I wasn't focused on the score or how I was doing; I was just taking each question as it came, one by one, and all during this I made sure I was having fun. And I was. Playing Jeopardy! is incredibly fun, to the point where I didn't even think of the money or making it to the semi-finals. I was just focused on being in the moment, which is why I probably can't remember much. Go figure.
I do remember, though, the feeling I got when I saw the Final Jeopardy! question. The category was "American Presidents", and when I saw that I smiled. My fiancée later told me that she did the same, since we both knew that American history was my specialty. I can't remember the precise wording of the question, but it had something to do with Teddy Roosevelt leaving office after two terms at the age of 50, being the youngest president to do so, or something to that affect. I answered appropriately enough T. Roosevelt and managed to win the game.
Winning a Jeopardy! game. It doesn't get much better than that.
I took a big sigh of relief and congratulated my opponents before heading over to shake hands with Alex, and while doing this I couldn't help but think of all the people before me who had won. I didn't expect to win; my goal was just to have fun. But I was happy that I had and was grateful to make it to the semifinals, and also grateful that I got to play against two great players.
But above all, the opportunity to play another game of Jeopardy! was the best thing about winning. No matter what, no matter how much money is involved, for a Jeopardy! contestant playing the game often is the only reward that really matters, and a chance to play again was all I could ask for.
With that happy thought I went to bed. I slept well that night.
- Joey's in the semi-finals! Read his next entry on May 15!
Posted May 15, 2008
As Saturday came, and we again made our trek to the Kohl Center and the Green Room (this time sadly thinned to ten contestants), the initial feelings of trepidation and anxiety reemerged. But this time, after already making it through the initial game experience and becoming a "veteran" of Jeopardy!, so to speak, I was fine. I think we all were. Personally, having made it to the semifinals and thus satisfying my goal for the weekend, the rest of the experience was gravy. The wait in the Green Room wasn't even that bad, even considering I was in the third and final semifinal match. The only thing was learning that I had to go up against Suchita, who as we all know was the favored daughter of the Kohl Center. I told her that I wasn't going to answer a single question out of fear for my life, and while I was joking at the time, the enormous response we got from the Wisconsin crowd when we entered the Center for the game made me briefly rethink that.
(Not really. Wisconsinites are awesome.)
With that the Semi-Final game began and even though I knew the winner would advance to the finals (and get a minimum of $25,000), I honestly wasn't concerned. Playing Jeopardy! was too much fun and being a part of that experience was more than I could want, so the end result of the game wasn't on my mind. I really didn't care that much. I wanted to play a good game and enjoy it, but having fun was my primary concern. Playing with Suchita and Vera, I wasn't disappointed.
All things considered, though, the game didn't start out very well for me. I remember Suchita making a huge run and tacking up an impressive lead before we went into Double Jeopardy!, and I remember being behind both her and Vera for a while. I just couldn't get my buzzer to agree with me, which was a common trend for me through rehearsals and the first quarterfinal game. The other contestants were far more consistent than I was at buzzing in, so I thought at that moment I had to figure it out and quick, otherwise I would be smoked.
Well, somehow I managed to get it together, grab both Daily Doubles, and end the second round right behind Suchita. It was then that I got my second dose of luck with the Final Jeopardy! category of (drumroll) AMERICAN HISTORY.
Let me explain something about the show. This is just my opinion, and other people might disagree, but I think being a good contestant has three components: knowledge, buzzer skill, and luck. I had a wide base of knowledge, and my buzzer skill (while sketchy) worked for the most part. But the third component – luck – cannot be underestimated. Unless you're one of those rare individuals who knows a lot about everything (e.g. Ken Jennings), your performance on Jeopardy! will vary based on what categories you get. For a political science major and history buff, AMERICAN HISTORY was the best possible category I could've received, and for that, I was extremely lucky. Had it gone the other way, the results would've been different. That's how it goes, I guess.
At any rate, the final answer was (paraphrased of course):"In 1824, during the last few weeks of the Tyler administration, this republic was offered statehood". Vera answered "Mexico", and I answered "Texas" and doubled up. Suchita then gave the incorrect response of "California" and I somehow managed to find myself in the finals. I was shocked and stunned and did not expect that to happen at all, but it did, and I was again extremely grateful. I must say, though, that Suchita's answer was a very good one and could've very easily been the correct answer. I consider myself very fortunate to have beaten two remarkably intelligent girls like Suchita and Vera and was (and am) very impressed with how they played in the semifinals.
But someone has to win and advance, and somehow, for whatever reason, that person was me. And so I found myself isolated again with Danielle and Andrew, the final three, for the last two games of Jeopardy! I would probably ever play in my entire life.
- Check out Joey's "Final" thoughts on May 16th!
Posted May 16, 2008
I would go on and break down the final two games detail by detail, but again, to be perfectly honest, I don't remember a lot of it. I'll instead give you what I can recall clearly:
- At the end of the first round of the first game I was at $0. Yes, $0. At one point I was even down $1000. Andrew and Danielle by contrast were kicking my butt, and right before Double Jeopardy! I didn't expect to win at all.
- Andrew and Danielle are smart.
- Thank God for Double Jeopardy! At the end of the first game I managed to claw my way back to $7600, in a distant third place.
- Remember what I said about luck? Here it goes again. The Final Jeopardy! category? "Historical Journals". I wagered it all and won, and finished with $15,200, good for second place. Danielle, by contrast, had $30,000. I told you she was smart.
