Season 26 3-time champion: $64,002 + $2,000.
Marty won $250,000 on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire on 2001-01-14.
Jeopardy! Message Board user name: lawdog289
June 16, 2010
An Assistant District Attorney
From Forney, Texas
IN THE BEGINNING
I was a Junior in high school when Jeopardy! debuted in September 1984. Because our local affiliate broadcast the show at three in the afternoon, I was only able to watch when school was out. I would watch every chance I got. When I went to college, it became a habit to meet in the common room of our dorm hall to watch Transformers at 4:00, followed by Jeopardy! at 4:30. After I moved out of the dorm, my regular routine involved going over to my best friend's apartment for us to watch the show together. K-Bob (as her friends called her) was a good trivia player as well, but I always had the edge. What she didn't know was that the local cable system also broadcast the Dallas station that carried the show. So, I usually watched the show at 3:00, then re-watched it with her at 4:30. She often marveled at how I knew some of the things I did. I never told her. I guess she may find out now.
Through all that time, I never seriously considered trying to get on the show. I don't even remember what the process was back then, but I remember thinking that the effort was more than I was willing to expend.
After college, I would watch the show occasionally, but it stopped being an everyday event for me for several years. It wouldn't be until after another major TV quiz show popped up that my interest in Jeopardy! re-ignited.
THE CHASE COMMENCES
In August 1999, a new phenomenon made the scene. "Is that your final answer?" became part of the general American vocabulary, and I found myself bitten with the bug. Watching Regis Philbin ask questions on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, I thought if I could just get on that show, I had the potential to win some significant money. Thus began a sixteen month journey that culminated in my sitting in the hot seat successfully answering thirteen questions, just an agonizing two short of the ultimate goal.
After my appearance on Millionaire, I started thinking about what the next challenge should be. At first, I had hopes that the show would do another Tournament of Champions, but after word got out that the powers that be on that show didn't plan to repeat that event, my focus turned elsewhere. The most logical target could be nothing other than Jeopardy!
Just a little over a year after my appearance on Millionaire, I managed to get a spot in the Jeopardy! audition that was being held in Dallas. This was in the days before the online test, so there were about seventy people in my session. I won a cap just for happening to sit in the right chair. When the audition crew came back to announce those who passed the written test, they announced another guy's name and then "Monty Scott." I waited a couple of seconds and then volunteered that perhaps the name on the test was actually "Marty." My terrible penmanship might have cost me dearly, but after I said something, I was invited to stay. Only the two of us passed the test, so we got to play our mock game for quite a while with Sofia of the Clue Crew.
Alas, my time in the contestant pool passed, and I was not called to be on the show.
The next time the J! crew came to my neighborhood was 2005. Auditions were announced for Houston this time. That was a five hour drive, but in Texas, that's considered nothing. I drove down the night before and spent the night at my uncle and aunt's house then met some friends for lunch. I headed to the hotel where the audition was scheduled with great anticipation and high hopes. The written test hit a few too many of my trivia gaps, and I missed the passing score by one. The five hour drive home was much longer than the trip down had been.
I MISSED IT BY THAT MUCH
By 2007, the show had implemented the on-line testing process, and when the word went out that the test would be in January, I immediately signed up. I thought the online test had gone well, and my feelings were validated when I got the e-mail inviting me to audition in Dallas in April. Glenn and Robert were pretty much in "get out of town" mode because my audition time was the last one scheduled in Dallas, and they had a flight shortly after to get to Houston. We didn't get to use the genuine imitation buzzer systems; instead, we used our commemorative Jeopardy! pens as signaling devices. During the mock game, I rang in on a clue, and before I could answer, Robert told me he wanted to hear the answer in my best Russian accent. I didn't hesitate to come back with "Who are moose and squirrel?" I felt good about my audition and my mock game performance, but I knew better than to get my hopes up too high because I knew that the show gets significantly more people in the pool each year than it can use.
I was driving home from work just two months later, when my cell phone rang, and the caller ID showed a number with a 310 area code. I had no idea where that was, but I answered anyway. It turned out to be Robert calling to invite me to come in July for the second taping date of the new season. However, the date fell during a two-week period I had listed as a conflict on my information sheet at auditions. I was scheduled to teach a Children's Theatre camp at the local community theatre where I have performed in many plays and musicals over the past nine years. If the tape date had fallen in the first week of the camp, I might have been able to find a substitute for two days, but it was the second week, and we would have been neck-deep in trying to get our end-of-camp show ready for public viewing. Robert told me that he couldn't guarantee anything, but that he was sure that Maggie would work me into another tape date soon. I waited, and waited, and waited, but that return call never came.
