Defending Champion

A Year of Jeopardy!—Part Three

The champion’s dressing room is a small closet-sized space in the green room, with a star and the words Jeopardy! Champion on the door. Contestants have about 5 minutes to change clothes and visit makeup before getting back on stage for the next game. I quickly changed into my pink Oxford dress shirt and bright silver tie, got my touch-up, and headed back into the studio. There I joined the game’s new contestants, Julia Lee at the stage left podium, and Megan Winch at the center one.

The show got underway, and you can replay it on the J! Archive site if you wish. I’ll mention a few of the game details here, and you can watch me discuss the game, and particularly my whiff of the Final Jeopardy! clue, at an episode of The Jeopardy Fan’s Jeopardy Live Panel video podcast, which aired on October 30, 2016. In that episode I joined three-day-champ Lani Gonzalez and Thanksgiving Day contestant Jay Johnson, of course along with host Andy Saunders.

None of the Jeopardy! round categories were especially “mine,” though on some of the questions I think being a baby boomer gave me a slight edge. There was an interesting occurrence on the $1,000 clue in “Masters of Socks.” Meghan answered it and was ruled incorrect, and I attempted to answer it and was ruled correct. Meghan asked for a review of the ruling, which all of us were encouraged to do for any question if we felt a mistake had been made. While the review is underway, the taping is paused, the contestants turn their back to the game board, and executive producer Harry Friedman and former head contestant coordinator and now producer Maggie Speak are reassuring us while the judges review the ruling. In this case, they decided that Meghan’s answer should have been accepted. They played back the recording so Alex could see how best to declare Meghan correct in a way that would easily blend in with what was on tape. I went into the commercial break ahead, but was in third place at the end of the round, so I would get the first clue in Double Jeopardy! I had correctly answered the Daily Double on the $800 clue in “Stuff About States,” but had wagered $1,500 rather than making it a true Daily Double. In hindsight, it’s easy to agree with the advice of 2015 Tournament of Champions winner Alex Jacob, to bet big on Daily Doubles, especially when it’s early in the game and there is time to recover if you get it wrong.

When Alex and the contestants chatted after the first break, this time he asked me about the manatee protection regulations I had written when I worked for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. At that job I had combined my interest in marine life with my legal training; the regulations are still in force.

Double Jeopardy! began and I saw my category: “Legal Matters.” Meghan wrested the control of the board away from me on two of the clues, so I did not get a chance to “run the category.” The most embarrassing wrong answer I gave on my two days of play was the $400 clue under “Weather:” “One of these can travel at a third the speed of light & heat the air in its path to more than 50,000 degrees.” It should have been obvious to me that the correct response was lightning, but I said “meteor,” which doesn’t even fit the category. Having lived in the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina for 19 years, I also should have known that Sir Walter Raleigh was the correct response for the $800 clue under “History: Hired & Fired.” I finished the round again in second place, with Julia in the lead.

When “Shakespeare” was revealed to be the Final Jeopardy! category, I was worried. I knew this was a weak category for me. I had to decide whether I would cover Meghan’s bet if we were both right, or guess that we would miss it and hold my ground. I made what turned out to be the wrong choice, and covered her bet for a correct response. In so doing I lost too much money to beat Julia when the clue turned out to be a triple-stumper. I finished in second place, my reign as champ at a quick end.

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