- For the final, final game, I was as calm as I ever am. In fact, standing there, waiting for the first question, I wasn't focused on the game at all. Instead I was thinking back to the weekend as a whole, of the memories I had made, the people I had met, and the sad realization that in a few minutes it'd all be over. Win or lose, those memories were what I would ultimately take back home to Mississippi.
- Me and the buzzer reconciled and made nice, and for the next two rounds everything just seemed to click. I was in the zone, I guess; whenever the lights would come on on the side of the board, allowing us to ring in, I was there; as soon as Alex would stop speaking my thumb would go down and my podium would light up. I can't explain why this game, of all the games, was the one in which I would finally get the timing down but I'm glad I did.
- Several funny moments, a lot of laughter. It was just three kids having fun.
After twenty minutes of hardcore Jeopardy! playing, we finally found ourselves at the last Final Jeopardy! question of the entire tournament. I'm not sure who was more relieved; ourselves or the audience (who had sat through ten tapings of Jeopardy! over two days). But it was a sobering experience to get that last question. Now I'll take the time to explain my final wager, since I've been asked by several people about it. At the time I wasn't aware that it was a weird wager; it made sense to me. But I digress.
At the time my two-day total was a few thousand less than Danielle's. Even with a good second game, Danielle's monster first game gave her the overall lead. Andrew had a good amount too but was in third, so I figured I could, with the right wager, secure second place. The topic was "Alliances", so naturally I felt comfortable, so I was left to decide the right amount of money. Thus I was faced with a decision: Do I try to double up and give myself the best chance of winning? Or, do I make the smart wager and secure second place and $50,000 no matter what? I knew I could wager up to $6801 and still get second, even if I got the question wrong, and while it was tempting to push it all in, I felt that the smart move was to go with $6800 and hope that Danielle either got the question wrong (highly unlikely) or didn't wager enough.
Either way, the question was as follows (again paraphrased): "In 1813, four nations formed the Quadruple Alliance against this country; in 1818, they allowed this country to join them, forming the Quintuple Alliance". The answer that immediately popped to mind was France (recalling the alliance against Napoleon), so I wrote that down. As I did, all concern or worries vanished and I felt relieved.
Andrew went first. His answer: "Congratulations to the winner. The west is the best." I smiled and patted Andrew on his back. It was a quintessential Andrew thing to do, and I loved it.
Danielle went second. Her answer: "France." Her wager? $3,000. Now, I'm horrible at math and I didn't even attempt to calculate it. Instead I stood there and waited for them to do it for me. But in the long seconds that followed, I had a good feeling, for some reason. So when my score popped up and Alex announced that I had won, $46,400 to $46,000, I couldn't believe it.
Seriously. I really couldn't. I still don't.
I had just won Jeopardy! I, had just won, Jeopardy! I had won Jeopardy!
I was stunned and instantly went numb. I remember walking up to Alex and shaking his hand and taking the trophy and waving to the audience, and I remember people saying things to me and hugging me and the crowd cheering, but I felt this incredible absence of feeling. I couldn't believe it, in every sense of the phrase. It didn't make sense, and I couldn't possibly process that I had somehow managed to win.
Win Jeopardy! Holy crap.
Even after the long hours of celebration, even after partying, even after it all, going to bed that night I lay awake, staring at the ceiling, not believing it. I could not convince myself that it was all real.
But it was.
It was an amazing feeling, to put it simply. Still is. Knowing that I, Joey, from Mississippi, had somehow won over 14 incredibly intelligent people and thousands of other college students who took the test and auditioned is beyond words.
It was a feeling I'll never forget for as long as I live.
Upon my arrival back home in Mississippi I immediately told my parents (after first swearing them to secrecy). My mom initially didn't believe me during the ride back from the airport; my fiancée had to convince her that I wasn't making it up, that I actually had won. She came around eventually. My dad was a little stunned when he heard the news, and it wasn't until a day later that he called and assured me that yes, he was very proud, just speechless. I told a few close friends and they were very happy for me - and didn't even try to take out a loan.
Since I've been back, I have been asked repeatedly about how Jeopardy! went. I tell them that it was a great experience and that I had an amazing time, but they all want to know how I did. I always reply, "I didn't do too bad" and smile and that seems to settle it. And, of course, I tell them to watch on May 5th. The anticipation for the show and seeing it on television is always present, as is the anticipation of paying off my student loans in full.
My summer plans haven't changed drastically because of the show. I still am planning on going into training as an Intelligence officer in the Air Force in June and look forward to spending the next four years serving my country, and of course, the upcoming wedding is ever-present. You're all invited, by the way. I plan on spending the few free weeks I have this summer spending time with my fiancée, friends, and family before I leave, and to that end Jeopardy! hasn't had much impact. Of course now I can afford to travel a bit more. And maybe eat more expensive food. Who knows.
By far, though, the biggest impact Jeopardy! has had on me isn't related to money but is instead tied to the memories which I have with me and will always have. The 15 individuals who were my fellow contestants gave me a great week, and I look forward to keeping in touch with them all. The Jeopardy! staff, especially Maggie, Robert, Corina, Tony (and our buddy Graham), were terrific as well and did an outstanding job of making us all feel comfortable and at home. They too helped make the experience incredibly memorable. Winning Jeopardy! is nice, don't get me wrong, and the money isn't too bad either, but to me (and the rest of the contestants I'm sure), the experience is marked by the people who were there with me, from the contestants to the staff to the audience members to my incredible fiancée Nicole, and its those people and the thrill of being on Jeopardy!, the best game show of all time, that will mark my memories for uncounted years to come.