Season 26 1-time champion: $24,600 + $2,000.
Name pronounced like "yev-GHEN-ee SHRAY-go".
Yevgeny Shrago - A Research Assistant
Rochester, New York
February 19, 2010
I think just about everyone who signs up for Jeopardy! gets some prodding from their friends and family. I'm no different. For the last two years while living in a big college house in Ann Arbor, my housemates and I used to gather around our TV at some convenient time (thanks DVR!) and watch the previous days episode of Jeopardy! When I say watch, I mean that they watched, and I answered all the questions, usually to head shakes and "how did you know that"s accompanying my answer to a particularly obscure bit of trivia. Naturally, this very smart group of guys decided that if I was beating them so badly, it was only natural that I should see how I stacked up against real Jeopardy! champions.
I took the online test and road tripped down to DC for the audition with my friends Mikey, Marco, Steve and Dara. It went well, but I felt like it went well for everybody, so I just put the idea of being on Jeopardy! out of my mind and went back to my life. I had such low expectations that even a phone call from an unknown LA area number didn't register for me. It wasn't until I called Glenn back the next day that I realized I would actually be on Jeopardy! My friend James had written a computer program that turned entries in the Jeopardy! archive into playable games, so I spent hours staring at blue screens and racking up the play dollars.
Then, before I knew it, I was hopping on a cross-country flight at JFK. Getting off the plane, I took the weather as a great sign: nice and warm instead of the dreary northeast winter I was leaving behind. I met my girlfriend Becky at her terminal and we hopped in the shuttle to the hotel. One night of little sleep and a room service breakfast later and I was ready to play. Or so I thought.
I got the rare experience of watching 4 games of Jeopardy! on total pins and needles. Sometimes, when a game is played on TV, you think "that was the game for me", but I got to witness that game in person...unfortunately I was sitting in the audience instead of playing it. Your stress level rises throughout the day as you wait to be called, and with each pair of contestants who aren't you who get sent back, that stress level only builds. Knowing that I was the last game of the day made the one before it even more nerve wracking. I had the whole time to just stew and think.
Once you're out there, things move at lightning speed. Alex comes out (he's hiding right behind the screen for a few minutes before he comes through the doors) and you're off. I remember individual clues and the rush of beating my opponents of the buzzer. I remember Alex's disappointment when I didn't go big on my first daily double, and my relief at not having gone big when I missed it. Most importantly, my hope had been to be unchallengeable going into Final Jeopardy!, and I was! It's not dramatic, but it's much better for my peace of mind. Considering I knew the answer, I wish I'd gone bigger, but had I missed it and lost, I'd still be kicking myself. The experience was fantastic, and maybe one day (though not while this is Alex's show) I'll get to do it again!