Jeopardy At 50

Today, I heard an NPR story that noted that Jeopardy began on this day 50 years ago. Wow, way back in 1964. And that the current host, Alex Trebak, has been there for 30 of those years. He’ll retire after this season.

I’m not entirely certain why I became so addicted to Jeopardy. I used to watch it somewhat even as a kid, though I would mostly get angry because I knew not what any of the answers were referring to. I often asked my precosious cousin to give me some of that information, as well as everything else he knew, and would yell and act like a toddler when he tried to get me to narrow it to specific topics. Looking back, I was a very strange child. I wonder how people put up with me.

Anyway, I eventually moved to Southern Pines in 1994, and my mom met her husband a year or so later. This happened as I entered high school, and he and I began watching Jeopardy religiously. It came on at 7, and if we were in the grocery store line at 6:30 I’d become antsy. I really hated to miss the beginning, feeling I guess as I might about watching my sports teams. I had to see the whole thing.

Through readings particularly of National Geographic Magazine, I soon found that I became sharp enough to get many of the Jeopardy questions right.

I did make some hilariously incorrect responses that I’m embarrassed to admit, but whatever. I can’t exactly remember what the answer, for that is the actual Jeopardy format that prompts the respondant to say “What is…” was, but it had to do with some rare animal found in the wild. I said “What is a warewolf!” My dad still amusedly gives me grief over that to this day.

I enjoyed competing on Jeopardy teams at school too, often created as a way to get extra credit on tests and such. People wanted me on their teams, because they knew I would usually be thorough in my information gathering.

One time though, I made a big mistake that cost my team dearly. I use the word HOMES to remember the five Great Lakes. My instructor told me to name them, of course within a time limit, and I shouted “Hurron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Wisconsin!” I knew it was Superior, but the state name got in the way of my proper response.

I have considered trying to get onto the real show, but many of the ways of so doing don’t seem to be too accessible. I did manage to take a sample test somewhere, and I came out of that feeling like I knew practically nothing. Hard stuff!

I remember a few years ago that a blind guy appeared on there and absolutely pounded everyone over a five-day period. He did have a bit of a challenge remembering which categories and dollar values were still in play, which I imagine I would struggle with as well. Still, it was cool watching him blaze that trail and perhaps in some small way improve public perception of those with disabilities, and persons who are blind in particular.

I don’t watch Jeopardy as much as I did in my high school days, but I do sometimes catch it through various portals. It makes me nervous that I’m already over the hill or something, as I no longer seem as able to get the answers as regularly as I once could. I wonder though if they now place a greater emphasis on pop culture, a subject area that I’m naturally not going to be as strong in. I’m not a movie person, and while I love music I tend to follow newer acts a lot less because I can’t hear the same anymore. I suppose I should know a lot about books and authors, though.

My sister told me recently that my dad misses the days of watching that show in our way, and regularly reminisces on it. I do too, and can’t help but to wonder how it will change when Alex exits. It’s funny, but even his name and the answer structure have become cultural icons, as I sometimes hear people say “I’ll take … for 500, Alex”.

I think I will always enjoy things that ask me to stretch my knowledge beyond its limits and keep learning. Here’s to 50 more years!

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