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?
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