DONE IN BY FEDERAL LAW
I took the on-line test again in January 2009. The closest audition scheduled that year was in Kansas City. To my good fortune, Southwest Airlines can fly there without the restrictions of the Wright Amendment, so it wouldn't cost too much to go. I got the e-mail invite and began making preparations to fly up in June. It turned out that an internet acquaintance was scheduled for the same session, so we made plans to meet up for lunch with a third acquaintance who lived in the KC area. After a good lunch of barbecue, Dave and I were dropped off at the hotel. Once again, I thought things went well in my interview and mock game. I was in the pool yet again.
Shortly after the audition, circumstances arose that led me to consider running for District Attorney in my county. I knew that if I ran, I would be ineligible to appear on Jeopardy! because of the show's concerns regarding "equal time" laws, so I held off on announcing my candidacy until it was apparent that I wouldn't be able to tape the show and have it air before the filing deadline. I began my campaign in August of 2009. In November, Corina called from Jeopardy! She took me back through the details on my information sheet from the audition. Then she got to the final question: "And you're not a candidate for elected office, are you?" I had to tell her I was, and she said she would have to call me back.
Corina called back in a few minutes and confirmed the bad news. As long as I was a candidate, I could not appear on the show. She told me to let her know when I was no longer a candidate. I told her that if all went well, I would be a candidate until the first Tuesday in November 2010. Maggie jumped on the line and told me that she was sorry I couldn't come on, and to make sure I let them know as soon as the bar to my eligibility was removed.
THIRD TIME'S A CHARM?
Due to circumstances beyond my control, I had to drop out of my race in late December 2009. The day after I withdrew, I called Corina to let her know I was now eligible again. The waiting game began again.
But, this time, I wouldn't have to wait too long. Three weeks later, I saw the 310 area code show up on the Caller ID. Corina was inviting me to Culver City to tape in February. I told her that there was nothing that was going to stop me from coming this time.
GOING BACK TO CALI
I had only been to California once in my life. In December 2008, the whole family had spent Christmas at the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego. That trip had cost me a pretty penny. Now, I was going to have the chance to make money out a trip to the left coast. I made my hotel reservation at the hotel recommended by Corina, and I contacted a friend, David, who works for Southwest Airlines to see if he could come with me and get me a cheap or free plane ticket. David couldn't get away for my tape dates, but he was able to get me a Buddy Pass to fly free. I greatly appreciate his generosity, but I'll never fly that way again. Not only was my ticket standby, but as a non-revenue passenger, I was the lowest priority. I have no complaints about how Southwest treated me, but the trips both to and from L.A. were tiring and long.
I flew into L.A. on Sunday for a Tuesday tape date because I wanted to get acclimated to the time change as much as possible and I wanted to get some time in at the poker tables at the L.A. casinos. I checked in the hotel Sunday evening and then walked over to a restaurant for dinner. When I got back to the room, I watched a little of the Winter Olympics and then tried to go to sleep. Despite the fact that my body said it was two hours later than the clock, I had difficulty drifting off that night. However, I awoke at 4:30 a.m. and couldn't get back to sleep. I showered and dressed and went down for breakfast as soon as the hotel restaurant opened at 6:00. After eating, I headed to the Commerce Casino to play a little Texas Hold 'Em. After a four and a half hour session, I cashed out up $65. I only left because I was hungry and tired. After lunch, I looked for a way to pass the afternoon. I discovered that there is an IMAX theater near the hotel, so I caught Avatar then headed back to my room. I met another internet friend, Dan Avila, that evening to go play pub trivia. Dan is something of a game show legend. We played as a two man team and didn't finish in the money. Dan drove me back to the hotel where, yet again, I had a hard time falling asleep.
