James Holzhauer, a Chicago area native has lost on Jeopardy! Emma Boettcher, a University of Chicago librarian has defeated him. And when I was on the show (1988) I name-checked Eugene Finerman, a previous Tournament of Champions player, who had lived down the street from me in Rogers Park in our school years. No surprise, Eugene’s mother was our Chicago public high school (Go Sullivan Tigers!), librarian. Chicago-Jeopardy!-Library symmetry. Catch it!
All of this came to mind over the last few days, ever since our son got a text from a friend asking if it was true that I had been a Jeopardy! contestant. It seems that he had found my name on the Jeopardy! archives website. I admit I have checked that site every blue moon but have never found a record of my one lonely, non-record breaking, performance. But somehow the data has been recovered and now is there for all to see as ” Show #893 – Wednesday, June 22, 1988.”
Sadly, there is no video, but every answer, every incorrect question, just about every grunt and groan is documented. There is Linda, the previous champion, over-wagering (she was goaded by Alex) on the last Daily Double. Her misspelling of Navratilova as a response to “As hard to spell as she is to beat, it’s the last name of Czech tennis star Martina” cost her a place in Final Jeopardy. There is my other opponent (and the eventual winner) Neil being handed extra dollars because of a rare Alex error. And my mistaking “Blue Suede Shoes” for “Rockin’ Robin,” a faux pas that has haunted me until today.
The web site confirms that Neil and I both succeeded in giving the correct question on Final Jeopardy. Alas, it was too late for me by then, and I humbly accepted my perfectly documented second place prize of a “trip on Eastern to Orlando, Florida & stay at Hilton at Walt Disney World Village + Jeopardy! box game or computerized version.” The family did love that trip.
Of course, we had made a home VCR recording of the show. I even made a parody version, using the soundtrack of Weird Al Yankovic’s “I Lost on Jeopardy!” Sadly, both of those crumbled into dust before the digital revolution. My only remaining documentation has been a newspaper article from the Daily Herald, published before the actual show taping and turning yellower with age as every new Jeopardy! champion breaks some record or another. Now at last the website is my proof that I was really a contestant.
And Mrs. Finerman, if you’re still out there, this one’s for you!
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