It's been 10 years this week since the episodes of JEOPARDY! on which I appeared aired. I'm not going to do a play-by-play of that time, which you can find here, but to make some observations about what it's meant to me. Oh, and give my Alex Trebek rant.
I should note that I wasn't the first JEOPARDY! winner from the Capital District, or even the first champion in 1998. That honor goes to Linda Zusman, an Albany teacher.
Nor was I the most successful JEOPARDY! player, even in my own neighborhood. That honor goes to Paul Glaser, who won five games and made it to the Tournament of Champions in 2007. (Say, wasn't that his wife Amanda who as on in October 2008?)
I did, however, have one advantage that added to my local notoriety, and it's that old real estate credo: location, location, location. My shows were taped in September in Boston, rather than in southern California. This meant that WTEN-TV, Channel 10 in Albany, sent a reporter and crew to interview me. Some of the piece was shown in September, the rest in November when the JEOPARDY! show actually aired. The reporter, by the way, was Bianca de la Garza, who, perhaps not coincidentally, is a reporter in Boston. After I was interviewed by Bianca before I taped my episodes, I figured I was done. But no, Sharman Saccetti of Channel 18 in Elmira also wanted to talk with me. That station showed JEOPARDY! in Binghamton, my hometown. Sharman, who played a mock game of JEOPARDY! with Bianca and another reporter and appeared to be winning, subsequently had a stint at WTEN in Albany as well. I ALSO spoke to a reporter from Plattsburgh.
JEOPARDY! in Boston was also a big deal for both the program and Boston. The program set up a special area on its webpage, now partially defunct. Meanwhile, the Boston papers, including the Christian Science Monitor, all did stories. The September 19, 1998 Boston Globe story by M. R. Montgomery, "A Chance At Fame For $100, Alex: N.H. Woman Finds It's Not Easy Being In 'jeopardy!'" noted that 3,200 citizens roared for the new "Jeopardy!" set, for the assistant producer". It also featured two photographs of me, one with two of my competitors, including the New Hampshire woman, Amy Roeder, and one with Amy, me and a JEOPARDY! staffer.
After the shows aired - I'll say this: I started a round thrice in my two games - I got mentioned in the paper along with Linda Zusman. then I got mention AGAIN as a run of Capital District residents succeed at the game. I even called a few of them.
Then I got quoted in the local paper a couple times. Once was during the Ken Jennings run. I said it at the time, and I haven't changed my mind - the abolition of the five-day rule, while great for Ken Jennings and a few others, had a deleterious effect on the game. The season Jennings won most of this games, there was a three-game winner in the Tournament of Champions, and that was just WRONG. I also got quoted in a story about American Idol when a local contestant had to keep a secret about the results for over a month; I LOVED keeping the secret for seven weeks. But I wish that they had doubled the values of the clues a few seasons earlier.
Anyway, I'll never say the word "charisma" ever again. Oh, yes: I work for the New York State Small Business Development Center. I've taken 10 years of grief for not mentioning THAT on the show.
My Trebek complaint: most contestants have pictures of themselves with Alex Trebek; my pic is a solo. And the reason is this; for reasons known only to him, he did the rabbit-ears thing with his fingers behind me! I know his only because I caught us in a monitor. I think it annoys me more now than it did then.
One of the perks is that people now think that I know stuff, whereas when I was merely a librarian with a Masters in Library Science, not so much. I wish future contestants well, especially a couple from the Albany area I know who have tried out; you know who you are.
Photo of the Wang theater in Boston used with permission of Brian C. Dominy.