A DREAM REALIZED
Tuesday morning came early. I ate a hearty breakfast because I knew that I would feel worse if I was hungry than I would if nervousness began wreaking havoc. My fellow potential contestants began to trickle in the lobby waiting for the shuttle to the studio. I quickly discovered who the returning champ was. J.R. was a pleasant young man, and I could tell he was probably a good player. I mean, he was a Jeopardy! champion, after all. We loaded the shuttle and people started chatting. The group skewed fairly young. When one thinks about Hollywood studios, the image is one of glitz and glamour. The reality is a little different. It was quickly apparent that the people at the studio are just doing their jobs like everybody else. The lot itself looks somewhat like an industrial park, except of course for all the signs and banners advertising recent (and a few not so recent) movies.
While waiting for someone form the show to come collect us, I asked everyone where they were from and we introduced ourselves. We were escorted to the green room where we had some paperwork to fill out and review. Robert went over the information on the cards that Alex has for each contestant. He made us flesh out the stories a little, and then we picked the one we wanted to discuss. Robert warned us that Alex would pick the one he wanted, or he might go off the card altogether. Shortly after that, Maggie made her entrance and talked us through the process and the schedule. While Maggie spoke, we were shuttled into makeup two at a time.
Before I knew it, we were being led to the studio. Because of my prior experience on Millionaire, it wasn't as awe-inspiring as it might have been, but a few things stood out immediately. The clue board is much bigger than it looks on television; the entryway that Alex walks through at the beginning of each show is much smaller. We went though a practice session to learn how to use the light styluses for writing our names at the beginning of the show and our Final Jeopardy! wagers and responses. Then, we played a mock game with Glenn standing in for Alex. Every time someone hit a Daily Double, the peanut gallery (with much coaxing from Maggie) would urge the player to make it a "true Daily Double."
In a blink of an eye, the challengers for the first show were selected and we were taken back to the green room. The waiting contestants get to watch the shows being taped, and I sat through the first three shows watching and taking everything in. The guy who won the second show of the day, Peter, won in dominating fashion, and I realized that he would be dangerous competition if he got categories that were well-suited to him (which he had in that game). I was thankful when Kyle took him down in game three. After the third game, we broke for lunch, so the six of us went with Robert to the Sony commissary to eat. Again, I decided it was better to eat like I normally do, so I got a cheeseburger and fries. Kyle was something of a minor celebrity at lunch (we didn't see any real celebs).
When we got back to the green room, Robert was handed the cards for the next two challengers. It was my turn. I would be playing against Kyle and Ilanna. This was what I had been waiting for for eight years. After a quick touch up of the makeup, we were whisked into the studio.
THE ONE WHERE YEARS OF WATCHING TV PAID OFF
"This... is... Jeopardy!" Johnny Gilbert announced. We were introduced, and Alex entered. The categories began to the revealed, and the second column held "70s TV Sitcoms. I am 41 years old. I think Kyle is in her late 20s and Ilanna is early to mid-20s. I knew that one category would be to my advantage. As soon as I got control of the board, I went there, but Kyle out-buzzed me on The Odd Couple. Once I got it back, I was able to run the rest of the category, but not without a little help from Alex. On the $1000 clue, I confidently answered "What is WKRP?", but Alex kept looking at me. I thought maybe I had slurred the letters too badly, so I repeated, "What is WKRP?" Alex kept looking at me, and I finally blurted out "What is WKRP in Cincinnati?"
I really can't recall many of the details of my games, but I do remember giving two incredibly stupid answers in this game: "United Arab Emirates" and "Greyhound." "Greyhound" was particularly bad because it was obvious I hadn't read the clue completely. Fortunately for me, I was able to overcome those mistakes and have the lead going into Final Jeopardy! The clue had me flummoxed at first, but after re-reading it, the light went on, and I was able to come up with "Who is Poe?"
I was a Jeopardy! champion.
THE ONE WHERE I BARELY REMEMBER WHAT HAPPENED
I don't remember much about my second game except for Ben's miss on his Daily Double on Swiss Guard and the Final Jeopardy clue. When the category was announced as "Flags and Banners" and we were instructed that the first word should be "Who" I was more than a little scared. Once again, the clue clicked for me after a few seconds, and I was able to write down "Who is Joan of Arc?"
I was a two day Jeopardy! champion.
I had scheduled to meet with a small group of folks from the Millionaire message board that evening, and I was glad to have good news to report to them. Included in the group were Dan Avila, Jeff Suchard (one of Ken Jennings' 174 victims and father of a kid's week winner), Robert Shore (a two day J! champ), and Tim Hsieh (a big winner on another game show)
MAGGIE SPEAK(S) AGAIN
Wednesday morning came, and I ate the identical breakfast as I had on Tuesday. I tried to recreate as much to match what had occurred the morning before, but there's no way to do that completely. For one, the other contestants started introducing themselves before we even got on the shuttle. The others were fairly quickly able to figure out that I was the returning champion, and after that, they didn't talk to me that much.
