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Firsthand America: “I Was a Game-Show Champion!”

Published: December 22, 2009

An excerpt from our new “Firsthand” column, which premiers in the Jan/Feb 2010 issue of the Post.

I’ve been a know-it-all since I was a kid, but last year I found a way to make it pay.

I’ve watched Jeopardy! for years, calling out my answers to host Alex Trebek, as if he could hear me. My wife, Danielle, watching with me, would sometimes say, “You know, you could clean up on this show.” I shrugged. How do you get on a game show, anyway?

Then one day, Jeopardy! announced an online qualifying test. It seemed like a good opportunity to put up or shut up. I was interested mostly in satisfying my curiosity, and—let’s be honest—in the money, too. So, on the appointed night, I sat at the computer, calm and focused—until the phone rang, dogs started howling outside, and the kids began crawling on my lap. I made a good effort—or tried to. I won’t say I forgot about the test; but I downplayed it ruthlessly and got on with life. Then, two months later, I got an unexpected e-mail: Could I come to Boston for a live tryout in six weeks?

At the audition, everyone was personable and good-looking, while I felt crushingly ordinary in my discount-store necktie and cracked glasses. We all took another quiz, got our pictures taken, then played some practice games. I didn’t freeze up or babble—but neither did I dominate in any way. They thanked us, told us that our applications would be held for up to 18 months, then they let us go. It was late. I raced across town to catch the outbound train back to my family, but missed it. Alone in the empty station with no money to take a cab, I entertained unkind thoughts about Jeopardy!

Spring passed. Summer was a haze of late shifts and reheated dinners. When autumn came, I had not watched Jeopardy! in months. And then, just before Halloween, I got the call inviting me to California as a contestant on the show. Already I was calculating airfares and hotels, thinking, Can I afford to do this?


To read the full article, see the Jan/Feb 2010 issue of The Saturday Evening Post, on newsstands throughout January and February, subscribe now, or purchase the issue at ShopThePost.com.

Want to be a game show contestant? Check out our exclusive tips only at saturdayeveningpost.com.

WHAT’S YOUR STORY?

Did you witness a historic event? Enjoy a moment in the spotlight? Experience the adventure of a lifetime? We want to hear your firsthand stories! E-mail your personal accounts to editor@saturdayeveningpost.com or mail them to:

Firsthand Story
The Saturday Evening Post
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Indianapolis, IN 46202

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  • Sandy Furkart

    Jack!!
    How cool are you. And to think you were jut a little dude when we all lived on Sunset Drive. You are amazing… but you always were. Hope you remember me now that you’re famous, or is that infamous? Sandra ( Furkart ) Masters

  • Mark Amtower

    I love the Jeopardy story. I took the test 3 times when it came to DC and Baltimore -and passed the third time. i made the cut – to get into a waiting pool of “2,500 potentail contestants” who also passed! I giot the same “you’ll be in the pool for 18 months” – but i never got the call. it was great to pass the test, though – it is really hard. The 2nd time I took the test (WJLA in Wash DC) I road down the elevator w/ Alex Trebek, who is a very gracious man, everything you’d expect.