Season 25 1-time champion: $26,597 + $2,000.
Jeopardy! Message Board user name: Sanders Kleinfeld
Sanders Kleinfeld - A Publishing Technologies Specialist
March 12, 2009
I still can't believe I actually got to be a contestant on Jeopardy! I've been a huge fan of the show ever since I was a kid. Growing up, it was a family ritual to watch the show every night, and I've kept up the habit ever since. As far as I'm concerned, Jeopardy! is the most entertaining, mentally stimulating trivia game ever created, and after years of playing along on the sidelines at home, it was a dream come true to be called out onto the field!
So what's it like to stand up at the podium and compete on Jeopardy!? Here's a look at what was going on in my head as I played.
Going into Jeopardy!, I had come up with a brilliant strategy for how I was going to play the game: I was only going to buzz in on clues for which I was fairly sure I had the right answer. Pretty obvious, right? Well, when you're standing up at that podium, it's incredibly tempting to start clicking away at the signaling device every chance you get. My competitors, Edie and Rachel, were great players, and I didn't want to knock myself out of contention or, worse, end up in the red, simply by guessing on questions I was unsure about. Also, I figured an added perk of avoiding wild guesses was that I would hopefully cut down on gaffes of the "Illinois is the capital of Chicago" variety on national television.
When the categories for the first round started popping up on the screen, I panicked for a second when I saw Genesis, then Adam, then Eve, then "E"den, (one of my weakest subjects is the Bible). But then I realized that this was just a theme board, and was relieved when none of the categories turned out to cover religion.
The Jeopardy! round went by so fast that I can hardly remember a good number of the questions, let alone which ones I actually managed to signal in first on versus the ones I just answered in my head. But it was so exciting to accumulate a bunch of right answers and hear Alex say, "Correct!" after each one. I was very happy that I was able to keep up with Rachel, and that I actually managed to jump out into the lead a couple of times.
The Double Jeopardy! round was just as much of a blur for me. I was pleased with most of the categories that popped up, with the exception of "His Pro Team Before". I'd been dreading anything related to sports, as the only subject areas I do worse on than the Bible when I play at home are baseball, basketball, and football. And here was a category that probably covered all three!
But it appeared like Rachel and Edie were equally unenthused by the category, because we all saved it for last. In the meantime, I managed to still stay competitive with Rachel, answer a Daily Double correctly (Hooray for Switzerland!), and break my no-guessing rule on a Short Stories clue asking for a female three-named author (I figured Joyce Carol Oates was a good bet; luckily, it wasn't Mary Higgins Clark) And when we finally did get to the sports category, I was pleased I got the Red Sox question right, as I knew I'd be hazed by my coworkers relentlessly if I missed that one.
When Final Jeopardy! came around, I was just about a thousand dollars shy of Rachel's lead, with Edie not far behind me. I was a bit ambivalent about the category First Names (as that's not really one of those topics where you know whether or not the question is going to be in your wheelhouse or not), but was hopeful that it would be a "word origins" type of question, as I'm usually pretty good at figuring those out.
I decided to go for broke with my wager, even though in retrospect I know the wisest move would probably have been to only risk a few thousand, to give me a better shot at winning if all three of us got the question wrong. But I wasn't sure how much Rachel would bet (What if she only wagered a few thousand dollars, too?), and I didn't want to get the right answer and still lose because I didn't bet big enough. So I took a deep breath and wrote down $13,297, because at the time it seemed really important to leave myself with--not $1, not $2--but a whopping $3 if I was wrong.
When the clue was revealed, it did turn out to be a word-origins question, but it was asking for a patron saint of a country whose name was related to that of a social class, and I only knew the names of one or two patron saints, total! So I tried to think of a term for a social class that was similar to a first name. But all I could think of were "plebeian" and "untouchables", and I was fairly sure there was never a St. Plebe or St. Untouchable. I decided to reverse tack again and try to think of as many patron saints as I could. But this time, all I could think of was St. Patrick. And that's when it hit me: Patrick could be related to "patrician", the Roman upper class. I thought, "That's actually probably it!" so I quickly scribbled it down.
