This…is JEOPARDY! Please remember to give your answer in the form of a question. Potpourri for $500. The DAILY DOUBLE. All of these are phrases that are part of the American lexicon thanks to the world of game show production. While watching the Fox News Sunday program with Chris Wallace recently, it was announced that Alex Trebek may be retiring after 28 years as host of the Jeopardy game show.
I had the opportunity to meet Alex Trebek when I was stationed at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Trebek came over on a United Services Organization (USO) trip to look for contestants for the program. He was going to several locations throughout Europe in this quest for participants. I gained my spot to compete in the tryouts by answering a question correctly on Armed Forces Network (AFN) radio broadcast. I dialed frantically because a coworker had given me the answer and told me to call. Fortunately, I was the correct numbered caller. Of course, there were demands that I split the money if I went on the show since I hadn’t actually come up with the answer on my own. I had no problem agreeing to that stipulation.
The day of the tryout, I wore my battle dress uniform and went straight from my work center. I chuckled as I looked across the room and saw a Master Sergeant wearing his dress blues uniform. He had on horn rimmed glasses and was carrying an Encyclopedia Britannica under his arm. He looked like a stereotypical bookworm. I thought to myself, “I bet he gets to be on the show.” I was surely judging a book by its cover and not the one he was carrying. Sure enough, he was one of only four that made the show from all over Europe. As I recall, he didn’t win on the actual program, but did have an impressive showing.
For the tryouts, they put us in a room and gave us a written test. To even talk to them further, I had to score at least a 38 out of 50 possible points. We had a sheet of paper with 50 blanks to fill in the answers with. We didn’t have to pose it in the form of a question. But, there were two monitors at the front of the room and once we started the clues would appear fast and furious. There were a few of them that, had I just had a moment to think about them, I would have answered correctly. However, each clue only appeared for a few seconds just as they do on the program. If I remember correctly, I think I scored a 12 out of 50. Needless to say I didn’t get to appear on the program.
Before the event occurred, Trebek talked to us lightheartedly about the program. You don’t see his sense of humor as much on the show, but he had us all chuckling at some of his answers. When asked how much money he makes, he said, “I make about what an Air Force major makes.” After he paused for us to whisper our disbelief to each other, he added, “with 2,000 dependents.” When asked about what he thought of the usually considered boring AFN television programming, he responded with, “I love AFN commercials because they are going to teach you a lot about history and how not to have your apartment broken into.” We all laughed heartily because we could all relate to the incessant buffet of dry, informative commercials famous on the AFN network.
As I reflect back on the experience, it amazes me how fascinated we Americans can be over trivia. When I scored so low on the screening test, I found that I wished I knew more about Chinese art in the Fourth Century or the freezing point of vegetable oil. If Alex Trebek does choose to retire, it seems the show will never be the same without him. But, then I remind myself that Alex is actually the 2nd long term host of JEOPARDY. When he does choose to retire, Trebek will be missed. But, certainly this program will continue to live with yet a third host. I can see a future answer being “2nd Jeopary host” with the question being, “Who is Alex Trebek?” Somehow that seems to be the only context that would lead a person to say, “Who is Alex Trebek?” I certainly know who he is and will always cherish my brush with the celebrity host.