At the studio, I had the privilege of hearing Maggie's spiel again. I was far more relaxed this time. I didn't get to practice much in the morning session, and I was a little disappointed that Maggie didn't let me try to run the Math category that came up, but it was obvious that I didn't need to take time away from the other players. Soon, it was time for the first game of the day.
THE ONE WHERE I RUN AWAY
Marianthe had been the holdover from Tuesday to Wednesday, and Mark was supposed to come on Tuesday but was stuck in Ohio because of the weather. He managed to get there Wednesday for the taping, and was immediately thrown into my third game. I was actually a little afraid of both of them. Marianthe was a Greek & Latin teacher, and I know that teachers tend to do well, and I figured the languages would help in a variety of categories. Mark was a librarian, and I knew some J! legends had been librarians (Grace Veach, Erik Larsen, Lynne Wexler, Lyn Payne, Bruce Naegeli, and Liz Caccese, just to name a few). Plus, these two were a little older than my previous competition, so I figured they would have fewer gaps in their knowledge base.
I think the one Daily Double I hit was in this game, but it wasn't the main reason I was able to win this in a lock game. The buzzer seemed to be the key. I was just beating them both to the buzzer on a regular basis. It is a good thing this was a lock game because I missed Final Jeopardy!
I was a three day Jeopardy! champion.
THE ONE WHERE I GAVE IT AWAY
Game two of the day, and game four in my run. First, let me say that my opponents were both good players. Jonah could have won if a few things had gone differently. The woman who beat me (whose name has escaped my memory. I'm pretty sure it also started with a "J." Jennifer? Jessica?) was a good player who was edging me on the buzzer consistently. Still, I can't help feeling that I could have won this game. I made a few foolish guesses that put/kept me in second place. Also, blanking on Supreme Court Justice Kennedy cost me dearly. Had I gotten in on that, I would have hit the Daily Double and bet big, and I would have gotten Roberts.
My miss on the $2000 clue was probably as bad as or worse than "Greyhound" in my first game. First, I had the idea in my head that Souter had lots of kids. He has never married and has no kids. Second, he isn't even a current Supreme Court Justice. "Palomino" was a guess in an attempt to catch the leader.
At the end of Double Jeopardy!, I found myself in 2nd place, within 2/3 of the leader's score, but 3rd place was pretty close to me, so I had to figure out how to wager. I knew the leader had to miss for me to have a chance at winning the game, so I could have wagered to cover an all-in bet from Jonah, but as soon as we hit the break, Jonah asked if he could have some paper to do some calculating. I concluded that he was planning to try and figure out how much the leader would drop to if she made the traditional cover bet so that he could bet enough to get ahead of her if he was the only who got Final Jeopardy! correct. So, I had even more math to figure out. I had to make sure I would have enough if the leader and I both missed and Jonah got it right. I correctly assessed Jonah's strategy, and I did get the question right, but it wasn't to be because the leader got it, too, so there was no way for me to win that game.
I would not be a four day Jeopardy! champion.
I went to L.A. with a few goals: 1) Have fun; 2) Win a game; 3) Win enough money to pay off my student loans; and 4) Qualify for the Tournament of Champions. I was going to accomplish the first goal win or lose. I managed to meet the second and third goals, too. As to the fourth, well, although I know I am eligible for the ToC, I am realistic enough to know that my chances of making it into the field are slim. Just one more game. Just one more game. I have had several people ask me how it went since I got back home in February. My regular response has been "I'm happy... and disappointed." I am competitive by nature, so I know that even if I had won enough to guarantee a spot in the ToC, I would still have been disappointed with losing. Nobody wins every game of Jeopardy! he or she plays (well, except Brad Rutter I guess), so I knew it would have to end eventually.
It's similar to my experience with Millionaire. I really can't complain about the outcome, but I can't help but think about what might have been if just a few things had been different.
Thanks again to Maggie, Glenn, Robert, Corina, Alex, Johnny, and the rest of the Jeopardy! cast and crew. It truly was a fantastic experience.