“Despite the sweating, things were going well. My strategy (never guess!) had put me way out in front, with twice as much money as my competitors. I was riding the rhythm of the buzzer and paying attention to every rapid-fire clue. What is convection? What is Gravity’s Rainbow? You can’t stop to gloat over an answer you got right or despair over a stupid mistake, because by that time, you’ve missed the next three clues.
“I felt even more relaxed and confident after the bit Trebek does with the contestants about midway through the show. I talked about my obsessions—TV theme songs and presidents of the United States—and the audience seemed to approve.
“My heart was pounding when Trebek unveiled the Final Jeopardy category: TV Theme Songs. Oh my god! The audience gasped audibly, and Trebek reassured them that this was just a fluke. But now I really couldn’t lose. My feet lifted off the ground for a minute.
“They give you 30 seconds to figure out how much of your winnings you want to bet on the final question. I scribbled madly on a pad of paper, figuring out how little I should bet in order to protect my huge lead. It was $199. Agony! I could bet the rest of my winnings, over $18,000, and almost certainly double them.
“Two things flashed through my head. The first was me as a child watching Jeopardy! with my grandfather. ‘Gamble!’ he would yell, encouraging them to take big risks. The second was an episode of Cheers in which Cliff, the loser mailman, is miraculously poised to win on Jeopardy! and then blows it all by making a greedy bet on Final Jeopardy. I had to ignore the spirit of Pappy and remember the lesson of Cliff. I wrote down $199.
“And, of course, I knew the question to the answer when Alex Trebek read it. I felt a flash of
remorse that I hadn’t gone for it all. But then a wave of joy and pride wiped it out. I had won Jeopardy! I was the champ, and I would return.
“Which I did, about 45 minutes later. They tape two shows a day, with a break just long enough to grab a slice of pizza and a bottle of water and get your make-up reapplied. Once again I was in the lead heading into Final Jeopardy. When Alex announced the category, I almost fainted: presidents of the United States. My other obsession. I thought, I am going to win this thing again! But I fumbled the final question: ‘Which president installed solar panels on the White House?’ It was Jimmy Carter. Less than two hours after I won at Jeopardy!, I lost at Jeopardy!
“I haven’t watched the show much since I was on it. I’m still not quite over the disappointment of losing (though I did take home the $19,000 I won in the first game). But for 45 minutes on April 27, 2011, everyone called me Champ.”
Theriault lives in Portland, Oregon, where he is news editor at the Portland Mercury.
Some people like to travel by train because it combines the slowness of a car with the cramped public exposure of an airplane.
I think my pilot was a little inexperienced. We were sitting on the runway, and he said, “OK, folks, we’re gonna be taking off in a just few—whoa! Here we go.”
“I can’t wait until your vacation is over.” —Everyone following you on Instagram
A man knocked on my door and asked for a donation toward the local swimming pool. So I gave him a glass of water.
Comedian Greg Davies
Just found the worst page in the entire dictionary. What I saw was disgraceful, disgusting, dishonest, and disingenuous.
Client: We need you to log in to the YouTube and make all our company videos viral.
My cat just walked up to the paper shredder and said, “Teach me everything you know.”
“Just because you can’t dance doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dance.” —Alcohol
@yoyoha (Josh Hara)
My parents didn’t want to move to Florida, but they turned 60 and that’s the law.
Q: What do you call an Amish guy with his hand in a horse’s mouth?
A: A mechanic.
More About True Stories
What You’re Sharing
- Meeting Mother Teresa Completely Changed My Life—and We Barely Spoke
- Over 40? Whatever You Do, Avoid These 9 Dating Mistakes
- The Heartwarming Reason My Dad’s Favorite Chair Will Never Leave My House
- The Unbelievable True Story of the Hiker Who Survived Back-to-Back Grizzly Bear Attacks
- How a Flag Helped a Family Cope When This Father of Three Was Deployed