When Alex told me my answer was correct, I was ecstatic. I was now in the lead. It was all down to Rachel, and when I saw her shaking her head before her response came up, I realized I had just won a game of Jeopardy! It was surreal!
Game 2: If Game 1 seemed to fly by fast, Game 2 was a complete whirlwind. Kara and Ted were amazing competitors and it seemed like they knew the answer to all the questions I drew a blank on, which were numerous. (John Pershing is not a specialty of mine. Couldn't they have done John Adams or Jon Bon Jovi instead?). A couple moments do stand out for me however:
The Jeopardy! Round Daily Double: I was lucky enough to hit the Daily Double in the first round, and, even better, it was in a math category, which is one of my favorite subjects. I needed to calculate the number of degrees in 1/8 of a circle, so all I had to do was solve the arithmetic expression "360 divided by 8". Unfortunately, my brain was being uncooperative. The internal dialogue went something like this:
ME: Hey Brain, could you please solve "360 divided by 8"?
MY BRAIN: Sorry, I can't do that right now.
ME: But this seems like a relatively simple one. Are you sure you can't figure it out for me?
MY BRAIN: I'd really prefer not to at this time.
ME: Pretty please? I've got $1,000 riding on this...
MY BRAIN: Stop putting pressure on me!!!
So I guessed 40, as I knew that was in the ballpark. Ironically, my brain started working again right after the word left my mouth ("No Sanders! 40 times 8 is 320, not 360"), just in time to hear the dreaded "Ooh, sorry." from Alex. Oh well.
The 84 Charing Cross Question: Just after holiday break, I was IMing with my friend, Lou, and we were discussing the books that we had read over the vacation. She mentioned that she had finished "84 Charing Cross Road," a lovely story about the correspondence between two booksellers that was turned into a movie starring Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins.
Flash forward six weeks, and I'm standing on the Jeopardy! stage as the following clue is being read (I'm paraphrasing a bit): "This lovely story about the correspondence between two booksellers was turned into a movie starring Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins"
And for the life of me, I couldn't remember the name of the book. All that was stored in my memory was "the book Lou read". I desperately wanted to signal in and say, "What is the name of the book Lou read over holiday break?" but something told me the judges wouldn't rule in my favor on that one.
At the end of the Double Jeopardy! round, I had just slightly more than half of Kara's total score, so I knew had to bet big on Final Jeopardy! and get the answer right to have any chance of winning. The category was astronomy, and I'm usually pretty good in science, so I locked in a wager of $10,000 and tried to remain optimistic.
When the clue popped up and asked for the planet whose moons Galileo had discovered, I was fairly sure the answer was Jupiter. I was also fairly sure that there was no way Kara was going to get this question wrong. I was right on both counts, and that was the end of my Jeopardy! run.
Gratuitous "Thank You" section (feel free to skip):
Being on Jeopardy! was an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime adventure, and I want to thank a bunch of folks for making it so memorable:
First off, thanks to my parents and sister for flying cross-country to be in the audience of the show, for all their moral support, and for encouraging me to bet big on Final Jeopardy! And thanks to Marilyn for the guided tour of Los Angeles
Thanks to Marlowe and Adam for dragging me to the mall and assembling my wardrobe, and to Laurel for assisting me in picking out new glasses--because it takes a village to dress me. Also, thanks to the entire trivia crew at work for providing me with lots of practice, Ron for being more excited about me going on the show than I was, and Rob for his inventive suggestions about what I should do with the prize money if I won (none of which are printable on a family website). Last but not least, thanks to KF and AJF for watching RT while I was MIA in LA.
Thanks to all the contestants in my group, who made the Jeopardy! experience so much fun. I was honored to be in such great company.
And of course, thanks to the entire Jeopardy! crew, especially Maggie, Robert, Corina, Tony, and Glenn, who gave me this amazing opportunity and made every step of the journey (even the Hometown Howdy rehearsals) so exciting and fun.