To describe my adventure in Jeopardy!’s unique answer-and-question format:
A: “A once-in-a-lifetime, exhilarating experience that you’ll remember forever.”
Q: “What are my appearances on Jeopardy!?”
I‘d been trying to get on Jeopardy! for six years when I received The Call.
Six years might seem like a long time. But when I was in a Sheraton Boston Hotel meeting room for my audition last fall, I met many people who had been trying out for the show significantly longer than that. I even encountered a few would-be contestants who’d been trying out since the syndicated version went on the air in 1984—before I was born.
Calling it a dream come true is an understatement. I’ve been watching the show for as long as I can remember. When I was really little, I used to keep track of how many answers I correctly “questioned” by proudly holding up my fingers. I’m happy to say that today I usually have more right answers than fingers.
And now, this television institution wanted me to be a contestant? I probably could have floated right out of my eighth-floor office window in Boston to California. Instead, three weeks later—they don’t give you much notice—I took the more standard transport: an airplane. I had spent the intervening time preparing by poring over The New York Times Guide to Essential Knowledge.
It was surreal to walk onto the bright Jeopardy! set at 7:30 a.m. I was tired from a restless night. The set is much smaller than it appears on TV and felt as cold as a refrigerator. Because of the hot studio lights, they need to keep the thermostat low, so the nervous contestants don’t start sweating in front of the national audience.
So much of the day was, and remains, a blur. But the moments at the end of my first game are crystal clear in my mind. I was faced with a category in which I had no expertise—“Hollywood Walk of Fame”—and I was in third place in an extremely tight game. I made a conservative wager, figuring that if either of my opponents got it right I’d lose anyway. But neither of them did. And they both bet big.
Not only did I get on the show, now I was a Jeopardy! champion? Pinch me!
I had 10 minutes to eat half a pastry in the green room, change my shirt, and head back to the stage to do the whole thing over again. My second game didn’t go as well; I placed second. But I didn’t care. I had accomplished far more than I had ever envisioned.
Doug Lloyd is studying for the Massachusetts bar exam. He plans to use part of his $14,400 in winnings for his honeymoon following his August 25 wedding.