A Dream Deferred

     Now it can be told: I lost on Jeopardy!
     A mere two days after losing, I wrote a letter describing the experience to my big sister in Germany. I had planned to transform it into the March 28th blog entry. But I have more to say. More accurately, in the past week or so I decided piece by piece to reveal more than I thought I would. Like three guest bloggers here before me, I wondered if my own entry would be too long. Besides, I knew the details of my account wouldn’t mix well with the “emotional” aspect of the whole thing, as much as I hate the meaninglessness of that word. So that modified letter will follow in a Saturday post.
     For now, surprise: Losing hurts. A lot. It can only be described as heartbreak. I’m well aware that everyone who’s played Jeopardy! has lost, and while I haven’t heard of such a thing, I suspect that grief has been experienced by both first-day losers and celebrated champions whose pain is known to them alone.
     My immediate reaction: I wanted another chance. I knew I had it in me. I began a mental list, now stored on my phone, of people who lost their first Jeopardy! episode that I wish had a second chance. I had started it by the time I got to the pub quiz that night – and I added to it there, too. A friend said to me later, of the person I added to the list at the pub: “The Jeopardy! gods giveth and they taketh away, Jeanie.” I considered hanging that up in my apartment, and taking down the motivational quotes I have on every door! I haven’t yet, and the quotes remain. But he hit the nail on the head.
     One person on the second-chance list, I saw lose after me. (*I will use “he” as opposed to “they” to stay grammatically correct, but don’t assume I’m not talking about a female!) His distress was evident, and I’ll never forget how he described himself as “discombobulated” afterward. I wanted to embrace him but was afraid it would turn into a tearful scene.
     It wasn’t very long after taping that I knew I wouldn’t be watching my episode. Not only that, I knew I wouldn’t be watching any of the episodes from these two weeks that I saw from the studio audience. (Yes, my sister and I came back after lunch and watched the two episodes after mine. We sat near Cathy Guiles, who impressed me by coming to watch the show even though she didn’t play that day. A classy move.) I’m not even watching GSN reruns or weekend reruns. I never expected my sister to watch Jeopardy! while I leave the room! But here we are.
     Eventually I knew I wouldn’t be visiting the message boards during these two weeks, and I only visit my episode’s thread because I feel like I must to remain “in good standing” (even though there is no such thing). Anyway I think of the boardies as friends and God knows they’ve taught me and encouraged me a lot. They’re precious to me.
     Don’t get me wrong – I’m proud of what I did. I have a few regrets from the episode itself (in random order):

  • I am sure to get dinged for not having written a Final Jeopardy response, even though I had nothing. In my defense (a friend pointed out), I hadn’t wagered anything. I don’t know if it’ll matter to purists! What’s more, I predict more than 70% of voting boardies will have gotten this final right. And that’s being kind of conservative!
  • I wish I’d had the chance to wager on a Daily Double.
  • Naturally I wish I’d still had a chance to win at the end of Double Jeopardy, not that it mattered in the end. And I wish I hadn’t said, “I’m still alive!” only to realize a half-second later that I wasn’t.
  • I wish I’d said the URL of my blog during my interview. I knew it as Mr. Trebek was backing away. And I wish I hadn’t said, “I can’t blog every day” or something like that. I also said I’d been blogging longer than I actually have. (Just wasn’t expecting that question.)
  • I regret not noticing Mr. Trebek say that I’m an RN from Lincoln Nebraska during my interview, because I’d been waiting for that.
  • I wish I’d known where the camera was during the Final Jeopardy think music.
  • I still wish I knew why I was dominating on the buzzer in rehearsals, yet I couldn’t get in to save my life on the actual show. Frustrating when you feel like you know everything being asked.
  • Someone in the audience tells me I was introduced as being “originally from Nebraska.” If that’s correct, I wish they’d specified Lincoln. Mr. Trebek said to me after the show, “You’re originally from Nebraska. Where do you live now?”
  • I wish my Coryat didn’t look so bad.
  • What hurts the most are the two negs in A Classical Mix-Up. (If those aren’t the exact words, you know which category I mean!)

     That list is a little longer than I would’ve thought!
     In spite of these, there was something strangely joyous about those weeks and months, though, even to now. Spreading the word. Don’t ask me why I was so eager to do that, since I lost. I can’t answer that. But my face burned whenever I told people. My face even burned today when someone tweeted he was watching me on TV. Everyone I told took an interest in it and they shared in the glow. My local friends and acquaintances didn’t know anyone who’d been on Jeopardy!, and wondered how I’d done it. I listened as people asked if I was studying, thinking I hadn’t played yet. Then I listened when people tried to guess how well I’d done once they found out I’d played. I still marvel at the distance between the devoted fans of the message boards and people who didn’t know much about the show. (Such people exist?!) People will tell you they like or even love Jeopardy! when they find out you’re a fan, but when you engage them you find out they never watch! I relished explaining how it all works. I never get sick of talking about it.
     In those weeks, the letter to my big sister wasn’t the only one I wrote. I wrote one to the contestant coordinators, too. I wanted to thank them. I wanted to say goodbye. I wanted to show them a couple of the beautiful outfits I planned to wear if I won. I wanted them to remember me if they do ever give people like me a second chance. I asked them to consider me for the Clue Crew.
     As for you who dream of winning on Jeopardy!, I plead with you: consider this time your “second” chance. Work. Focus and eliminate distractions. Pray. And bask in the dream itself. You will not get it back, and nothing will replace it.
     As for me, tonight? Tennis. American Idol. Peace. Comfort from an ardent supporter who loves me and totally gets it. And still, as before, every year: the Jeopardy! test.

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