One busted pipe dream

Meg thinks

This is my thinking face. Or my baffled one.

Given my general level of geekery, it probably comes as no surprise that I’m a huge “Jeopardy!” fan.

It’s probably even less surprising when I tell you Spencer and I spend most evenings shouting out answers over plates of parsnips (we’re weird), gasping when promising categories are announced and staring each other down with smug satisfaction when we school each other.

Also, we mentioned “Jeopardy!” in our marriage vows, so.

Through pure happenstance, Spence and I attended a taping of Power Players Week when the quiz show came to Washington, D.C. in 2012. That was almost two years ago, friends, but I still feel all jittery with excitement remembering the sudden on-stage appearance of Alex Trebek. Trebek! In the flesh. A nerd’s dream come true.

And because I’m a show devotee and general knowledge buff, learning “Jeopardy!” would be holding online qualification exams last week meant I had to give it a shot. Who hasn’t fantasized about being on their favorite TV show? (At least mine isn’t, you know, “The Bachelor.”) (Um, anymore.)

Never mind that I’m lucky to know, eh, 60 percent of the answers on any given day . . . and lack knowledge in categories beyond geography, literature, history, pop culture. But if you’re in my wheelhouse, I am unstoppable.

It was worth a shot. As Sheldon Cooper would opine, “What’s life without whimsy?”


I registered to take the 50-question test, wondering if I should be “studying” somehow in advance of it. Barring those stop-sexual-harassment ones at work, it’s been a while since I took an exam. Or, well, seven years, I guess. Seven years since college.

(Now I feel weird. Anyway.)

When my 8 p.m. exam time rolled around last Wednesday, I took care to get myself all set up — and comfortable — early. Laptop charged? Yep. Dinner cooked, eaten and cleaned up? Sure thing. Logged into the “Jeopardy!” website well in advance of all the last-minute Lucys trying to pile on? You got it.

With a final kiss on the cheek and a thumbs-up from Spence, I shoved him rudely from the “dining room” — located conveniently next to every other room in our cozy condo — for complete quiet.

And then it was time.

My fingers were trembling. I actually broke out in a sweat. Though my life would continue as normal regardless of how I did on this test, I suddenly felt like I’d tiptoed to the edge of a precipice . . . and I was staring down at an angry sea.

The angry sea was my mind. The one that wouldn’t function.

Like one horribly embarrassing audition back in my high school theatre days, seeing the first of 50 questions pop up caused my brain to be wiped clean. Reading? What’s that? I suddenly knew nothing. To add insult to injury, I had 15 seconds to answer each prompt before automatically being moved to the next one — and that happened. A lot.

My hands also decided they were done connecting to my brain, apparently, making things like typing a little hard.

I bombed.

Well, it might not have bombed; I actually don’t know how I did, given my results will never be sent to me. But let’s just say I wasn’t overly confident in the questions I could answer, and completely empty-headed on the ones I couldn’t. I do remember one had something to do with Under the Dome and its author, one Stephen King. I got that one.

If I’m meant to advance, a member of the “Jeopardy!” staff will apparently contact me . . . within the next year.

I’ll take Pipe Dreams That Have Ruptured for $2,000, Alex.

I’ll take ‘Power Players Week’ for $800, Alex

I’m a “Jeopardy!” nerd.

As a kid, my dad and I used to “battle” during airings of the game show post-dinner. Though I rarely knew the answers, it was fun to challenge myself — and pretend like I could “win.” Everyone knows the thrill of getting a clue correctly when the answer is so random and far-flung. Your family or spouse look at you in amazement, raising an eyebrow at your vast and underappreciated knowledge.

I’ll take Smug Satisfaction for $1,000, Alex.

When Spencer and I got word that “Jeopardy!” would be coming to Washington, D.C., for its Teen Tournament and Power Players Week, we were pumped — until we realized you had to find a certain venue at which to pick up ticket applications, wait to see if you’d be randomly selected, so on and so forth. I’m kind of lazy and don’t like jumping through hoops — even for Alex Trebek.

Lo and behold, the “Jeopardy!” fates still wanted my sluggish self to attend . . . because a friend happened to get two sets of tickets. My dad got wind of the extra pair and claimed them for us. And that’s how we wound up headed downtown at 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday.

I’m not going to lie to you: I wasn’t sure what kind of game show addicts we were going to encounter. Though I’m not embarrassed by my “Jeopardy!” obsession, I didn’t really think it was, like . . . A Thing. A thing that other people equally enjoy. I guess some quick Googling would have proven no show stays on the air for 28 years without maintaining a certain level of popularity, but sometimes the most obvious things elude me.

We were in the audience for two tapings of Power Players Week: an episode featuring Chris Matthews, Lizzie O’Leary and Robert Gibbs; and a second with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dana Perino and David Faber. The contestants did reasonably well, considering what a nerve-wracking experience that must be. I mean, I was secondhand anxious just sitting in the audience. Matthews and Abdul-Jabbar — arguably the “biggest” celebs competing — had the toughest time with the clues. But maybe that’s no coincidence.

I like pretending to be mysterious, so I’m not going to tell you who won; you’ll just have to tune into “Jeopardy!” the week of May 14-18 to get the scoop. (Or, you know, do some Googling. It’s probably out there somewhere.)

Regardless of who actually took home the $50,000 for charity, attending the tapings was really exciting. A special D.C.-themed set featuring the Lincoln Memorial was constructed for the event, and Spencer and I enjoyed geeking out with the rest of the audience when Alex Trebek took the stage. The amount of hootin’ and hollerin’ for the host briefly rivaled the attention Zac Efron might expect.

After the contestants went through a practice round with a member of “Jeopardy!”‘s clue crew, the actual game began. Players completed the regular “Jeopardy” and “Double Jeopardy” rounds, pausing in between for commercial breaks. I was shocked that, for a show that wasn’t live, these breaks were actually . . . breaks. The makeup crew would come out and make sure everyone looked good; Trebek stepped away from the podium, walking out to speak with the audience. Between rounds, Trebek fielded audience questions about topics as diverse as “Do you have any pets?” and “What’s your favorite D.C. monument?”

My favorite response came to the question, “If you were on the show as a contestant, how would you do?” I mean, what devotee hasn’t wondered that at some point or other? Trebek gets to stand there, smug as a bug with all the answers, while the good people of the world take a stab at completely off-the-wall clues. Am I right? Well, Trebek’s good-natured response was that he’d “do well” against members of his own age bracket (That’s “80- and 90-year-olds,” he joked), but a savvy 30-year-old would “clean his clock.”

“I have more senior moments than you would believe,” he said.

For a dedicated (or even casual!) fan, the D.C. taping was a really unique experience. Waiting for the event to get underway, I actually felt like I was at a rock concert. The audience was buzzing with anticipation, but everyone was quiet and respectful during filming. Seeing all the behind-the-scenes action gave me a new appreciation for the game show and Trebek himself, and I’m stoked the tickets fell serendipitously into our laps.